Let Freedom Ring: The Liberty Bell in Nebraska

The Liberty Bell came to Lincoln in July 1915. Photo from private collection.

Besides serving as a popular attraction and patriotic symbol at the two world’s fairs held in Philadelphia (to celebrate the United States centennial in 1876 and sesquicentennial in 1926), the Liberty Bell was an invited guest at several other U.S. expositions. From 1885 to 1915, the Liberty Bell traveled from coast to coast and was viewed by hundreds of thousands of citizens who were unable to visit Philadelphia. These road trips greatly increased the bell’s popularity.

The Panama Pacific International Exposition, held in 1915 in San Francisco, featured the bell among its displays. The special train of five coaches (occupied by forty-two accompanying dignitaries) and a gondola car for the bell made brief stops at a number of cities along its route from Philadelphia to the West Coast. Nebraska stops included Omaha, Lincoln, Hastings, Plattsmouth, Fairmont, and McCook.

The Lincoln Star of July 7, 1915, reported that Lincoln was planning carefully for the bell’s visit, scheduled for shortly after the Fourth of July holiday. Arrangements were made for “exercises to be held Friday [July 9] on the platform at Ninth and Q streets as soon after 12:45 p.m. as the Liberty bell can be switched from the Burlington over which it enters the city from Omaha. Merchants of Lincoln will be asked by the committee to close their places of business from noon to 2 p.m. and to decorate their store fronts with flags in honor of the visit of the bell. An appeal is also made to those in the residence district to show their patriotism by displaying a flag.”

 

The Liberty Bell at Fairmont in July 1915. NSHS RG3360.PH2-21

Nebraska Governor John H. Morehead presided at the ceremony. Lincoln school children attended in a group, each with a small flag supplied by the Lincoln Commercial Club. A double male quartet under the direction of C. H. Miller of the city schools sang patriotic songs. Spectators were then allowed to file past the bell and view it under the watchful eye of one hundred members of the Nebraska National Guard. More than twenty thousand people (far more than expected) turned out to view the Liberty Bell in Lincoln.

–  Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor/Publications

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