Independence Day celebrations will continue this year with fireworks, picnics and family gatherings. This is a wonderful time to fly the American flag and remember those who were instrumental in establishing the USA in 1776.
One of the most recognized symbols of our country is the Liberty Bell. This bell was cast in England in 1752 by the order of the Assembly of Pennsylvania, then brought to Philadelphia. The first time the bell was rung, however, the clapper caused a serious crack. It was determined that a new bell should be cast so two Philadelphia workmen undertook the task of recasting the bell. The first casting was not satisfactory, but the second brought forth what we know today as the Liberty Bell.
The bell was hung in the tower of Independence Hall and rang for independence in 1776. It was rung to note our victories during the Revolutionary War and again on the sad news of the death of President George Washington. The last time the bell was rung with the clapper was for the funeral of Chief Justice John Marshall in 1835.
In the early days of the 20th century, travel was not as easy as it is today. Folks in the western states wanted an opportunity for their children to see the bell, so San Francisco requested to have the bell transported to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition. A great debate followed with the Philadelphia folks determined that the bell should not leave the city. School children were requesting the opportunity to see this great American symbol.
Authorities began to determine if the bell could be transported without causing further damage. Finally, it was decided that a device with six arms, a “spider” could be attached to the bell’s lip at equal distances. This device could be tightened with a spring and would they hoped, prevent further damage. The clapper was removed and the work began. A skid was developed on which the bell could be removed from the building. There was still concern about the historic artifact traveling a long distance.
February 7, 1915 was the date proposed to strike the bell with a wooden mallet. Transcontinental telephone service was in effect so the bell was struck three times with the mallet, a sound which was heard on the West coast. In San Francisco, a replica bell was struck and the sound transmitted across the country to Philadelphia.
Many communities appealed to have the bell come through their areas, so that more people would be able to view it. The original plan was to transport the bell by truck, but train transportation, which was more reliable was the choice. A specially constructed railway car would ensure that it would ride safely and without jolting.
The journey began on July 5, 1915. The bell was destined to visit 14 states on its journey from Pennsylvania to California. It was agreed that the bell would remain in San Francisco for the duration of the Exposition and begin its return journey in November. It was agreed that the return route would be different, so that more people could view the bell. The projected route included Los Angeles, Tucson, St. Louis, Indianapolis, Louisville, Cincinnati, Dayton and Xenia. It continued to Columbus, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Trenton, N. J. and finally back to Philadelphia.
Arrival time was set for 7:37 p.m. Monday, Nov. 22. The train would be here for 10 minutes. The train was to proceed very slowly on the Detroit Street tracks. School children were lined on both sides of the street. The Cadet Band of the OSSO Home provided patriotic music. Residents of Springfield and other nearby areas were expected to arrive by interurban.
The train did not arrive on time, in fact it was about two hours late. It was said the people were tired, but refused to leave until they had seen the bell.
Whistle of the city’s industries were blown when the train arrived in town. About three thousand individuals had waited in the chilly evening for the arrival. A brief stop was made at the corner of Detroit and Main Streets, allowing a closer view. There were no ceremonies planned, since the visit was short, but exciting.
The newspaper reported “Xenia had taken on her best gala appearance and the lights strung about the city made quite an impression upon the ‘Bell Party’ who likewise marveled at the fine facility Xenia had for the exhibition of the bell – the tracks running down the principal street of the city. There were forty in that party, I was stated, who would never forget Xenia, out of the thousands of other towns visited on account of this unusual distinction.”
People in other parts of the county also got the chance to view the bell as it passed by. Special arrangements had been made to slow the train at Shoup’s Station, Alpha, etc. on the way from Dayton and also in Cedarville when the train was heading for Columbus. Those folks who gathered near the track in these communities also got a closer look at the bell.
A copy of the bell was cast at the Greene County fairgrounds in 2003 in commemoration of the bi-centennial of Ohio. It hangs inside the Greene County Court House.