Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The night the Liberty Bell passed through

It's been a century now since the Liberty Bell passed through Chariton en route to San Francisco --- and I'm sorry to say that I missed the centennial of that event back in July. But as they say, better late than never.

As most people know, Philadelphia is the home (and owner) of the Liberty Bell, but between 1885 and 1915 --- when the rigors of travel were beginning to catch up with the old clanger --- she traveled widely in the United States, commencing during 1885 with a trip through the South to New Orleans.

The 1915 trip to and from the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco was her first trip to the far west and last departure from Philadelphia. By that time, the famed crack was widening and upon occasion souvenir hunters had even gotten close enough to scrape and chip away at her skin.

The route west twisted and turned a little --- so that the largest number of people possible might view her. She arrived in Des Moines by special train during the late afternoon of Wednesday, July 7, then pulled out of there on the Rock Island line at about 10 p.m., headed south to Kansas City. She traveled aboard an especially constructed gondola car attached to the rear of the train and was lighted at night.

As the evening progressed, a crowd estimated at more than 1,000 gathered at the new Rock Island Depot in east Chariton to await her arrival. Here's a report of the event, as published the next day in The Herald-Patriot:

The Liberty Bell was greeted upon its arrival in this city about midnight last evening by the greatest crowd that was ever assembled at the Rock Island depot. To those who believe patriotism in the United States is waning the gathering was at once a warning and a revelation for no other attraction could have mustered the people who waited for hours to see the old bell which is so closely identified with the history of the nation. The depot was crowded at an early hour, while the station platform and the street leading to the depot were a mass of pushing humanity. 

Scores of automobiles were parked near the station and along Court avenue and everybody seemed patient and pleased to be present. It is safe to estimate the crowd at more than a thousand, a crowd that was somewhat disappointed that the train carrying the bell did not make a brief stop at the station. A good view of the Liberty Bell was obtained, however, the car carrying it being well illuminated, while guards waved flags as the train passed slowly through the yards.

The bell which all seemed so anxious to see was brought to Philadelphia from England in 1753, but became cracked upon its first ringing. It was then recast in Philadelphia, at which time the words, "Proclaim liberty throughout all the land, unto all the inhabitants thereof," were inscriped upon its surface, a quotation from Lleviticus 25:10. In was first rung to celebrate the Declaration of Independence, July 4th, 1776. A wide crack appears upon its surface, a crack that is widening with the years, but the bell is such an attraction for the people that those in charge of it permit armed guards to take it over the country.

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