Independence Hall in American Memory tells the story of a building, a city, and the nation from the 1720s to the 1990s. For students in courses in U.S. history, urban history, and American studies, the book offers a focused and provocative engagement with issues of liberty, citizenship, national identity, urban development, and the presentation of the past.
Chapter Summaries, Questions for Discussion, and Teaching Strategies
Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Landmark: A British Home for the American Revolution
♦ Aligns with survey textbook chapters on Colonial Era, American Revolution, and U.S. Constitution.
Chapter 2. Workshop: Building a Nation
♦ Aligns with survey textbook chapters on the Early Republic.
Chapter 3. Relic: Survival in the City
♦ Aligns with survey textbook chapters on the Early Republic through Jacksonian Era.
Chapter 4. Shrine: Slavery, Nativism, and the Forgotten History of the Nineteenth Century
♦ Aligns with survey textbook chapters on the Antebellum decades through the Civil War.
Chapter 5. Legacy: Staking Claims to the Past Through Preservation
♦ Aligns with survey textbook chapters on Reconstruction, Gilded Age, and Progressive Era.
Chapter 6. Place and Symbol: The Liberty Bell Ascendant
♦ Aligns with survey textbook chapters on the Gilded Age, Progressive Era, and World War I.
Chapter 7. Treasure: Eighteenth-Century Building, Twentieth-Century City
♦ Aligns with survey textbook chapters on the 1920s, Great Depression, and World War II.
Chapter 8. Anchor: A Secure Past for Cold War America
♦ Aligns with survey textbook chapters on the Cold War Era.
Chapter 9. Prism: Redefining Independence for a Third Century
♦ Aligns with survey textbook chapters on the 1960s and 1970s.
Chapter 10. Memory: The Truths We Hold to Be Self-Evident
♦ Aligns with survey textbook chapters on 1970s through 1990.
Introduction (pages vii-xviii)
The introduction sets the scene in Philadelphia and explains how the author came to be interested in the history of Independence Hall. The introduction presents the author’s framework for understanding how buildings shape historical memory and defines memory concepts: sites of memory; collective memory; and contested memory.
Questions for Discussion
- How do buildings shape what we know about the past?
- What other “sites of memory” exist in the United States?
- What are the “sites of memory” in your own community?
- Ask students to draw maps (or take photographs) of community sites of memory. Discuss the image of community that results. What do the maps (or photographs) reveal? What is left out?
- Invite a public history professional from a local historic site to visit class and discuss how choices have been made about its preservation and interpretation.
- Through brainstorming, create a list of historic landmarks in the United States. Divide the sites among the class for individual research using the official websites for each landmark. What message does each site seek to communicate about its significance to the nation?
- Ask students to visit the website of Independence National Historical Park [link]. What time periods and topics are emphasized? Compare these to the table of contents and index of Independence Hall in American Memory. What is different? Why?
- Expand on the author’s description of the Liberty Medal ceremony at Independence Hall in 1993 by asking students to read, compare, and contrast the speeches given that day by Nelson Mandela and F.W. de Klerk:
- To add to students’ familiarity with Independence Hall, encourage them to explore the photographs, building plans, and documentation compiled by the Historic American Buildings Survey [link]. Generate questions about Independence Hall to seek answers for while reading the rest of Independence Hall in American Memory.
- For advanced students, supplement the introduction with the cited literature on memory concepts. Discuss how the author applies these to the case of Independence Hall and how they might apply in other circumstances.
Chapter 1 (pages 1-30)
Landmark: A British Home for the American Revolution
Aligns with textbook chapters on colonial America; the American Revolution; and the U.S. Constitution (for example, The American People, Chapters 3-7).
This chapter traces the history of Independence Hall from its origins in the 1720s through the events most associated with its history, the adoption of the Declaration of Independence and the drafting of the U.S. Constitution. The chapter places these events in the context of the growing city of Philadelphia, the British Empire, and the emerging nation. The first section, “Origins,” calls attention to the building’s origins as the Pennsylvania State House, an architectural statement of British culture at a time of increasing immigration. The second section, “Building on the Enlightenment: Government, Religion, and Science,” draws parallels between activities in and around the State House and Enlightenment thought in the Atlantic World. Next, “Revolution in the Streets, Conflict in the Corridors,” points out that while the Second Continental Congress moved toward declaring independence, the Pennsylvania Assembly meeting in the same building resisted the break from Great Britain. This section summarizes the experience of the Revolution in Philadelphia and notes the Pennsylvania Assembly’s passage of the new nation’s first gradual abolition law in 1780. Next, “Constitutions: Wrestling with Democracy,” summarizes the events leading to the U.S. Constitution with attention to conflicts over ratification that took place in the State House. In conclusion, the chapter argues that focusing only on the building’s most famous events obscures much of its history in the eighteenth century.
