Tag: Liberty Bell

Monticello & The Importance of Dissonance at Historical Exhibits by Sean Gibson

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”1 These are the famous words of Thomas Jefferson, one of our esteemed founding fathers. Despite these words proclaiming all men free, Jefferson was a lifelong slave-owner. An exhibit at his plantation Monticello, aptly named Slavery at Jefferson’s Monticello: Paradox of Liberty, detailed the lives of six slave families that lived there.2 It is important to make it apparent at exhibits related to the revolutionary era, exhibits like Monticello and Independence Mall, that the majority of the founding fathers owned slaves despite their own rebellious fight for freedom.(img source: http://americanhistory.si.edu/sites/default/files/exhibitions/jeff-slavery_b.jpg)

If visitors to these parks don’t have their beliefs about the American past challenged, they will leave with an unbalanced view of the men that shaped our country. Many Americans treat the founding fathers as infallible gods who passed down the stone tablets of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. Look no farther than the Apotheosis of Washington in the US capitol building, with its absurd rendition of Washington looking down on us from the heavens, as an example of how Americans view the founding fathers. These beliefs about the founding fathers are dangerous, because they feed into the myths of American exceptionalism and moral decay. Excerpts like this one from a National Review article by Dennis Prager about American moral decay,show us what happens when these myths are not combated effectively enough. Historical facts showing a more nuanced story about our founders are somehow an attack on the “beacon of freedom to mankind.”(img source: https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/97/USA-US_Capitol3.JPG)

To the extent that American history is taught, beginning in high school and often earlier, American history is presented as the history of an immoral nation characterized by slavery, racism, colonialism, imperialism, economic exploitation, and militarism — not of a country that, more than any other, has been the beacon of freedom to mankind, and the country that has spent more treasure and spilled more blood to liberate other peoples than any other nation.3

Any responsible exhibit about the revolutionary period should also discuss the moral failings of our ancestors, if for no other reason then to show us how far we have come and that they were also mere mortals. As Jill Ogline argues in her piece, Creating Dissonance for the Visitor: The Heart of the Liberty Bell Controversy

It is quite another for a site synonymous with democracy and liberty to acknowledge explicitly the fundamental contradiction at the root of the American Revolution. Yet the admirable and dishonorable in American history are inter-twined—the past is an integrated reality. If slavery is engaged only at Civil War parks and plantation sites, not only is the broad reach of the peculiar institution underestimated, but a highly complex past is artificially divided into neat and mutually exclusive boxes. A historical perspective that denies the interconnection of issues and experiences provides poor preparation for life in a complex and contradictory present.4

Exhibits like Monticello and Independence Mall, and the complex stories they tell us about our own past are crucial to educating Americans, and preparing them for a ‘complex and contradictory present.’ These are the type of exhibits that the Federal Government should strive to create.


1. US Declaration of Independence

2.”Slavery at Jeffersons Monticello: Paradox of Liberty.” National Museum of American History. October 18, 2012. Accessed February 08, 2018. http://americanhistory.si.edu/exhibitions/slavery-at-monticello

3.Prager, Dennis. “Americas Accelerating Decay.” National Review. April 07, 2015. Accessed February 08, 2018. http://www.nationalreview.com/article/416543/americas-accelerating-decay-dennis-prager

4.Jill Ogline, “‘Creating Dissonance for the Visitor’: The Heart of the Liberty Bell Controversy.” The Public Historian 26.3 (Summer 2004), 55.

The Star-Spangled Banner; The Story lives On, by Owen McCue

It’s tough to think of icons comparable to the Liberty Bell. It’s an old bell, which doesn’t work, that somehow continues to attract people year-after-year. OK, I guess there’s a little bit more to it than that, but not many other artifacts have that kind of notoriety without some type of attachment to a famous person or famous event.

While not a perfect example, I do think the Star-Spangled Banner, the actual flag which flew over Fort McHenry, is an American icon with some similarities to the Liberty Bell. Sure, the Battle of Baltimore might have some recognition now, but in reality without the flag and the song becoming the national anthem I can’t imagine it would be very well known. The War of 1812 itself is considered the forgotten war.

Like the Liberty Bell, the Star-Spangled Banner no longer has any practical use. It’s a flag that no longer flies and now has a purely symbolic role. The Star-Spangled Banner’s impact is still felt today. Just turn on any football game on NFL Sunday and you can see a large flag waving on the field, drawing up images of the original Star-Spangled Banner.

