Myth: When American independence was declared on July 4, 1776, the Liberty Bell
rang in celebration.
Fact: The story many of us have heard is that on July 4, 1776, when the
American independence was declared, a young boy with blue eyes signaled to an old man in the bell
tower to ring the Liberty Bell. This account was first told by George Lippard,
a nineteenth centry writer and was intended to be a story for children. It never claimed to be
There are many other inaccuracies in this story as well. First of all, independence
was actually declared on July 2 by a vote of the Continental Congress and announced in the Pennsylvania Evening
Post that day. This fact is corroborated by many sources including a letter from John Adams to his wife
Abigail the following day that "the Second of July, 1776, will be the most memorable Epocha, in the History of
America". The source of the confusion seems to be a document adopted on July 4 announcing the July
2 event along with its justification.
It wasn't until July 8 when a big celebration occurred in Philadelphia and not until July 9 when
George Washington was notified at his camp near New York City. Even then, the majority of the delegates
had not signed the document until August 2, a fact that was unclear until 1884 when historian Mellon
Chamberlain discovered a document referring to the August 2 signing ceremony.
This brings us to the heart of the myth about the Liberty Bell itself. While it did
not ring on July 4, some sources indicate that it probably rang on July 8 at the first public reading of the
Declaration of Independence in Philadelphia but even this account has been challenged. As it turns
out, few even took note of the Liberty Bell until the early nineteenth century and until that
time it had been referred to simply as the State House Bell.
The first published account of it being referred to as the Liberty Bell was in a pamphlet from a
Boston abolitionist organization that contained a poem about the bell arguing for the abolition of slavery and
"Liberty through the land, to all its sons proclaiming". The poem as well as another entitled "The
Liberty Bell" written by George Kent was published in November of 1839. Even then, it was not
generally referred to as the Liberty Bell until 1893.
INTERESTING BOOKS ABOUT
THE LIBERTY BELL
The Liberty Bell (Welcome Books)
The Liberty Bell (American Symbols)
The Liberty Bell (Places in American