- Nicholas Scull and George Heap, Map of Philadelphia and Parts Adjacent (1752), John Carter Brown Library, Brown University.
- Andrew Hamilton (attrib.), plan for the Pennsylvania State House, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
- James Gibs, English country house plan from A Book of Architecture (1728), Library Company of Philadelphia.
- John Trumbull, Declaration of Independence, Yale University Art Gallery.
- James Trenchard (based on a drawing by Charles Willson Peale), Pennsylvania State House, Columbian Magazine (1778), Library Company of Philadelphia.
Questions for Discussion
- What do the choices of location and style for the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall) reveal about Philadelphia and the nation in the 1720s and 1730s?
- What were the characteristics of Enlightenment thought prior to the American Revolution? In what ways were these apparent in activities in and around the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall)? In what ways were these ideas represented in the Declaration of Independence?
- What were the internal conflicts that characterized the American Revolution and the subsequent drafting of the U.S. Constitution?
- To what extent was liberty achieved at the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall) in this period? What limitations on liberty are apparent?
- How did the physical appearance of the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall) change during this period? Did these changes affect its prospects for becoming a recognizable historic landmark?
- To aid in visualizing Philadelphia during the 1720s, ask students to read the passage of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin that describes his arrival in Philadelphia. (A map of his walk through the city on his first day is included in the following edition: Benjamin Franklin’s Autobiography, J.A. Leo Lemay and P.M. Zall, eds., [New York: W.W. Norton & Co., 1986]). Look for historic maps of Philadelphia in the following digital libraries:
- Compare Philadelphia of the 1720s with today using Google Earth.
- Ask students to reconstruct the experience of a delegate to the Second Continental Congress by searching for “Philadelphia” in the Papers of John Adams and constructing a narrative based on primary sources:
- The Adams Family Papers: An Electronic Archive (Massachusetts Historical Society) [link]
- Engage students in examining the issue of slavery by reading and comparing the Declaration of Independence (focusing on the deleted provision about slavery); the Pennsylvania Gradual Abolition Law of 1780; and the United States Constitution.
- Ask students to evaluate the Pennsylvania Constitution of 1776. What provisions made it a radically democratic document? Assign teams of students to locate the constitutions for the other new states of the United States and compare and contrast them with Pennsylvania.
- To illuminate the debates over ratification of the U.S. Constitution, divide the original 13 colonies among teams of students and ask them to research the process of ratification in each. Where were the state ratification conventions held? Did these places become historic landmarks?
Chapter 2 (pages 31-56)
Workshop: Building a Nation
Aligns with textbook chapters on the Early Republic (for example, The American People, chapters 7 and 10).
This chapter examines the varieties of nation-building activities that occurred in and around Independence Hall from the 1790s through the 1820s, including Philadelphia’s decade as the nation’s capital. The first section, “The Nation’s Capital,” explains how and why Philadelphia came to be chosen as the temporary seat for the federal government and the interplay of national and local politics in the city. The second section, “Center of Arts and Science,” focuses on Charles Willson Peale’s museum, located in the State House Yard and in the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall) from the 1790s through the 1820s, as well as the community of artists who came to Philadelphia to paint portraits of the nation’s leaders. Next, “Africans in America: Defining and Defending Liberty,” looks to the area surrounding the State House to examine one of the young nation’s most vibrant communities of free blacks, who drafted constitutions for their own community organizations, formed churches, and challenged the national government to live up to the ideas expressed in the Declaration of Independence. The chapter concludes by arguing that the history of Independence Hall extends beyond 1800, the period traditionally viewed as “historic,” and that understanding historic buildings requires looking at activities that surround them, not only events that took place within their walls.
- William Birch, Back of the State House (late 1790s), Independence National Historical Park.
- Charles Willson Peale, The Artist in His Museum (1822), Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts.
- John Lewis Krimmel, Election Day 1815, Winterthur Museum.