For some background on the flag, it was designed by Mary Pickersgill to hang over Fort McHenry for the Battle of Baltimore in 1814, during the War of 1812. Major George Armistead commissioned Pickersgill to make the flag for the battle. If you want to talk being federally endorsed, she was paid by the government to create the flag. The flag was monstrous. The dimensions were originally 30 feet by 42 feet. Francis Scott Key immortalized the flag with his poem, the Defence of Fort McHenry, which later became the country’s national anthem in 1931.

The Liberty Bell and Star-Spangled Banner are both different in the way they are federally endorsed. The city of Philadelphia gave the National Park Service custody of the Liberty Bell in 1948. The Star-Spangled Banner is not directly endorsed by the federal government. Armistead came into possession of the flag after the battle. It was passed down through his family until his grandson gave the flag to the Smithsonian Institute in 1912. However, the Smithsonian is funded by the federal government and the flag is one of the marquee exhibits at the National Museum of American History. It’s pretty clear a lot of time and resources go into it.

Both icons share some similarities in that they both have stories that have become less clear in recent history. There are some skeletons in both icons’ closets. The Liberty Bell is placed at the former spot of the President’s House, where George Washington held slaves. Pickersgill had a 13-year-old indentured servant named Grace Wisher who helped her with the making of the flag.

Obviously these two American icons, aren’t the perfect comparison, but I do think it’s interesting to consider their similarities and differences. Regardless, the U.S. government seems to consider them both an important part in the storytelling of American history.


Ogline, Jill. “”Creating Dissonance for the Visitor”: The Heart of the Liberty Bell Controversy.” The Public Historian26, no. 3 (Summer 2004): 49-58. http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.1525/tph.2004.26.3.49.

“The Liberty Bell.” National Parks Service. https://www.nps.gov/inde/learn/historyculture/stories-libertybell.htm.

“Star-Spangled Banner and the War of 1812.” Smithsonian Institution. https://www.si.edu/spotlight/flag-day/banner-facts.

Daly, Michael. “The Slave Owner Who Stitched the Original Star-Spangled Banner.” The Daily Beast. September 18, 2016. https://www.thedailybeast.com/the-slave-owner-who-stitched-the-original-star-spangled-banner.

“In God We Trust”: Four Little Words or One Big Assumption? – by Morgan O’Donnell

Source: Huffington Post

You may recognize the phrase “In God We Trust” if you’ve ever taken the time to examine a coin or the back of that crumpled up bill in your pocket. Those four words are printed on all U.S. currency and they serve as our official national motto, but there is also a deeper story behind their rise to icon status.

The Liberty Bell has long been surrounded by origin myths and stories, such as George Lippard’s fabricated account of how it first rang on July 4, 1776 to celebrate the Declaration of Independence [1], which started its reputation as a beacon of American liberty. Unlike the Bell, however, the national motto of “In God We Trust” has a clear and factual beginning to its story. According to the U.S. Department of the Treasury, during the Civil War era there was a significant increase in religious conviction among Americans, many of whom wrote to the Secretary of the Treasury Salmon P. Chase and called for some federal recognition of God on U.S. currency in light of the ongoing division and destruction of the war. [2]

In 1863 Secretary Chase and the Mint at Philadelphia (yet another Philadelphia connection among icons!), came up with the designs for new one-cent, two-cent, and three-cent coins and created the saying “In God We Trust,” and the next year Congress passed a Coinage Act that allowed the phrase to appear on the two-cent coin. [3] Subsequent acts were passed and by 1909 it was printed on all minted U.S. coins. Interestingly enough, “In God We Trust” was the national motto until 1956, when President Dwight D. Eisenhower approved a Joint Resolution that declared it so. It first appeared on paper money in 1957 and it was added to the currency production process. And from 1966 on, every coin and every printed federal reserve note has had the motto printed on it. [4]

Source: CoinHELP!

