On this day in 1903, one of the most iconic symbols of American freedom — the Liberty Bell — arrived in Connecticut as part of a multi-state tour.
Most Americans today think of the Liberty Bell as a stationary, permanent fixture of Philadelphia; a typical “look but don’t touch” museum piece viewed from behind rope lines in Independence National Historical Park. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, however, the Liberty Bell was constantly on the move, traveling across the country to serve as the inanimate guest of honor at countless state fairs, expositions, and patriotic celebrations.
On June 16, 1903, the bell was loaded onto a special train headed to Boston for the the 128th anniversary of the Revolutionary War’s Battle of Bunker Hill. After spending most of the day making brief stops in New Jersey and New York, the train arrived in Stamford, Connecticut just after 6:00pm, where a large crowd had less than 15 minutes to view the Liberty Bell aboard its custom-built, exposed train car before it continued on its way. The Liberty Bell made one more stop in Bridgeport before ends the day’s journey in New Haven to a crowd of thousands.
The next day, the Liberty Bell departed for Hartford early in the morning, where over 10,000 people swarmed the train for a chance to see, touch, and take photographs with the famous icon, despite periods of heavy rain. After making another stop in the eastern Connecticut town of Plainfield, the Liberty Bell traveled through Rhode Island and ended its two-day journey in Boston, just in time for the June 17 anniversary of Bunker Hill.
“The Liberty Bell: From Obscurity to Icon,” National Park Service