- A Sunday Morning View of the African Episcopal Church of St. Thomas in Philadelphia (1829), Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
Questions for Discussion
- What is a nation? What does this chapter suggest about the ways that nations are formed and sustained?
- How and why did Philadelphia become the nation’s capital?
- Why was Philadelphia regarded as the “Athens of America”?
- Why did Charles Willson Peale believe that the arts and sciences were important for the United States?
- In what ways did African Americans in Philadelphia create community?
- Ask students to examine the illustrations in this chapter and look closely at the people to draw conclusions about everyday life in Philadelphia during this period. In what ways were people politically active? How did they participate in creating communities and the nation?
- Back of the State House, digital image in color from the Library of Congress [link]
- The Artist in His Museum, digital image in color from the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts [link]
- Election Day 1815, digital image in color from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania [link]
- A Sunday Morning View, digital image from the Historical Society of Pennsylvania [link]
- Encourage students to take a virtual tour of Charles Willson Peale’s Museum. What knowledge and impressions might visitors gain from their visit to the museum?
- Charles Willson Peale Museum interactive (ExplorePAHistory) [link]
- Engage students in the issues of freedom and slavery during the early national period by investigating the President’s House, the site of an outdoor exhibit opened in 2010.
- Extensive resources about the President’s House in Philadelphia and slavery compiled by the Independence Hall Association, which advocated marking the site [link]
- Edward Lawler Jr., “Oney Judge” (the story of a slave brought to Philadelphia by George Washington to serve in the President’s House in the 1790s and her escape from slavery) [link]
- Pennsylvania Gradual Abolition Act of 1780 (The Avalon Project, Yale Law School) [link]
- Fugitive Slave Law of 1793 [link]
- Ask students to read a selection from Series of Letters from a Man of Color, by James Forten. How does Forten use the language of the Declaration of Independence to argue for the rights of African Americans as citizens?
- James Forten, Letter to Protest the “Negro Registration” Bill (National Humanities Center, PDF, first excerpt) [link]
- This era in African American history, including Philadelphia, is depicted in the PBS series Africans in America, Part 3 [link]
- For further background on James Forten’s letters, see Julie Winch, “The Making and the Meaning of James Forten’s Letters from a Man of Color,” The William and Mary Quarterly Third Series, Vol. 64, No. 1 (January 2007): 129-38. For additional documents of this type, see Pamphlets of Protest: An Anthology of Early African American Protest Literature, 1790-1860, eds. Richard Newman, Patrick Rael, and Philip Lapsansky (New York: Routledge, 2000).
- Ask students to examine the architectural designs proposed for the new nation’s capital in the District of Columbia. Compare and contrast the proposals to the buildings that housed the government in Philadelphia. What conclusions may be drawn about the young nation’s identity and aspirations?
- Temple of Liberty: Building the Capitol for the New Nation (Library of Congress) [link]
Chapter 3 (pages 57-79)
Relic: Survival in the City
Aligns with textbook chapters on the Early Republic through the Jacksonian Era (for example, The American People, chapters 8 and 10)
This chapter traces the awakening of interest in the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall) as a historic place in the first three decades of the nineteenth century. The first section, “Displacing Memory: Architecture and Iconography,” establishes the lack of attention to the old State House as a historic place by the turn of the nineteenth century and places it in the context of early American iconography. The next section, “Stirring Memory; The Visit of Lafayette,” focuses on Lafayette’s U.S. tour of 1824-25 as a turning point for regard of the State House as a historic place, including the first use of “Hall of Independence” to refer to the room in which independence was declared. Finally, “Rebuilding the Past” recounts actions by Philadelphians to restore the State House to its 1776 appearance by reconstructing its steeple. The chapter concludes by arguing that the survival of Independence Hall, a national icon, depended on the guardianship of local citizens. The conclusion also draws parallels between the processes remembering and forgetting in the preservation of buildings and the construction of nations.
- Edward Savage, Congress Voting Independence, Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
- Porcelain painted with scenes of the Declaration of Independence, Winterthur Museum.
- Lafayette souvenir handkerchief, Winterthur Museum.
- North View from the State House Steeple (1838), Independence National Historical Park.
Questions for Discussion
- How and why did Independence Hall become regarded as a historic place?
- What decisions were made about the preservation or destruction of the Pennsylvania State House, and by whom? What other decisions could have been made, and what would have been the result?
- Interest in preserving the memory of the American Revolution increased as the generation that experienced the revolution died away. What parallels exist today, and what events are likely to become of greater interest in the future?