I chose to compare the Liberty Bell and “In God We Trust” because although they may be different in physical nature and separated by almost a century of history, both have been (and one still is) the subject of controversy about their respective values of freedom and faith. The presentation of the Liberty Bell as a symbol of American independence has been questioned and subverted many times throughout history, starting with Bostonians and New Yorkers who appropriated it as an emblem of the abolitionist movement in the 1830s and 1840s. They spoke out against the irony of the Liberty Bell promoting freedom for all while there was still a significant enslaved population in Philadelphia and across America. [5]

A similar conflict arose surrounding plans for a new pavilion and visitors’ center for the Liberty Bell at Independence National Historical Park in the early 2000s that placed the site adjacent to the former President’s House, where George and Martha Washington kept slaves. [6] [footnote Titus] As Jill Ogline Titus writes, the battle between INHP and many different city groups and historians to recognize the slave quarters and include interpretive material at the Liberty Bell Center would fundamentally change the experience for visitors. “When viewing it will require visitors to cross the foundations of rooms in which enslaved Africans waited upon white revolutionaries, interpreters of the Liberty Bell will have the opportunity to transcend the object and interpret something much bigger.” [7] [footnote Titus]

This internal conflict about the true nature of an American icon is also applicable to “In God We Trust”; for strong believers in the separation of church and state and atheist activists, the inclusion of God in the national motto is a problem. Eisenhower, who successfully lobbied for the inclusion of God in the Pledge of Allegiance in 1954, stated that it was reaffirming “the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future.” [8] Since then, those who feel otherwise have tried to make their voices heard, from filing court cases arguing that the motto places Christians above atheists or other religions to protesting the use of the motto on local sheriff and police vehicles in communities across the United States. [9] In the cases of the Liberty Bell and the national motto, one might ask: What are the implications of the federal government endorsing an icon without properly acknowledging that some groups of Americans are excluded from its meaning and its protections? “In God We Trust” falls under the increasingly fractured line that separates religion and government in this country. Maybe it’s time to take a second look at this American icon.

Source: Patheos


1. Nash, Gary B. The Liberty Bell, 40. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2011.


2. “History of ‘In God We Trust’.” U.S. Department of the Treasury. March 8, 2011. https://www.treasury.gov/about/education/Pages/in-god-we-trust.aspx.

3. Ibid.

4. Ibid.

5. Nash, 35-39.

6. Titus, Jill Ogline. “‘Creating Dissonance for the Visitor’: The Heart of the Liberty Bell Controversy.” The Public Historian 26, no. 3 (2004): 49-58. doi:10.2307/3379448.


7. Ibid.

8. Hallowell, Billy. “Here’s the deep history behind ‘In God We Trust’.” Deseret News. August 02, 2016. https://www.deseretnews.com/article/865659185/Heres-the-deep-history-behind-In-God-We-Trust.html.


9. Ibid.

Washington Monument by Lena-Marie Lannutti

The Washington Monument is an iconic symbol of the resonance of the Founding Fathers in our modern era. Like the Liberty Bell, it has a federal distinction (besides the fact that it is located in the nation’s capital). It also has a unique history, and has developed its share of stories over time. The monument also has some flaws, that are not as obvious as a crack in the center of the Liberty Bell.

The National Parks Service remarks that the Monument, “…serving as an awe-inspiring reminder of George Washington’s greatness. The monument, like the man, stands in no one’s shadow.” [1] Originally the Monument was meant to be grandeur than it is now. Construction for the Monument began in 1848, funding for the Monument mainly originated from charitable donations, as this project was not federally funded.[2] The architect was Robert Mills, who’s originally plan was, “…called for a 600-foot Egyptian-style obelisk ringed by thirty 100-foot columns.”[3] Due to among other things, a lack of funding, only the obelisk remains as part of Mill’s vision. So, the Washington monument is the only American icon that remains unfinished. Like the Liberty Bell’s crack, it has a unique feature (or lack of one in this case) that sets it apart from everyday objects.

Figure 1: Original Design for the Monument [4]

Public reaction to the Washington Monument was mixed during its construction, especially in the 1850s, when the Know Nothing Party took over the board for the Monument’s construction [5] This was a nativist group, who were Anti-Catholic to the point where they destroyed Pope Pius IX commemorative stone the Vatican sent for the Monument [6] Construction was halted in the 1860s, as the Civil War became the biggest issue in the Capitol. The Monument was halfway finished at this time, and Mark Twain noted, “It has the aspect of a factory chimney with the top broken off,” [7] Also during the Civil War the land around the monument itself, “…were used as a cattle pen for the Union Army. There was also a slaughterhouse behind the monument.”[8] Only after the nation itself had healed could construction on the Monument resume, this phase was federally funded as signed by President Ulysses S. Grant in 1876[9]

