We all know them by name, the classic national treasures that reflect the history of America. But, do you know the history behind these famous landmarks and sites? From the Liberty Bell to Mount Rushmore, I’ll take a look inside some of the most popular national treasures in America.
The Liberty Bell – Known for its iconic crack, the Liberty Bell is located in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The bell used to be referred to as the State House Bell, because its old location was the tower of the Pennsylvania State House, now known as Independence Hall. The Liberty Bell was created for the bell tower in 1751 by the Whitechapel Foundry in London. Speaker of the Pennsylvania Assembly, Isaac Norris, headed up the bell’s creation. However, a new bell had to be made after the first bell from London cracked during the first ring test. Metalworkers John Pass and John Stow soon developed the bell in Philadelphia. The bell was rung to call lawmakers to their meetings and townspeople together for important news. It wasn’t until the 1830s that the Liberty Bell became a symbol of liberty.
When it comes to the Liberty Bell, there are two famous symbols located on it. First, the crack. There are different theories as to why the bell cracked, but many believe it occurred during the 1840s, after 90 years of use. However, the split you see in the bell today is actually a repair job. In 1846, Philadelphia decided to repair the crack in the bell for George Washington’s birthday. Metal workers used a technique called “stop drilling” to widen the crack to prevent further spreading and to restore the bell’s tone. Sadly, this repair led to another crack and the Liberty Bell has not been rung since.
The second symbol is the bell’s inscription—“Proclaim Liberty Throughout All the Land Unto All the Inhabitants thereof.” This verse comes from Leviticus 25:10 and was chosen by Norris to commemorate the 50th anniversary of William Penn’s 1701 Charter of Privileges. The Liberty Bell’s message was also used by abolitionists to end slavery.
The Statue of Liberty – “Lady Liberty,” one of the best-known landmarks of the New York skyline, was actually a gift to the United States from the people of France. It was dedicated as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy on October 28, 1886, and became a National Monument in 1924. The Statue of Liberty has a few key symbols associated with her, such as the torch, crown and face, the tablet and dates, and the chains. Lady Liberty’s torch was restored in 1986, and the original 1886 torch is located in an exhibit for all to see. The new torch is covered with 24k gold sheets. As for the crown and face, the iconic crown has seven rays, one for each of the seven continents, and her face is more than 8 feet tall. As for the monument’s tablet and dates, the 23-foot, seven-inch-long-tablet has the inscription “July IV MDCCLXXVI” (July 4, 1776). Lastly, Lady Liberty’s broken chains represent the cessation of oppression and tyranny.
When visiting the Statue of Liberty, there are two ways to climb inside the monument. First, you can either walk/climb the 215 steps from the lobby to the top of the pedestal, or you can take the elevator. From my own experience, there is nothing better than the view of New York, Ellis Island, and the surrounding areas from the top of the pedestal. Another way is to visit the monument’s crown. Access to the crown is only available with advance tickets. Tickets are also needed for the pedestal.
Mount Rushmore – Located in the Black Hills of South Dakota, the faces of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln can be seen for miles throughout the Black Hills National Forest. These four presidential faces are visited by more than three million people annually in their home at Mount Rushmore. The mountain’s sculptor, Gutzon Borglum, chose these four presidents based on their important events and contributions to history. Borglum led over 400 workers in carving the monument, which they began in 1927 and completed in 1941. A total of 450,000 tons of rock had to be removed to create the heads. Borglum’s original plan was to show the presidents from the waist up. However, lack of funding stopped the carving after the faces were completed.
Today, Mount Rushmore is known as the “Shrine of Democracy.” On July 4, 1930, a dedication ceremony was held for the head of George Washington. The remaining three presidents each had their dedication ceremonies between 1936 and 1939. After Borglum’s death in 1941, his son took over the job and completed Mount Rushmore’s final details. It is known as a “Shrine of Democracy” because of Borglum’s intention for the monument was to promote the “continuance of the democratic-republican form of government throughout the world.”
The Liberty Bell, Statue of Liberty, and Mount Rushmore are just a few of the many classic national treasures in America. The list of beautiful places can go on and on, and all are on my own personal list of places to visit.
Article published in June issue of Forsyth Family Magazine.