- What role do local citizens play in preserving the nation’s history?
- Compare and contrast John Trumbull’s Declaration of Independence (p. 16) with Edward Savage’s Congress Voting Independence (p. 62). How do they contribute to our perception of the act of declaring Independence? Are they helpful in identifying Independence Hall as a historic place?
- Ask students to read and analyze documents from Philadelphia’s reception of Lafayette in 1824. What conclusions can be drawn about the memory of the American Revolution or the importance of the Pennsylvania State House (Independence Hall)?
- Documents [link]
- For more on Lafayette’s tour, see:
- Search online for photographs of Independence Hall. What does the steeple reconstructed in 1828 add to the building’s image as a historic place? Would perceptions of the building differ if the steeple had not been reconstructed, or if it had been built in a different style?
Chapter 4 (pages 80-113)
Shrine: Slavery, Nativism, and the Forgotten History of the Nineteenth Century
Aligns with textbook chapters on Antebellum decades and the Civil War (for example, The American People, Chapters 12 and 13).
This chapter challenges traditional understandings of the significance of Independence Hall with discoveries that nativism and controversies over slavery both played a role in activities in and around the building in the 1840s and 1850s. The chapter begins by juxtaposing two works of fiction by George Lippard, his story about the ringing of the Liberty Bell and his novel critiquing the corruption of ruling elites, The Quaker City. Next, a section titled “Conflict and Commemoration” demonstrates the evolution of the interior of Independence Hall as a place for solemn ceremonies while Independence Square served as a place for public demonstrations. The next section, “Freedom and Slavery,” places Independence Hall in the context of anti-slavery activity in Philadelphia (including a speech in Independence Square by Frederick Douglass) and documents fugitive slave hearings that took place inside the building in the wake of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850. Next, “Nativist Shrine” makes the connection between the election of nativist office-holders in 1854 and a redecoration of the interior of Independence Hall to feature portraits and relics of founding fathers. Finally, “Union Stronghold” traces events of the Civil War, including the viewing of Abraham Lincoln’s body inside Independence Hall after his assassination. The chapter concludes by calling attention to the absence of many of these events from previous histories of Independence Hall and by pointing out that local events contribute to the significance of national historic landmarks.
- Illustration of State House Bellman, Graham’s Magazine (1854), Library Company of Philadelphia.
- Viewing for Arctic explorer Elisha Kent Kane (1857), Independence National Historical Park.
- Max Rotherman, Interior of Independence Hall (1856), Library Company of Philadelphia.
- Photograph of Civil War encampment in Independence Square (1862), Library Company of Philadelphia.
- Abraham Lincoln raises flag over Independence Hall, Harper’s Weekly Journal of Civilization (1861), Library Company of Philadelphia.
Questions for Discussion
- How do the events in this chapter relate to the two documents most associated with Independence Hall, the Declaration of Independence and the U.S. Constitution?
- What do the events of this chapter reveal about the politics of the 1840s and 1850s?
- What do the events at Independence Hall in this period suggest about connections among nativism, slavery, and patriotism?
- Assign excerpts from the writings of George Lippard. What do they suggest about views of Independence Hall in the 1840s?
- Expand on this chapter by assigning documents of the era that leverage the language of the Declaration of Independence or the U.S. Constitution. How did women, laborers, and others adapt the founding documents in pursuit of their own rights as citizens? Examples of documents:
- Compare and contrast the coverage of Frederick Douglass’s speech in Independence Square by an anti-slavery newspaper (The Pennsylvania Freeman) and The Philadelphia Bulletin. No text of the Independence Square speech is known to survive, but Douglass described the nation’s founding events later in his 1852 address, “What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?” As students to read this address and infer what Douglass might have said in Independence Square.
- Expand on African Americans’ views of the nation’s founding documents by assigning the pamphlet, “The Celebration of the Eighty-Third Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, by the Banneker Institute, Philadelphia, July 4th, 1859.” What distinctions are made between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution, and why? What hints does the document contain about events at Independence Hall?
- The Celebration of the Eighty-Third Anniversary of the Declaration of Independence, by the Banneker Institute, Philadelphia, July 4th, 1859 (Library of Congress) [link]
- Engage students in understanding how the Compromise of 1850 led to the series of fugitive slave hearings in Independence Hall and the Christiana riot trial. Assign teams of students to develop and explain legal strategies for these proceedings.