The Washington Monument like the Liberty Bell has connections to the early foundations of American democracy. The Monument especially is a visual connection to the Father of our country. Jill Ogline Titus remarks that Americans connection with the Liberty Bell, “…but as a bridge to an imagined historical moment in which public officials were idealistic, politicians virtuous, and citizens optimistic about the future”[10] The same could be said for the Washington Monument itself, as a symbol of the mythologized aspect of our collective memory of George Washington. The Liberty Bell has had to grapple with the complex nature of George Washington, as both the American Cincinnatus and a perpetuator of slavery in America Waldstreicher contends that opposition for slavery was attached to “But it did so only after giving Americans the cultural tools of denial…to resist an attack on the institution”[11]. This can explain the disconnect between the representation of Washington in the monument and the reality of his personal contradictions to liberty. Even with this complex legacy the Washington Monument still remains an American icon, and a national landmark.

Figure 1: The Washington Monument[12]

This Land Was Your Land, But Now It’s My Land: The Grand Canyon as an Icon by Emily Grimaldi

This Land Was Your Land, But Now It’s My Land: The Grand Canyon as an Icon

The Liberty Bell, as discussed by Gary Nash, represents freedom, independence, and the founding of a country. However, Nash also exposes the dark past of the Liberty Bell, as it was believed to be a representation of freedom, but not for the slaves living in America. The bell was said to ring for liberty, but millions of Americans were still oppressed.

Though its crack is significantly larger, the Grand Canyon National Park shares both the good and bad histories of the Liberty Bell. The Grand Canyon represents wonder, freedom, and the adventurous spirit of the United States. Often called “The Great Unknown”, the Grand Canyon was a literal blank spot on the map until Joseph Christmas Ives sailed up the Colorado River in search of a trade route to the West. The mapping and “discovery” of the canyon is an example of the adventurous spirit of Americans and the beauty of exploration.

Prior to this discovery and exploration of the canyon, the U.S. government began to acquire western lands through public domain. Along the way, Congress and various presidents created treaties with American Indians that resulted in small reservations and in some cases, relocation. Several decades later, following Ives’ exploration, most Navajos were removed from their reservation near the Grand Canyon, and relocated to a smaller area in New Mexico. War was waged between various native groups and the U.S. military for several years, but eventually the U.S. won and was able to acquire the reservations surrounding the Grand Canyon.

Grand Canyon National Park was established in 1919, thus officially making the native lands  federal property. Not until 1975 with the passage of the Grand Canyon Enlargement Act were some natives able to gain back a tiny piece of their ancestral land.

This story of the founding of the Grand Canyon National Park through the removal of Native Americans is comparable to the history of the Liberty Bell and slavery. The Grand Canyon and Liberty Bell represent wonder, freedom, and liberty, but not for everyone in America. Native Americans are unable to enjoy the meaning of the Grand Canyon because to them it meant losing their lands and being oppressed. Slaves were not represented by the Liberty Bell because it existed in a time where they were not free to enjoy what it represents.


With all this information in mind, some may still find it difficult to liken these American icons to such dark beginnings. It is important not to overshadow these origins with what these icons mean to America today. We must acknowledge the complicated histories of the Liberty Bell and the Grand Canyon in order to better understand how they serve American society today.







Nash, Gary B. The Liberty Bell. Yale University Press, 2010.

Mount Rushmore by Alyssa Deguzman

Just as the Liberty Bell is important to American history, Mount Rushmore does not fall too far back behind. From the year 1927 to 1941, it would take 14 years to create such a memorial so colossal and so vast.¹ On these large mountains were carved faces of four U.S. presidents who helped develop this country into what it is today. These people represented America’s history, and were the men of their eras during presidency. Meaning, that they contributed so much to this history that it is almost impossible not to know what they stand for. Mount Rushmore displays the four founding father of the country: George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Abraham Lincoln. These faces are recognizable to the public and tell the story of the birth, growth, development, and preservation of this country.³

Both the Liberty Bell and Mount Rushmore share the fact that they both represent freedom. In Gary Nash’s Liberty Bell, he states that, “Perhaps only the face of George Washington could rival the Liberty Bell as a design motif, and in both cases freedom-America’s gift to the world-was the point to be made.” During the time of these presidents, they became icons to the country due to their desire to create a land full of equality, democracy, and freedom.Mount Rushmore continues to grow as a, “symbol of freedom and hope for people from all cultures and backgrounds.”³ The Liberty Bell and Mount Rushmore are the same because even though they are just a mountain and a bell, they express the hardships America has gone through in order to make it a great country.

