Liberty Bell toured U.S., stopping in East Stroudsburg

Photograph from the front page of the December 1, 1915 Monroe Democrat newspaper showing the Liberty Bell at the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Station in East Stroudsburg. The Liberty Bell is under the American flag.

By Amy Leiser, Executive Director

Monroe County Historical Association

Since its arrival in Philadelphia in 1752, the Liberty Bell has had great historical significance.

William Penn created Pennsylvania with the guiding principle that citizens would have the right to practice their religion without persecution and that they would have the ability to create and enact their own laws. In 1751, the Pennsylvania State Assembly ordered a large bell from the Whitechapel Bell Foundry in London for the State House in Philadelphia. The Assembly ordered a Bible verse be added to the bell — “Proclaim liberty throughout all the Land unto all the inhabitants thereof” (Leviticus 25:10). The bell arrived in Philadelphia in 1752 aboard the ship, Hibernia.

Until 1837, the bell was known as the “Old State House Bell” until the abolitionist group, American Anti-Slavery Society, first referred to the bell as the “Liberty Bell.” This group adopted the Liberty Bell as a symbol of freedom for all people and to promote their anti-slavery cause.

Beginning in the 1880s, the Liberty Bell was sent on its first journey across the country. The belief was that the Liberty Bell would perpetuate the meaning of unity and would help heal the nation’s wounds following the Civil War. In 1915, over 500,000 school children signed a petition asking Philadelphians to exhibit the Liberty Bell during the Panama-Pacific International Expo in San Francisco, California. The Panama-Pacific Expo was a world’s fair that commemorated the opining of the Panama Canal.

Loaded at the end of a seven-car train, the Liberty Bell was displayed on a Pennsylvania flatcar, and with its 40-person escort, it began its journey across America, making many stops at various train stations. On each side of the Bell were four large upright American flags; the whole was then surrounded by brass railings. Flowers covered the base of the railcar, and electrical lights illuminated the Bell for evening display. Also on the train was a motion picture camera to document the Liberty Bell’s arrival and departure from various stops.

In each town, the Liberty Bell was greeted by huge crowds, parades, and speeches. Following the world’s fair, the Liberty Bell was taken back across the nation, and on Thursday, November 25, 1915 (Thanksgiving Day), it made a brief stop at the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Station in East Stroudsburg.

The stop at this train station was no different from the others that the Bell procession had made. Over 6,000 Monroe County citizens (8,000 to 10,000 according to the
Stroudsburg Times newspaper) had gathered to see the Liberty Bell. Because the Liberty Bell would only by at the East Stroudsburg Station for a short amount of time, celebrations, including speeches, were held both before and after the Bell’s visit.

Monroe County students began the celebrations with a parade. Over 2,000 students, each carrying a small American flag, marched from Main Street, Stroudsburg, over the Interborough Bridge (now Veterans Memorial Bridge) to the train station to await the arrival of the Liberty Bell. Leading the parade with music were the East Stroudsburg Military Band and the Stroudsburg Band. Seven automobiles filled with local dignitaries, speakers, and prominent citizens were escorted by Company G of the National Guard. According to the
Morning Press newspaper, 3,500 additional Monroe County citizens joined the parade “with the fire of patriotism in their hearts.”

When the Liberty Bell pulled into the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad Station, the crowd surged toward the train, each person trying to get a closer look at this piece of American history. Residents from every part of the county traveled to East Stroudsburg to see the Liberty Bell. Monroe County citizens came “by automobile by buckboard and buddy.” Others traveled “by trolley, by train, and on foot, converging on Crystal Street and the Station in East Stroudsburg.”

The bell was 40 to 45 minutes late, but according to the
Stroudsburg Times, “no one lost their patience for it.”

Monroe County men chosen to deliver inspiring speeches included: Stroudsburg mayor, Clarence Edinger, who was credited with bringing the Liberty Bell to Monroe County; ex-Congressman A. Mitchell Palmer; local attorney, R. L. Burnett, and; Normal School principal, Dr. E. L. Kemp. Each man thanked the citizens for a large and warm response and told of the early struggles of the founding of our nation.

Dr. Kemp alluded to the war raging in Europe (World War I) and the need for Americans to one day join the fight. His patriotic speech ended with “Every man should so highly resolve to live for his country that all he has may be sacrificed for the bell; then we will sing with the true spirit, ‘My Country ‘Tis of Thee;’ then freedom will ring for we will not only have honored our fathers but we will realize the great responsibility which the great future bestows upon us.”

The Liberty Bell stayed for only 10 minutes before the train pulled away from the station. The bell continued to Phillipsburg, N.J., Easton, and Trenton, N.J., before returning home to Philadelphia.

The Liberty Bell resides in Philadelphia where it has remained since 1915. It weighs over 2000 pounds and is made of 70 percent copper, 25 percent tin, and small amounts of arsenic, zinc, gold and silver. It is believed that the Liberty Bell hangs from its original yoke, made from American elm.