Liberty Bell: Journey to New Orleans

The Liberty Bell’s exhibition at the World’s Industrial and Cotton Exhibition in New Orleans in 1885 was its first journey away from Philadelphia. City officials in New Orleans asked Philadelphians to send the bell as a statement of national reconciliation. Transporting the Liberty Bell by rail car across the country set a precedent for six additional journeys to world’s fairs and exhibitions until 1915, when the practice ended.

As these documents show, northerners and southerner had vastly reactions to the Liberty Bell’s appearance in the South, particularly when the former President of the Confederacy, Jefferson Davis, viewed the bell and spoke of its significance.

New York Times, January 27, 1885


NEW-ORLEANS, Jan. 26.—To-day was a great day for the Exposition. Extensive preparations had been made for the reception of the Liberty Bell from Philadelphia. Among other persons invited to take part in the proceedings was Jefferson Davis, who met the special train bearing the bell at his home, Beauvoir, Miss., and made a brief speech there. A large number of citizens of New-Orleans and Philadelphia also met the train at that point, and all came together to this city, where the streets were lined with people for miles. The car bearing the bell having been received on the standard gauge tracks at Elysian Fields-street was drawn along the levee about 4 o’clock, and much enthusiasm was shown.  Salutes were fired, whistles blown, and flags were displayed on the shipping. A reception had been arranged to take place in Music Hall of the Main Exposition Building, but several unforeseen delays occurred, and it was found necessary to postpone the reception ceremonies until Wednesday afternoon.  Music Hall was packed with people. The weather to-day has been very fine and the attendance at the exposition the largest since the opening. The Philadelphia Commandery returned home to-night.

New Orleans Daily Picayune, January 27, 1885


The End of Its Triumphal March Across the Country.

Its Reception and Movement to the Exposition Grounds—Hon. Jefferson Davis Joins the Party at Beauvoir.

The schedules and accounts published during the last few days promised that the Liberty Bell would be at New Orleans at 11 o’clock yesterday morning.  A part of the programme of reception was the going out of the special train on the Louisville and Nashville Railroad to meet the venerable proclaimer of independence and the party guarding it.  Division Superintendent O. M. Dunn and Assistant Passenger Agent, John Kilkenny were on board to give the trip their personal supervision.  The train left promptly at 8 o’clock as announced.  It consisted of engine No. 720 and two passenger coaches, Conductor D. Rolls in charge, Charles Pierce, engineer Jim Kern, fireman, and C. O. Bragg and S. Turner, brakemen.

Mayor Guillote was at the head of the small army which

Went Out to Receive the Bell.

Illustration of the Liberty Bell in New Orleans

What does the artist communicate about the meaning of the Liberty Bell’s exhibition in the South in 1885? (Independence National Historical Park)

He arranged a commissary department on board, supplying it plentifully with champagne.  In charge of the commissary department were Sergeants-at-Arms John Hurley and George Wright, and the Mayor’s Messenger, Fred Fortier, who kept the wine flowing all day.

On the train were M. M. Bell, President of the Mechanic’s Exchange ; F. A. Lee, H. Newgass and H. Lange, of the Stock Exchange ; E. K. Converse, Frank Roder, M. Schwabacher, S. A. Trufant and H. McCloskey, of the Produce Exchange.  Capt. Jas. D. Edwards, M. J. McAdams, Alex. Smith and E. E. Seamer, Mechanics’, Dealers’ and Lumbermen’s Exchange ; R. J. Connelly, Wm. Seymour, Wm. Kelley and George Selby, Exchange Association ; Marshall J. Smith, Chamber of Commerce ; Col. A W. Hyatt and Capt. J. J. Mellon, Mexican Exchange ; A. K. Miller, J. A. Chaleron, B. D.  Wood, J. K. Turley and A. Bobet, Maritime Association.  The City Council Committee on Reception, in charge of the matter on behalf of the city was composed of Aldermen Ed. Israel, Vic Mauberet, T. H. Ryan, John E. Sliger and Alex. Winn, Hon. Frank Bacon, President of the United States Commissioner to the Exposition, Col. J. Thomas Scharf, Baltimore, Md., T. J. Barrow, of Louisiana, Major R. E. Fleming, Dakota, and Assistant Secretary George A. Beaton represented the Exposition Commissioners.  Henry Converse of Springfield, Ill.; Hon. John F. Rengstorff; W.m. J. Kelly, of Philadelphia and Council Clerk F. Bouliguy were also on board.  E. Duval Sweeney, San Francisco, and Newton MacMillan, New York, represented the Exposition Press Association.  Mark F. Bigney, T. D. Wharton, D. C. Hollander and others of the local press were members of the party.  W. A. Gwyn, Ed. M. Heusel and Mr. Bright represented the Cotton Exchange.

