The Liberty Bell`s Sister at Villanova University

In 1751, the Pennsylvania Assembly ordered the original Liberty Bell, but because of general dissatisfaction with its tone, ordered a duplicate in all dimensions, November 1, 1753. Thomas Lester of Whitechapel Foundry was again to be the maker.

Sister Liberty BellThe Bell arrived at Philadelphia in the summer of 1754 and it was voted that both bells be kept, the sister bell being hung in a special cupola in front of the first, and attached to a State House clock designed by Peter Stretch to toll the hours.

Both rang for special occasions and both left town hastily in 1777 and were moved to Allentown while the British occupied Philadelphia. The St. Peter’s and Christ’s Church bells were also smuggled out…but all returned in 1778 when safe.

In 1781, a new steeple was provided for the Liberty Bell and a new cupola for the sister bell. March 11, 1876, by an act of Legislature, the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania sold Independence Hall and contents to the city of Philadelphia, and in 1830, the sister bell and Stretch Clock were sold to the Reverend Michael Hurley, Pastor of St. Augustine’s Church, Fourth and Vine Streets, Philadelphia.

In 1844, members of the Native American Party burned the church to the ground; the bell cracked to pieces and fragments were gathered and given to a Joseph Bernard, who recast them. In 1847, the sister bell – greatly diminished in size – was sent to Villanova College, which had been founded in 1842 by the same Augustinian Fathers as those serving at St. Augustine’s Church. From 1847 until 1917, the bell hung in a steeple, announcing classes, chapel exercises, etc., to students.

From 1917 till 1942, the bell was used in the steeple of St. Nicholas of Tolentine Church, Jamaica, Long Island, but in September of 1942, it was returned to the college in time for the inauguration of the Centennial Year, 1942-3. Since 1943, it has been housed at the University Library. It is part of the University of Philadelphia area exhibit at the Penn Mutual Building, near Independence Hall, but normally is available for inspection at the Falvey Memorial Library at Villanova College, Villanova, Pennsylvania.

Written by Mary and Edwin Gideon, Charter Members of ABA, and reprinted from The Bell Tower, February 1977