(CBS News) And now a page from our "Sunday Morning" Almanac: September 1, 1752, 261 years ago today . . . the day word came of a special delivery from London.
Philadelphia superintendent Isaac Norris heralded the arrival of the original Liberty Bell -- engraved with a stirring Biblical passage from Leviticus: "Proclaim liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."
Twelve feet around at its widest and weighing just over a ton, the bell was commissioned by the Philadelphia Assembly at a cost of more than 100 pounds (equivalent today to about $20,000).
Even at that price, cracks appeared when it was rung -- and it had to be recast twice by craftsmen in Philadelphia.
In October 1777, during the British occupation of Philadelphia, the bell was removed from the city and hidden in a church for fear it would be melted down to make cannons.
It's said that the bell's clarion call of freedom sounds in the note of e flat, although the last time it was actually heard for any sustained period was in 1846, in honor of George Washington's birthday.
But that strike lengthened a hairline crack.
The large split we see today is actually a REPAIR.
As for the name "Liberty Bell," that comes from the Abolitionists, who adopted the bell as their anti-slavery symbol in the 1830s.
The women's suffrage movement used the bell as its symbol, too.
From 1885 to 1915, the Liberty Bell traveled around the country to expositions and fairs.
And to mark D-Day in 1944, the mayor of Philadelphia actually sounded the bell -- using a rubber mallet.
Today the Liberty Bell stands as a silent symbol of the promise of America . . . liberty and justice for all.For more info:
- Liberty Bell Center, Independence National Historical Park, Philadelphia