Mount Rushmore holds a sense of uniqueness because unlike the Liberty Bell, it was forged purely from nature on the mountains in the Black Hills. Its creation symbolizes the dedication of the four hundred people who worked on the memorial had for their country, and how they used their pride to create something so great. Building the memorial was dangerous as well, as ninety percent of the mountain was carved using dynamite.¹ This shows, that despite the dangers of building this memorial, it was still sought through in order to show America, and the world, that these four men uphold our values. It serves to unite us as a country and remind us that since we are all American, we have the same “founding fathers.” Meaning, we all have a basic idea of American ideals and what these men would have wanted for us, and the country.

¹Charles D’Emery, “Carving History” last modified September 2, 2017. https://www.nps.gov/moru/learn/historyculture/carving-history.htm

²Gary B. Nash, The Liberty Bell (Yale University Press, 2010), 34.

³Gutzon Borglum. “History and Culture” last modified April 19, 2017. https://www.nps.gov/moru/learn/historyculture/index.htm

The Bald Eagle, an American Icon by Taylor E Burckhalter

eagleWhen you think of the Liberty Bell you think of liberty (obviously), freedom, and of course Philadelphia. The history of the Liberty Bell can be trace back to colonial America. It comes from a long line of myths and truths. Gary Nash touches on these myths and truths about the “Old Bell”. One tale that Nash talks about is how the Liberty Bell was used to “announce the Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776, and thus became the “Independence Bell” or the “Liberty Bell” built on a growing identification of the Old Bell as a symbol of liberty” (Nash, 40). Other stories talk about how abolitionists from New York and Boston used the Liberty Bell as a symbol of freedom. Yet, at the end of the day, no matter what story is told the Liberty Bell stands for liberty and freedom for all.

Not many American icons share that “federal” endorsement that the Liberty Bell has except for one American icon, the Bald Eagle. The Bald Eagle, like the Liberty Bell, can be trace back to colonial America. The story of the Bald Eagle isn’t so much like the Liberty Bell, but still has an impact of American history.Seal

The Bald Eagle was not the first choice to represent America and everything it stood for. Benjamin Franklin originally wanted our nation’s bird to be a turkey. He stated that “The bald eagle…is a bird of bad moral character; like those among men who live by sharping and robbing, he is generally poor, and often very lousy. The turkey is a much more respectable bird and withal a true original native of America” (homeofheroes.com). The Bald Eagle won the war of the national bird in 1782 and was adopted as the national bird on the Great Seal of the United States. The Bald Eagle was not only more appalling to look at then the turkey, but its physical features was what won the vote. President John F. Kennedy wrote that “the Founding Fathers made an appropriate choice when they selected the bald eagle as the emblem of the nation.  The fierce beauty and proud independence of this great bird aptly symbolizes the strength and freedom of America”(homeofheroes.com). Today, we see the Bald Eagle everywhere you turn. You’ll see this American icon printed on money, statues on federal buildings, and even a mascot of the famous Philadelphia football team. The Bald Eagle, like the Liberty Bell, will not only be a Philadelphia icon, but an American icon that stands for something greater then what it was.


Nash, Gary. The Liberty Bell. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2010


Geronimo Reclaimed: The Iconography of the War Bonnet by Samantha Smyt

headdressWhen it comes to items that have been exalted to the status of American icon, the Liberty Bell has few equals.

So, what? Thinking about the idea of ‘iconic’, by my definition, the object needed to be something that evoked emotion, came with a legend, and represented a key part of America. Or as Jill Ogline says in regards to the Liberty Bell: “From its earliest days of notoriety, the value and importance of the Liberty Bell have derived less from documented historical usage than from the way in which the object has been mythologized and remembered.”

Allow me to present to you a piece of Native American iconography: Geronimo’s Headdress (or War bonnet).