- Engage students in analyzing the illustration Interior of Independence Hall (1856). How do the works of art and other objects placed inside Independence Hall relate to the building’s history, including the nativist politics of the 1840s and 1850s?
- Digital image available in color through the Library Company of Philadelphia ImPAC search engine [link]
- Ask students to read news coverage of viewings inside Independence Hall, including the viewing of Abraham Lincoln’s body following his assassination, and draw conclusions about connections between the American Revolution and years prior to and during the Civil War.
- Newspaper coverage [link]. [Lincoln documents to be added soon.]
Chapter 5 (pages 114-46)
Legacy: Staking Claims to the Past Through Preservation
Aligns with textbook chapters on Reconstruction, the Gilded Age, and the Progressive Era, including late nineteenth-century urbanization (for example, The American People, Chapters 14 and 16-19).
This chapter describes efforts to preserve Independence Hall and the memory of associations with the American Revolution in the midst of the growing and industrializing city of Philadelphia from the end of the Civil War to the turn of the twentieth century. The first section, “Sacred Square,” deals with Independence Square and the debate over its historic importance that ensued as Philadelphians sought a site for a new City Hall. The next section, “National Museum,” deals with the Centennial of 1876 and the accompanying effort to create a museum within Independence Hall to commemorate the signers of the Declaration of Independence. This section focuses especially on the role of women as managers and curators of the museum. Next, “Ancestral Domain” focuses on the role of hereditary societies in late nineteenth-century restoration of Independence Hall as a historic site, particularly the conflict for control between the Sons and Daughters of the American Revolution. The chapter concludes by arguing that elite Philadelphians created an idealized ambiance of the eighteenth century, but in doing so they erased the tumultuous history that took place in the building in later times.
- “The Boys in Blue” (1866), Library Company of Philadelphia; also appears on the cover of the book.
- John McArthur Jr., model of City Hall for Independence Square, Library Company of Philadelphia.
- Hall of Independence (1876), Library Company of Philadelphia.
- The National Museum (1876), Independence National Historical Park.
- Illustration from Going to the Centennial (1876), Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
- Philadelphia City Council meeting in Independence Hall (1893), Independence National Historical Park.
- Independence Hall restoration, Harper’s Weekly (July 24, 1897), Library of Congress.
Questions for Discussion
- What were the motivations for preservation during the late nineteenth century?
- What are the connections between ancestry and interest in historic preservation?
- How and why did conflicts occur over the preservation and uses of Independence Hall? What do these conflicts suggest about American society in the decades between the Civil War and the turn of the twentieth century?
- What is “historic space”? In what ways can historic spaces change over time?
- Compare and contrast the interior of Independence Hall in 1876 (p. 125) with the interior of 1856 (p. 103). What changed, and why?
- Use maps to examine the choices available to Philadelphians for placement of a new City Hall. What factors of history and geography influenced the choice?
- Extend students’ exploration of the Centennial of 1876:
- The Centennial Exhibition, Free Library of Philadelphia [link]
- Ask students to do research in local newspapers to find out how their communities celebrated the Centennial in 1876 or other anniversaries of the Declaration of Independence or the Constitution.
- Invite a member of the Sons or Daughters of the American Revolution to come to class to discuss their affiliation and the work of hereditary societies today.
- Assign students to investigate when and why local landmarks were preserved, and by whom.
Chapter 6 (pages 147-81)
Place and Symbol: The Liberty Bell Ascendant
Aligns with textbook chapters on the Gilded Age, the Progressive Era, and World War I, including regional distinctions and national identity (for example, The American People, Chapters 15-20).
This chapter focuses predominantly on Independence Hall’s most famous artifact, the Liberty Bell, and its rise as a national symbol in the late nineteenth century and early twentieth century. The first section, “Venerable Relic,” introduces the display of the Liberty Bell at world’s fairs and other exhibitions and its journeys by rail to these events. Public responses reflected regional identities and showed the value placed in educating children about the nation’s history. Next, “Sacred Symbol” traces the growing symbolism of the bell through the newspaper coverage, speeches, advertising, and other references during the period of its U.S. tours, 1885-1915. The next section, “Historic Home,” contrasts the bell’s emergence as a symbol with Independence Hall, preserved as a place important to the American Revolution. This section also documents actions by the Philadelphia city government to restrict and control activities in Independence Square. Finally, “Echoes of History, Near and Far,” carries the narrative into the period of the First World War and describes architectural copies of Independence Hall. The chapter concludes by contrasting the divergent potential of buildings (Independence Hall) and artifacts (the Liberty Bell) as historic symbols.