Misapprehension as to time in the orders caused two of the police officers detailed to escort the Bell to miss the train.  Corporal David Klotter was the single representative of the force.

At Elysian Fields street the special car “Youngstown” was attached.  The car is one of the Cleveland and Toledo Railroad coaches, comfortably arranged for an excursion party, and was used by John A. Logan in his canvass previous to the November election.  The party occupying it yesterday was composed of Pittsburg journalists and their ladies, as follows:

F. M. Neill, editor Pittsburg Dispatch, and wife ; H H. Byram, Chronicle-Telegraph, and wife ; Wm. Schoyer, Daily Post, wife and daughter; E. A. Myers, Pittsburg Post, and niece ; Jos. B. Siebeneck, Chronicle Telegraph, and daughter; Misses Helen and Mary Royal, of Philadelphia; the entire party in charge of Thos. E. Watt, passenger agent of the Pennsylvania Railroad system.

The first car was reserved for the

Continental Guards,

who kindly consented to act as part of the escort.  Their selection and attendance was most appropriate.  A fine body of men, well drilled, with a national reputation and dressed in the handsome uniforms of one hundred years ago, formed a proper escort for the old bell, which proclaimed liberty on behalf of the men after whom the Continentals are named.  They were headed by a band of music, and company and band occupied the front car.  Their flag was in keeping with their name and uniforms, showing the thirteen stars for the number of States then in the Union.  The colors were carried by Seargt. J. B. Hood, the hero of three wars and the George Washington of the Continental Guards whenever they needed “the father of his country” for a tableau or entertainment.  The company was headed by Post. Capt. Wm. Pierce, although Lieut. E. K. Spinner was in command.  The rest of those present were: Lieut. Thos. O’Connor, Seargants L. P. Julie and J. Stemler, Corporals T. J. Moulin and Joseph Oteri, Color Sergeant J. C. Hood, Privates Thomas J Swift, Jno Slemner, O. A.  Pierce, Joseph Walton, E. D. Dean, L. G. Gerters, A Grivot, M. J. McAdam, Thos. O’Connor, Jr., R. H. Hackney, John Nicol, F. X. Barbot, C. M. Howard, W. T. Wall, C. Kouns, F. T. Rivet, W. F. Hodgkins, H. U. Beach, Jno. M. Coos, Treasurer M. R. Pitnam, Secretary Gen. W. Doll, Markers Jno. C Williams and W. O’Connor.

The cars were decorated with Liberty Bell flags after it left the city, and the flying bunting told the mission of the train which made haste slowly in advance of the regular train.  The band played lively airs at intervals and gave a pleasant serenade to the charming ladies of the Pittsburg party.

At bay St. Louis J. M. Seixas, of the Army of Tennessee appointed on the Reception Committee, H. R. Grandmont of the Trados Assembly, and E. C. Garderbled, one of the Aldermen of the little town, were taken on board.  R. A. Van Cleave, of Ocean Springs, also became a passenger.

At Chef Menteur, J. H. Andrews, of Columbia, Tenn., who was going to the city with R. E. Andrews, Mayor of Columbia, and J. Andrews, Jr., was invited on board by Supt. Dunn.

The run was not fast, owing to the condition of the track after the heavy rains of late.  The time was, however, pleasantly spent, and never has a more harmonious, intelligent or representative party gathered on a single train.

One of the episodes was the calling in of Mayor Guillotte by the Continental Guards.  When he entered their car to see what was wanted, Judge E. K. Skinner stepped forward and presented him with a gold badge of the command.  Judge Skinner spoke of the interest the Mayor had manifested in the Guards and their consequent appreciation.  The Mayor accepted the gift, referred to the record of th Continentals for hospitality and readiness to assist in any measure adding to the welfare and good name of the city, and thaked [sic] the command for honoring him by the honor of the enjoyable invitation into their worthy ranks.

The members of the Produce Exchange on board sent the following dispatch to President R. S. Wallace :

We recommend adjourn call and closing of stores.  All patriotic citizens meet the Liberty Bell at the Exposition.

When it became known that the train would pass Beauvoir, Miss.,

The Home of Jefferson Davis,

Ex-President of the Confederacy.  A general desire was expressed to have him join the party.  President Bacon and the United States Commissioners met and decided to extend him a cordial invitation to assist in the reception.  The following telegram was accordingly sent to Chef-Menteur :

            “As representatives of the North and West, and on the part of the United States Commissioners’ Association of the World’s Exposition, we request that you join us on the excursion for the reception of the “Liberty Bell.”

