The Liberty Bell is traditionally a symbol of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence in July 1776 in Philadelphia. Most people remember the bell from visiting the grounds of where the United States began, or from watching the Disney movie “National Treasure.” Some of the older generation may have seen it on the back of the 50-cent coin, or today on the $100 bill.

But the Liberty Bell has, in fact, made a stop in Utah.

It was a hot summer’s day on July 11, 1915, when more than 100,000 men, women and children came to Pioneer Park in Salt Lake City to get a glimpse of the historic bell during its five-hour stay. Cannons fired, bands played and bells rang throughout the flag-draped city. A great parade had just finished when the special train arrived.

In 1915, the United States of America was in the middle of one of its greatest expansions of industrial might. Our military was the idol of the world, our living conditions were improving, people were getting use to travel by automobile and we had conquered the skies.

The year also saw the completion of the Panama Canal — one of the true marvels of human engineering ability. In San Francisco, a great celebration was to take place; it was a World Fair of sorts. City leaders of Philadelphia decided to place the Liberty Bell atop a flat car and move it from its home in the east to the city by the bay in California. The bell would take a route that would bring it into many major cities for the public to see and for some to touch its metal finish and run their fingers along the bell's famous crack — a crack that occured when the bell rang at the funeral of Chief Justice John Marshall in 1835.

The bell came into Ogden first. More than 50,000 residents greeted it, and a special committee chaired by Utah's first governor Heber Wells greeted the guests who accompanied the relic. Gov. William Spry was also present, joined by his military staff dressed in their best to welcome this symbol of freedom.

When the bell reached Salt Lake City, the official committee was escorted to Hotel Utah for lunch and speeches. After lunch, guests went to the historic Tabernacle, where organist J. J. McClellan gave a short concert.

Meanwhile, at Pioneer Park, some 30,000 school children were the first allowed to pass by the bell. That took more than an hour and a half. Then, the public passed by.

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One of the first adults to come close to the bell was Civil War solider J. O. Grady, who was feeble and nearly blind. With the help of a young girl to steady him, he was given approval by one of the visiting guards to come onto the rail car and touch the bell. He was moved by the honor, and tears came to his eyes.

After the designated time, the official delegation boarded the special train and it rode off slowly to the west amongst the cheers of thousands.

It was a day to remember.

Ronald L. Fox, author and photo historian, and Michael De Groote are authors of “Visions of Freedom: The story of Wilford Woodruff and the Signers of the Declaration of Independence.”

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