- Liberty Bell on rail car en route to Boston (1903), Independence National Historical Park.
- “Bowing to the Old Liberty Bell, Atlanta Exposition” (1895), Liberty Bell Virtual Museum.
- San Francisco Chronicle front page featuring Liberty Bell (1915), Library of Congress.
- “Ring Out and Proclaim Trust-Imperialism Throughout the Land” (1900), Library of Congress.
- Women’s Justice Bell (1916), Historical Society of Pennsylvania.
- Postcard of Chestnut Street, Philadelphia (1906), Pennsylvania State Archives.
- “Ring It Again” poster (World War I), Pennsylvania State Archives.
- Baker Memorial Library, Dartmouth College.
Questions for Discussion
- How and why did the Liberty Bell become an important American symbol?
- What other symbols represent the United States today? Are they more or less important today than the Liberty Bell or Independence Hall?
- How and why were public activities restricted in Independence Square? What impact would this have on regard for Independence Hall as a historic landmark?
- Divide the class into teams to investigate each of the Liberty Bell’s tours. Using newspaper articles from the time of each tour, draw conclusions about the meaning of the Liberty Bell for Americans at that time.
- Compare and contrast the Liberty Bell with other symbols such as the Statue of Liberty and the American Flag.
- Examine propaganda posters from World War I to discover the use of American symbols. What purposes did these symbols serve in reinforcing the message of the poster? Did the use of symbols change or remain the same during World War II?
- World War I and World War II Propaganda Posters, Brandeis Institutional Repository [link]
- Survey the local community for buildings that resemble Independence Hall. What does this communicate about the significance of the building?
Chapter 7 (pages 182-212)
Treasure: Eighteenth-Century Building, Twentieth-Century City
Aligns with textbook chapters on the 1920s, the Great Depression, and World War II (for example, The American People, Chapters 21, 22, and 23).
This chapter traces the rise of interest in preserving Independence Hall and creating an expanded park around it from the early twentieth century through the Second World War. The first section, “Visions and Venues,” describes the urban environment around Independence Hall, the growing contrast between the eighteenth-century landmark and the city around it, and the emerging interest of architects and others in creating a park as a buffer from the densely developed city. Next, “The Nation’s Birthplace in the Great Depression” connects Independence Hall with interest in symbols of national security during an era of financial stress, including the sesquicentennial celebration for the U.S. Constitution. The next section, “Patriots and Preservation,” shows how patriotism developing between the world wars led Philadelphians to organize a campaign to create state and national parks around Independence Hall. Finally, “Contours and Boundaries” presents views of Independence Hall that deepen and complicate the narrative of patriotic regard for the landmark: ethnic parades leading to Independence Hall; National Freedom Day, a commemoration at the Liberty Bell initiated by African Americans in 1942 to mark the end of slavery; continuing conflict over demonstrations in Independence Square; and the use of Independence Hall in attempts to interest the United Nations in placing its permanent headquarters in Philadelphia. The chapter concludes by observing that for Independence Hall and other historic buildings, the definitions of historic significance that were created during this era of American history may reflect the perception of a dominant group of well-organized elites while omitting or marginalizing others.
- Photograph of area surrounding Independence Hall (c. 1930), Library Company of Philadelphia.
- Photograph of WPA workers creating plaster models of Independence Hall, Pennsylvania State Archives.
- Photograph of 150th anniversary celebration of U.S. Constitution in Independence Square, Pennsylvania State Archives.
- Roy F. Larson, plan for park extending north of Independence Hall, Urban Archives, Temple University.
- Photograph of city employees demonstrating rescue of Liberty Bell in case of attack on Independence Hall, Urban Archives, Temple University.
- Photograph of Progressive Citizens of America rally in Independence Square (1947), Associated Press.
Questions for Discussion
- How did the urban environment around Independence Hall shape ideas about its preservation?
- How did national and world events of the 1920s, 1930s, and 1940s shape ideas about Independence Hall and its preservation?
- Who became involved in the Independence Hall Association and why? What does this suggest about the role of local citizens in the guardianship of national landmarks?
- How was the significance of Independence Hall defined for purposes of creating a national park? Whose views of the landmark were included, and whose were not?