Geronimo, the Apache chief, was born in 1829 in Arizona and served a spiritual leader for his tribe. In 1870, he and his fellow Chiricahua Apaches were forced from their ancestral homelands to a reservation. In a series of campaigns against the Anglo-Americans, who had caused the migration, Geronimo proved a worthy adversary, often embarrassing the colonizers by evading imprisonment. His reputation and mythic status became a hot topic in expanding America. Stories emerged of how he valiantly led his tribe against the settlers, leading to the creation of the saying ‘GERONIMO!’ as a call of courage and bravery. (Indian Country). He was finally captured by General Nelson in 1886. As an attendee at the “Last Pow Wow” for the remaining Native American chiefs, Geronimo wore his eagle-feather headdress. He would remain in captivity as a POW until his death in 1909; after which, his war bonnet fell into the private holding of the Deming family in Oklahoma (History.com).

It seemed the headdress was lost from public viewing at this point.

LO-RES-FEA-GERONIMO-Geronimo_IV-e1308165379777That was until 1999, when an anonymous tipster informed the FBI of the headdress’ emergence on EBay with a million dollar asking price as the FBI’s website confirms. The war bonnet’s story was confirmed by the Deming heir who now held the piece as his own. Both the owner and his broker confirmed that they were aware of federal punishment that came with the selling of eagle feathers. After contacting the USFWS, who positively identified the golden-eagle feathered bonnet, the FBI went forward with an undercover sale to acquire the bonnet and charge Deming with violating the Bald Eagle Protection Act, the Migratory Bird Protection Act, and the Lacey Acts (FBI.gov). The USFWS came into possession of the war bonnet following this and they, in turn, handed the war bonnet over to the Indian Country preservation society. It now remains with the Indian Country artifacts as a treasured piece of history and culture.

Like the Liberty Bell, the war bonnet represents a divisive America. As Gary Nash points out, the bell became an international icon through it usage by abolitionists in the poem “The Liberty Bell” (The Bell Becomes an Icon, 38). Geronimo’s war bonnet also represents an America that has its issues with divisions. However, like the Bell, the war bonnet sits a significant cultural resource that can be used to educate future generations about the darker parts of America’s past.

It also has some degree of reproducibility and the imagery of the war bonnet has been utilized by many companies such as: Indian motorcycle, Victoria’s Secret, and various other fashion houses.

Interestingly enough, both items share another similarity: Philadelphia. The Liberty Bell, of course, is housed in the Liberty Bell Center. But, Geronimo’s headdress’ fate was sealed at the federal courts in the City of Brotherly Love as well (FBI.gov).





Nash, Gary. “Chapter 2: The Bell Becomes an Icon” The Liberty Bell.

Ogline, Jill. “’Creating Dissonance for the Visitor’: The Heart of the Liberty Bell Controversy”. The Public Historian, vol. 26, no. 3 (Summer 2004), pp. 49-58.


An Island of Hope and Tears: Erasing History on Ellis Island by Maxine Whitney

According to author Jill Ogline, the reason the Liberty Bell has become one of America’s most important and well recognized icons is because it is “a tangible “piece of history” electrified by a surrounding web of legend” (Ogline, 52). A much larger icon that could be described in a similar fashion is Ellis Island, the checkpoint for immigration into the land of the American dream from 1892- 1954. As visitors walk the halls of this isolated landmark, they are taken back to a time where people from all around the world believed that America, particularly New York, was a place where the streets were lined with gold and and the job opportunities were endless. This site continues to be a mecca that Americans are willing to travel to see because “the desire for an emotional connection with the past is a prime motivator in drawing visitors to historic sites”.

Even though the history of the Liberty Bell is still argued, and its importance and worth stem mostly from myth, both the bell and that famous crack connect American’s to their past and the very beginning days of their nation. In an article written by Gary B. Nash, he explains that even before it had cracked the bell had become a symbol, being appropriated by some into a symbol of anti-slavery as well as American freedom and Liberty. However, as discussed in Ogline’s piece, the feeling of liberty and freedom that the bell exudes today is covering up a dark past.

The Liberty Bell visiting center lies on top of the ruins of America’s first president’s home, specifically the section where his 8 slaves resided when they were not tending the field across the way. Even though the Park’s service assures critics that it was not a conscious decision to place the Bell on a slave sight, that does not excuse the blatant lack of discussion of slavery within the Liberty bell exhibit. The Park’s service would rather move that discussion, to a place where it hardly makes any sense, than move the Liberty Bell, essentially and physically covering up that part of history.

