Yale University Press £10 (256pp) from the Independent Bookshop: 08430 600 030
The Liberty Bell, By Gary B Nash
Friday 01 April 2011
Though two million pay homage to this fissured symbol every year, the Liberty Bell is little known in this country. If we know it at all, we tend to claim that it was "cast in Whitechapel".
Tiring of a "bell hanging from a tree branch", the Philadelphian authorities ordered what was going to be America's largest bell from the Whitechapel foundry in 1752. Sadly, it cracked at the first stroke and, after a failed repair, was melted down and re-cast in a mould of the old bell. It looked fine but, instead of clanging, produced "a dull thud".
Recast a second time, the bell celebrated the coronation of George III and, 15 years later, the Declaration of Independence. In 1843, it also cracked. Nash tells the curious story of how the useless bell became a resonant icon.
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