- Have you observed any commemorative activities, such as parades, that make connections between ethnic cultures and patriotism?
- Use online map services, such as Google or Mapquest, to locate Independence National Historical Park. Compare and contrast the park as it exists today with conditions at the beginning of the twentieth century (see photographs on p. 185 and p. 168). How did the presence of Independence Hall change the urban landscape of Philadelphia?
- For additional photographs of this area, visit PhillyHistory [link] and search for the address Fifth and Chestnut Streets.
- Assign students to do online research to find the statements of significance for other national parks and historic sites related to the American Revolution. When were they created? How do these compare with the statement of significance adopted by Congress for Independence National Historical Park?
- Ask students to take on the role of a tour guide in Independence Hall during World War II. What would a tour guide in the era be likely to say about Independence Hall? What would the guide leave out?
- If your community has monuments to ethnic heroes of the American Revolution, assign students to investigate how, when, and why the monuments were created.
- Ask students to read statements about National Freedom Day by Major Richard R. Wright Sr. and other documents about the Double-V campaign by African Americans. What do these reveal about African Americans’ patriotism and the quest for civil rights during the World War II era?
- National Freedom Day documents [Coming Soon]
- Continuity or Change? African Americans in World War II (University of Maryland-Baltimore County Center for History Education) [link]
- Ask students to read the newspaper editorial proposing the area around Independence Hall as a site for the headquarters of the United Nations. What does the editorial suggest about the role of the United States in the world at the end of World War II? On what basis was it later added to the UNESCO’s list of World Heritage Sites?
- “Philadelphia, – Home of the United Nations,” Philadelphia Record (March 5, 1945) [link]
- UNESCO, “Independence Hall” (World Heritage List) [link]
- Additional digital resources about Philadelphia’s campaign to host the United Nations are available through the Historical Society of Pennsylvania digital library [link]. To see if your town or state also became involved in the competition to host the UN, see the list on the companion website for Capital of the World: The Race to Host the United Nations. [link]
Chapter 8 (pages 213-41)
Anchor: A Secure Past for Cold War America
Aligns with textbook chapters on the Cold War era (for example, The American People, Chapters 24 and 25).
This chapter focuses on the Cold War era of the 1950s and early 1960s, including the creation of Independence National Historical Park, the restoration of Independence Hall under the management of the National Park Service, and the rise of family tourism. The first section, “Consensus Landscape: Obscuring the Nineteenth Century,” introduces a new concept, “Consensus Landscape,” and draws parallels between the creation of Independence Mall and other efforts to achieve consensus and conformity during the 1950s. This section also describes decisions made by the National Park Service about how to present Independence Hall to visitors. A second section, “Bulwark of Freedom,” makes connections between the culture of the Cold War and interest in Independence Hall and the Liberty Bell, including tourism. The chapter concludes by arguing that efforts to restore, preserve, and interpret Independence Hall during this period created a time capsule of the eighteenth century that not only served the purposes of the Cold War era but also had a long-lasting impact on future understandings of the landmark.
- Photograph of tourist family at Independence Hall (1954), Urban Archives, Temple University.
- Photograph of demolition to create Independence Mall, Urban Archives, Temple University.
- Cartoon of the Liberty Bell as an anti-Communist symbol, Philadelphia Inquirer (1947).
- Photograph of restored interior of Assembly Room in Independence Hall (1974), Independence National Historical Park.
- Photograph of Liberty Bell replica in U.S. Savings Bonds campaign, Urban Archives, Temple University.
- Photograph of President John F. Kennedy addressing a crowd in Independence Mall (1962), Urban Archives, Temple University.
Questions for Discussion
- In what ways did activities in and around Independence Hall during the 1950s reflect the culture of the Cold War?
- What priorities guided the National Park Service in its work in Philadelphia during the 1950s?
- What were the implications of the decision to focus the interpretation of Independence Hall on the period 1774 to 1800?
- Why were families attracted to sites such as Independence Hall as vacation destinations? Where do families tend to go on vacation today?
- Use National Security Document 68, or excerpts, to encourage students to see Independence Hall as an opportunity for promoting the American way of life as a defense against Communism.
- Compare and contrast the photograph of the Assembly Room in Independence Hall in this chapter (p. 231) with earlier treatments of the same room (p. 125, p. 103, and p. 62). What can be concluded about regard for the history of Independence Hall has it developed and changed over time?