This was signed by the United States Commissioners, Mr. Kelly , of Philadelphia ; Mr. Converse, of Illinois, and the representatives of the Exposition Press Association.

Superintendent Dunn also telegraphed an invitation to Jefferson Davis, saying that all the excursionists urged his acceptance.

Mayor Guillotte and the committees from the Exchanges sent a similar dispatch.  Messrs. Bacon, Scharf and Fleming, United States Commissioners, Mayor Guillote, and E. K. Converse were appointed a committee to wait on Mr. Davis at Beauvoir.

At half-past 11 o’clock Beauvoir was reached.  It is the station on the other side of Mississippi City.  The bell party arrived there first and waited for the reception train, so that the home of Jefferson Davis proved the meeting point for the visitors from the North and their hosts of the South.  Conductor Hogan, of the bell train, carried the dispatches received at the station to Mr. Davis.  He found the latter sick in bed, but says that when Mr. Davis read the messages he arose and dressed, saying that he was proud of the invitation.

When the two trains met the reception party cheered the Bell.  An introduction to the committee in charge followed, Mayor Guillotte bidding them welcome in the name of New Orleans, and the New Orleans Councilmen [….] friendly relations with the Philadelphia representatives, who had been here before, besides becoming acquainted with those whom they met for the first time.

In the meantime Mr. E. K Converse went over to the home of Jefferson Davis and soon returned with the latter, who drove Mr. Converse to the depot in his buggy.  The gentlemen on the platform went forward to meet the famous Southerner, and after numerous introductions and handshakings, Mr. Davis was conducted upon the platform.  They went forward toward the place where the Liberty Bell  was standing the band played and the Continental Guards drawn up in line, presented arms.  Then President Bacon and Jefferson Davis faced each other, and

Mr. Bacon Spoke as Follows:

            Mr. Davis, in behalf of the Association of the United States and Territories of our common country, joined by the great common industries and representations of the various military organizations throughout the Union, we extend to you a cordial invitation to join us in escorting to New Orleans and to the Exposition Grounds the Old Liberty Bell, so generously loaned us by the “City of Brotherly Love.”

As the bell in its vigor proclaimed liberty throughout the land, and its sentiment was “Peace on Earth and Good Will to Men,” and as history repeats itself, we believe its visit to the South will be the effectual means of burying all sectional strife.

We of Kansas, which is the geographical centre of the United States, together with the New England States of the East.  Minnesota and Wisconsin of the North, and the Pacific Slope States have united in aiding the South in making the finest collective exhibit of industries of our country ever known in the history of the world.

We hope, Mr. Davis, that your engagements will allow you to accompany us in this excursion to the Exposition Grounds, to aid us in the ceremonies and reception of the bell.

Jefferson Davis Replied :

I feel most deeply the compliment of this reception and the expressions that accompany it.

I was sick when this notice reached me, and I immediately arose when I heard that this glorious old bell was at the station.

I thank you and your associates, and trust  that your anticipations of the harmonizing tendency if this journey of the old Bell across the States of the Union, some of which had not sprung into existence when its tones first filled the air, may be in every respect fully realized.

I think the time has come when reason should be substituted for passion and when men who have fought in support of their honest convictions, shall be able and willing to do justice to each other.

Yon sacred organ that gave voice to the proudest declaration that a handful of men ever made when they faced the greatest military power on the globe ; when a handful of men declared to all the world their inalienable right, and staked life, liberty and property in defense of their declaration.  Then it was with your clear tones you sent notice to all who were willing to live or die for liberty and felt that the day was at hand when every patriot must do a patriot’s duty.

Glorious old Bell, the son of a revolutionary soldier bows in reverence to you, worn by time, but increasing in sacred memories.

Mr. President, accept my thanks, which are heartfelt and sincerely given.

The Scene was a Memorable One.

In front was the coach upon which the bell was being carried to the Exposition.  In front of it stood its tall Guardians of the Philadelphia police, towering and motionless.  On the platform, just below, were the Continental, in showy uniform, drawn up in line.  In the centre of a large group stood President Bacon and Jefferson Davis, both gray and both of commanding appearance.  Mr. Davis, as he spoke, grew enthused and seemed to thrill his audience and as he ended they cheered vociferously.  Mr. Davis was much moved by what he said, and eyes and face seemed to forget age, and were as bright as in youth.  Owing to the occasion, the warmth of the invitation and the good feeling which prevailed Mr. Davis did not urge his ill health as an excuse for remaining at home.  He therefore accompanied the excursion to the city, chatting pleasantly all the way with the United States Commissioners and others who came up.

