Liberty Bell replica off limits to State House visitors

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STATE HOUSE — It sits tucked away in a restricted area closed to visitors, snugged close against the original Bulfinch portion of the State House at the top of the front steps.

The full-size bronze replica of the Liberty Bell — one of 53 bells distributed to states and territories as part of a national savings bond campaign, according to Massachusetts Art Commission curator Susan Greendyke Lachevre — has been a fixture at the State House since this date in 1950, though its presence is little known.

“The bells were each to reproduce precisely the dimensions, weight and even the tone (E-flat) of the original when it rang out the country’s independence in 1776,” the Art Commission catalog entry for the bill states.

In 1950, the U.S. Department of the Treasury commissioned the Paccard Foundry in Annecy-le-Vieux, France to forge Liberty Bell replicas that would tour each state encouraging post-war America to “Save for Your Independence,” according to the Liberty Bell Museum.

Massachusetts was given bell number eight, Greendyke Lachevre said, and following its tour of the Commonwealth the bell was accepted at the State House by Gov. Paul Dever on July 6, 1950. The 2,080-pound bronze bell was on display in Doric Hall until 1957, when it was moved to its present outdoor location.

Outside on the top of the steps, the bell was among the first exhibits for tourists entering the building until the front doors were closed after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

Massachusetts is one of 32 states to display its replica bell either inside its capitol building or on the capitol grounds, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures. Some states have donated the replicas to colleges or universities, other states display the replica bells in public parks, and Virginia’s bell is located at a fire station in Charlottesville, according to the NCSL.

A plaque affixed to the gate in front of the bell reads in part, “In standing before this symbol you have the opportunity to dedicate yourself as did our founding fathers, to the principles of the individual freedom for which our nation stands.”

Though the bell is an exact replica of the Liberty Bell — which hangs in Philadelphia — its 44-pound iron clapper was removed “many years ago because of deterioration of the leather suspension strap,” Greendyke Lachevre said, and it is missing a feature that the true Liberty Bell has become known for.

“The replica bells were cast without duplicating the famous ‘crack’ as that flaw did not appear in the original until the nineteenth century,” Greendyke Lachevre said in an email.

— Written by Colin A. Young

Copyright State House News Service