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Who Cast the Liberty Bell and Big Ben?

Located in East London, the Whitechapel Bell Foundry is Britain's oldest bell manufacturer, having been in continuous operation since 1570. The foundry cast the largest bell for Big Ben in 1858 (there are also four smaller bells for quarter-hour chimes), and America's famous Liberty Bell in about 1752. Besides their manufacturer, these two famous bells have something else in common: They're both cracked.

The first Big Ben bell cracked during tests, before it was even hoisted into position at the Palace of Westminster, home to the British Parliament. The replacement second bell, which weighed 13.5 tons, cracked in the clock tower in 1859 after a routine hammer strike. It couldn't be taken out and replaced, so workers rotated the bell by a quarter-turn. Since then, the hammer strikes a different spot.

The Liberty Bell cracked when it was rung shortly after arriving in Philadelphia in 1752. After recasting, its signature crack appeared sometime in the early 19th century, perhaps while tolling to recognize the death of Supreme Court Chief Justice John Marshall.

For whom the bells toll:

  • The Big Ben bell was supposed to be called Victoria. However, Londoners called it Big Ben, and the name clearly stuck.
  • The Liberty Bell was used to summon lawmakers to legislative sessions and to alert citizens to public meetings and proclamations.
  • The metal used in bells has twice the tin content of normal bronze. It's so brittle that you can crack even the largest bell with a sharp hammer tap.

Discussion Comments

By dimchild — On Jun 21, 2016

Good question. Who can give us an answer?

By anon995975 — On Jun 19, 2016

If the metal used in bells is so fragile, why is it used?

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