Ellis Island does not deny the sadder stories of it’s past. The website for Ellis Island, which is also run by the National Parks Service, calls the landmarks “Island of Hope, Island of Tears”.  There are several exhibits explaining exactly what happened if you were not cleared to enter the U.S and even stories of families who were separated. However, similar to the case of the Liberty Bell, the actual area where these tragedies occurred is left out of the exhibit. A New York times article pointed out that the main part of the museum where the story is told is only one of the 33 buildings on Ellis Island. The rooms and buildings where the sick and disabled were left behind for “treatment” and “rehabilitation” are not only off limits, but they have been neglected to the point of significant decay, essentially erasing that part of the story.

Even though both of these icons have their flaws, that is part of what makes them such important American icons. American’s will always need something physical to connect them to their past, and both of these do hold historical significance. Also, their problematic nature inspires really important narratives that allow American’s to critique and educate themselves and others.

Nash, Gary B. “The Bell Becomes an Icon.” Chapter 2. The Liberty Bell. N.p.: Integrated Publishing Solutions, 2010. 31-75. Print.

The National Parks Service. “Ellis Island.” National Parks Service. The National Parks Service: U.S Department of Interior, n.d. Web. 4 Feb. 2016. <http://www.nps.gov/elis/index.htm>.

The New York Times. “Ghosts of Ellis Island.” The New York Times: Opinion Pages. The New York Times Company, 8 Sept. 2001. Web. 4 Feb. 2016. <http://www.nytimes.com/2001/09/08/opinion/ghosts-of-ellis-island.html>.

Ogline, Jill. “‘Creating Dissonance for the Visitor’: The Heart of the Liberty Bell Controversy.” The Public Historian 26.3 (2004): 49-57. JSTOR. Web. 4 Feb. 2016. <https://blackboard.temple.edu/bbcswebdav/courses/LA_MN_HIST_2818_1901956_50F/Jill%20Ogline%20Titus%20Creating%20Dissonance%20for%20the%20Visitor%20The%20Heart%20of%20the%20Liberty%20Bell%20Controversy.pdf>.

Images from:

1st Ellis Island Picture is from the Untapped Cities website: http://untappedcities.com/2014/12/11/10-fun-facts-about-ellis-island-you-might-not-know/

2nd Image is of one of the hospital buildings taken by Stephen Wilkes, presented on the NPR website: http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6600709

Gettysburg National Park — An interactive experience with history by Paige Gross

devil-s-den-from-littleOut of the many icons to compare the Liberty Bell to, I chose Gettysburg National Park, the site of the arguably most important (or at least-turning point) in the Civil War. I believe it is comparable to The Liberty Bell, even though it is a massive stretch of land, because of its ties to a spirit of liberty and freedom, especially when it comes to liberating the enslaved population.

“The revelation that the new Bell pavilion would be placed upon a site intimately associated with slavery was a symbolic bombshell setting the stage for sustained public dialogue,” Jill Ogline wrote in her article.

It’s possible not everyone sees this connection, but I grew up visiting the battlefields for class trips and with family the way a lot of people in class described visiting the Liberty Bell. Just as the history of the Liberty Bell was cleaned up and made shiny for visitors on its plot in Philadelphia, most of those on the tours around the battle fields focused on the glory of the battle, rather than some of the biggest issues of the Civil War.

There are the true history buffs, though, that don’t peddle the washed-down version of what happened there, just as we learned about the conflict of placing the bell on an area not spoken about but definitely the heart of slave land.
While I’m not sure that as many ideas can be projected on this national park as can be on The Liberty Bell, it appears as another part of the American history the Parks Service deemed important enough to preserve.

While the Bell and Gettysburg’s grounds have these similarities, they have obvious differences in their size, visibility and how they get to be interacted with. The Bell gets to be viewed (and allegedly touched­–are we sure we won’t get arrested?) while visitors to Gettysburg get to interact with the grounds wholly.

Most of my childhood days spent visiting my grandparents in appropriately-named Littlestown were accompanied by a 15-minute drive to the battlegrounds to play and picnic on the rocks once used as hiding spots and defense. I can’t say whether or not my visiting the battle grounds as a kid made had any affect on my admiration of history, but it did give me some perspective on the country’s history in the same way I think the Liberty Bell does for a lot of people.

Photo is of Devil’s Den, primary hiding spot during the Civil War and childhood playground for my sister and I. Rredited to TripAdvisor.com.