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Bicentennial Bell - Queen Elizabeth Called 1776 a Lesson that Aided Britain

Posted on Tuesday, July 9, 2019

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The Bicentennial Bell - Remembering Queen Elizabeth's Visit to Philadelphia in 1976

The Bicentennial Bell at Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London (Credit: National Park Service)

On July 6, 1976, Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II of Great Britain toured Independence National Historical Park, including visiting the Liberty Bell and Independence Hall. The Queen was visiting Philadelphia to commemorate America's 200th Birthday and on behalf of the British people, she presented the United States with the Bicentennial Bell as a gift.

Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II Visiting the Liberty Bell at Independence National Historical Park with Mayor Frank Rizzo and Superintendent Hobie Cawood, July 4, 1976 (Credit: City of Philadelphia, Office of City Representative)

The Queen spoke at the dedication ceremony for the Bicentennial Bell at Independence National Historical Park's former Visitor Center on July 6, 1976.  At the ceremony, the Queen made some profound historical remarks including important lessons learned,

"I speak to you as the direct descendant of King George III.  He was the last Crowned Sovereign to rule in this country, and it is therefore with a particular personal interest that I view those events which took place 200 years ago.
It seems to me that Independence Day, the Fourth of July, should be celebrated as much in Britain as in America.  Not in rejoicing at the separation of the American Colonies from the British Crown but in sincere gratitude to the Founding Fathers of this great Republic for having taught Britain a very valuable lesson.
We lost the American Colonies because we lacked that statesmanship 'to know the right time, and the manner of yielding, what is impossible to keep.'
But the lesson was learnt.  In the next Century and a half we kept more closely to the principles of Magna Carta which have been the common heritage of both our countries.
We learnt to respect the right of others to govern themselves in their own ways.  This was the outcome of experience learned the hard way in 1776. Without that great act in the cause of liberty performed in Independence Hall two hundred years ago, we could never have transformed an Empire into a Commonwealth!
Ultimately peace brought a renewal of friendship which has continued and grown over the years and has played a vital part in world affairs.  Together we have fought in two world wars in the defense of our common heritage of freedom.  Together we have striven to keep the peace so dearly won.  Together, as friends and allies, we can face the uncertainties of the future, and this is something for which we in Britain can also celebrate the Fourth of July.
This morning I saw the famous Liberty Bell. It came here over 200 years ago when Philadelphia, after London, was the largest English speaking City in the world.  It was cast to commemorate the Pennsylvania Charter of Privileges, but is better known for its association with The Declaration of Independence.
Today, to mark the 200th anniversary of that declaration, it gives me the greatest pleasure, on behalf of the British people, to present a new bell to the people of the United States of America.  It comes from the same foundry as the Liberty Bell, but written on the side of this Bicentennial Bell are the words "Let Freedom Ring".
It is a message in which both our people can join and which I hope will be heard around the world for centuries to come." (emphasis added)

About the Bicentennial Bell

The Bicentennial Bell was cast in 1976 by Whitechapel Foundry in London, the same company that produced the original Liberty Bell in 1751. The Bicentennial Bell weighs 12,446 pounds, is 6 feet 10.5 inches in diameter, and 5 feet, 6 inches in height.

Bicentennial Bell at Whitechapel Foundry (Credit: National Park Service)

From July 6, 2976 to January 31, 2013, the Bicentennial Bell hung in the clocktower of the former Visitor Center (also known as the Independence Living History Center) on 3rd Street between Chestnut and Walnut Streets (that location is now the home of the Museum of the American Revolution). The Bicentennial Bell rang at 11AM and 3PM for many years from its tower at the former Visitor Center.

Fate of the Bicentennial Bell

On January 31, 2013, the National Park Service had the Bicentennial Bell hoisted out of the top of the 130-foot tower of the former Visitor Center using a 240-ton crane, and it was lowered to the ground.  The Bicentennial Bell was moved into Independence National Historical Park's museum storage, where it will be kept until it returns to Independence Park for permanent display.

Bicentennial Bell Being Moved out of Former Visitor Center, January 31, 2013 (Credit: National Park Service)

Independence Historical Trust Campaign to Raise Funds for Bicentennial Bell Garden

The Independence Historical Trust (formerly the Friends of Independence National Historical Park) is a non-profit which is raising money to renovate and created the Bicentennial Bell Garden at 3rd and Walnut Streets where the Bell can once again be displayed. This will be the first time since being hung in the tower of the former Visitor Center that people will be able to walk around the bell and see it up close.

According to the Independence Historical Trust, "This project will achieve the goal that was set when the Bicentennial Bell was cast in 1976... to show the world that two great nations that started in strife and war can become great partners and allies. Help us make the Bicentennial Bell Garden possible and donate today!"

If you are interested to contribute to the Bicentennial Bell Garden campaign, click here.

Insider Information

For Royal Watchers, click here to see photos of Prince Charles and the Duchess of Cornwall receiving the royal treatment when they visited Independence Park, including the Liberty Bell on January 27, 2007.

Additional Information

For visitors seeking the royal treatment on their journey to Historic Philadelphia, The Constitutional offers VIP tours of America's Birthplace for discerning travelers. Call 215.525.1776 or click here.

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