- Ask students to read or view film of President Kennedy’s address at Independence Hall on July 4, 1962. What connections did he make between events at Independence Hall and current affairs, and why?
- John F. Kennedy, Address at Independence Hall (The American Presidency Project) [link]
- Address at Independence Hall archival records, Papers of John F. Kennedy, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library [link]
- President Kennedy at Independence Hall (18-minute film), John F. Kennedy Presidential Library [link]
Chapter 9 (pages 242-67)
Prism: Redefining Independence for a Third Century
Aligns with textbook chapters on the 1960s and 1970s (for example, The American People, Chapters 26 and 27).
This chapter focuses on the roles of Independence Hall as a place of protest, patriotism, and tourism from the 1960s to the Bicentennial of the Declaration of Independence in 1976. The first section, “Contested Ground,” describes demonstrations for civil rights and for and against the Vietnam War, including sit-ins at the Liberty Bell. Next, “Philadelphia Fling,” examines tourism and efforts by the City of Philadelphia to sell itself as an exciting, modern destination as well as a place rooted in the past. Finally, “Lock Down,” describes the approach of the Bicentennial and decisions by the National Park Service to limit visitation to Independence Hall to guided tours and to remove the Liberty Bell to a separate pavilion on Independence Mall. The chapter concludes by arguing that even though Independence Hall appeared to be a stable bridge to the eighteenth century past, contemporary activities in and around the landmark reflected a more complex relationship between history and memory.
- Photograph of expanded parks around Independence Hall (1959), Associated Press.
- Photograph of National Freedom Day ceremony at Liberty Bell (1964), Urban Archives, Temple University.
- Photograph of civil rights sit-in at the Liberty Bell (1965), Urban Archives, Temple University.
- Photograph of rally by Young Americans for Freedom (1966), Urban Archives, Temple University.
- Photograph of demonstrations for and against the Vietnam War (1966), Urban Archives, Temple University.
- Photograph of line of tourists awaiting entry to Independence Hall (1975), Urban Archives, Temple University.
- Photograph inside Liberty Bell Pavilion (1976), Urban Archives, Temple University.
Questions for Discussion
- In what ways did Independence Hall remain connected with contemporary events, despite its interpretation as a place of significance for the eighteenth century?
- Why did so many groups turn to Independence Hall and other historic places as sites for protests and demonstrations during the 1960s?
- Why did Philadelphia tourism promoters struggle with the city’s image during the 1960s and 1970s?
- How do guided tours add or detract from engagement with a historic place?
- Ask students to compare and contrast the demonstrations described in this chapter with those in previous chapters. What can be concluded about the role of Independence Hall, the Declaration of Independence, and the U.S. Constitution in shaping contemporary debates?
- Examine the photographs of demonstrations in this chapter. What can be inferred or concluded about the goals and behavior of the demonstrators?
- Engage students in learning more about the groups described in this chapter by assigning each to a team for additional research. What were the goals of each group and how did activities at Independence Hall help to further those goals?
- How was the Bicentennial commemorated in your community? Use local newspapers or archives and compare to events in Philadelphia.
Chapter 10 (pages 268-79)
Memory: The Truths We Hold to Be Self-Evident
This chapter serves as an epilogue and summarizes events since 1976, including the new master plan for Independence National Historical Park adopted in 1997.
- Olin Partnership, Plan for Independence National Historical Park (1997), Independence National Historical Park.
- Photograph of construction in progress, including new Liberty Bell Center (2001).
- Photograph of peace demonstration at Liberty Bell Pavilion (2000).
Questions for Discussion
- How and why were changes proposed for the area around Independence Hall in the 1990s?
- In what ways does the National Park Service seek to strike a balance between public access and control of the public space around Independence Hall?
- Examine the most recent Interpretation Plan for Independence National Historical Park. Does it fulfill the author’s expectation that interpretation of Independence Hall and related sites would become more inclusive?
- Long-Range Interpretive Plan [link]
- Examine the regulations governing Independence National Historical Park today. If you were planning a demonstration or other event, what steps would be necessary, and what regulations would govern your plans?
- Special Use Permits and Superintendent’s Compendium [link]
- Since the initial publication of Independence Hall in American Memory, the most significant public interest in Independence National Historical Park has focused on the interpretation of the site of the President’s House at Sixth and Market Streets, largely because enslaved people were kept there during the presidency of George Washington. Engage students in the ensuing controversy (2002-10) with the following resources:
- The President’s House [link]