In 1915 the Liberty Bell traveled by train from its home in Philadelphia to San Francisco to be exhibited at the Panama-Pacific Exposition. Jon Kinney read all about the cross-country trip in an old Smithsonian magazine and wrote in with a question.
"(The bell) rode on a custom Pennsy railroad platform car," he said. "It traveled on the main line, which would have taken it through Orrville and Wooster. This would have been on July 5, 1915.
"From what I could see in the article it did not stop in Orrville or Wooster, with the nearest stop in Mansfield. However, the article mentioned it often slowed down so crowds could see it as it passed by. I wonder if there was any mention of this in the good, old Daily Record?"
Here’s what I found out from Elaine Fletty, researcher in the genealogy department at the Wayne County Public Library.
For some reason, there are no editions of the Wooster paper available during that time period. However, Fletty found that several articles appeared in the Orrville Courier Crescent a century ago.
According to the July 9, 1915, edition, around "25-30 residents gathered at the Orrville depot on Tuesday morning as the train whizzed by at 40 miles an hour." When the train approached the Wayne County seat, however, the engineer must have reduced the train’s speed because "John F. Parcel had a nice view of the bell as the train moved slowly through Wooster."
On the bell’s return trip back to its Philadelphia home, the Nov. 30 Courier Crescent reported that about 25 Orrville citizens watched as the train passed by again.
Until 1915 the bell had never been west of St. Louis. Some five million Americans saw the bell on its journey west and it was estimated that two million kissed the bell at the exposition while a unknown number viewed it. Again, another five million saw it on the return journey ... so it was a ‘big deal’ at the time.
The question of when the bell acquired its famous fracture has been the subject of a good deal of historical dispute. According to the Orrville newspaper back then, the bell suffered a major break while tolling for the funeral of Chief Justice of the United States John Marshall in 1835 and the crack expanded to its present size while in use to mark Washington’s birthday in 1846.
The Liberty Bell acquired its name in the 1830s when it became a symbol of the anti-slavery movement.
Thought you should know
Columnist Ann Gasbarre can be reached at email@example.com or 330-345-6419.