A very pretty incident occurred at Beauvoir.  When the Bell arrived the little five year old granddaughter of Jefferson Davis, Miss Verina Howell Davis Hayes, was among the crowd on the platform.  The nurse led the little one forward and lifted her up to look at the bell.  She desired to touch it.  When Sergeant Malin  discovered who she was he lifted the little one up in brawny arms and she placed her tiny hands upon the bell in delight.

Jefferson Davis, as already states, accompanied the party to New Orleans.  During the return trip it came to the mind of many on board that the day was, by a singular coincidence, the 24th anniversary of the succession of Louisiana from the Union at the beginning of the Confederate war.  Alderman Ryan went up and reminded Mr. Davis of the fact.  The ex-President replied feelingly : “Well, well bring the old Liberty Bell back and ring the Union in again.”

The sentiment was applauded by those around at the time.

The trains which brought the Liberty Bell as far as Beauvoir consisted of  Engine No. 11 of the Louisville and Nashville Railroad, the bell car, a sleeping car and a sitting car, the latter cars were for the accommodation of the Council committee accompanying the bell from Philadelphia.  The train left Mobile at 9:24, and stopped and hour at Beauvoir.   The following were the committees:

The Philadelphia Council,

Robert L. Pyle, Chairman; Geo. W. Kochersperger, Clerk.  Select Council—Thomas M. Rammond, Thomas J. Rose, William Thornton, Edward W. Patton Edward Matthews, John Brady, William McMullen.  Common Council—Andrew Zane Jr., Joshua T. Owen, Charles K Smith, John M. Walton, James McCormick, John T. Clark.

William Dixey, Commissioner of Markets and City Property, ex-officio custodian of State-House and Bell, and John J. Ridgeway, Jr., and Andre J. Maloney, of the Common Council, and Joseph H. Paist, Clerk of the Select Council, were along as invited guest.  Sergt. Edward Malin and Officers Thomas H. Newman and John Paton, of the Philadelphia Reserves, came along as the guard to the bell, by special detail of Mayor William B. Smith.

The History of the Bell

is well known.  It was cast in England by order of the colony of Pennsylvania.  In was required to have upon its face, in large letters : “By order of the Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania, for the State House in Philadelphia, 1752,” and underneath, “Proclaim Liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof.”  The bell arrived in August of that year, but in September it cracked by a stroke of the clapper.  In 1753 it was recast by Pass & Stow, except during the British occupation of the city.

Its diameter is 5 feet at the tip, and, in the thickest portion, it is three inches through ; its weight is 2080 pounds.  It is letters in a line completely encircling the crown, with the sentence :

“Proclaim liberty throughout all the land unto all the inhabitants thereof lev. xxv, v. x.”

Immediately under this sentence, also in a line completely encircling the bell: “By order of the Assembly of the Province of Pennsylvania for the State House of Philada. Pass and Stow, Philada, 1778.”

The inscription on the bell proved prophetic of its mission, and on July 8, 1776, the bell rung for the proclamation of the Declaration of Independence.  The bell tolled for the last time on July 8, 1835.  While slowly ringing in sorrow at the death of Chief Justice John Marshall, without any other violence, the bell’s great side was parted, and its voice has been silent ever since.  An effort was made to restore the sound by drilling the crack, but without success.  The big rent in its side has brown larger, and is extending towards the top.  It remained a highly prized and overrated souvenir at Independence Hall, at Philadelphia, until the citizens generously consented to loan it to New Orleans in order that it might proclaim liberty throughout the land and give evidence to the good feeling cementing the different sections of the common country.  It was taken out of Independence Hall on the morning of Last Friday, Jan. 28, and drawn by sic horses to the car built by the Pennsylvania Railroad especially for the trip of the bell.  It left Philadelphia on the same day, and ever since then its journey has spread enthusiasm all along the route.  Ovations have been flattening and tremendous, and the council committees were the recipient of lavish hospitalities.

The bell made thirteen stops, counting New Orleans and Philadelphia, representing the number of States in the Union when the bell attested to the declaration.  Fire departments, military, brass bands, citizens turned out at nearly every place and saluted the bell.  Where stoppages were made, every effort was put forth to cause the train to remain longer, but the committee could not comply owing to the schedule arrived upon, and their promise to reach New Orleans by noon.

The Bell is firmly secured in its place, resting in an oaken platform.  This consists of two inverted V shaped stands, with a rivet across the top, and bars for the base of the bell to rest upon.  The bell was firmly bolted above and below, and the clapper secured so as not to move.  One half of the car is devoted to the bell.  This has an ornamental railing around it, with miniature gilt bells crowning each post.  The other half of the car is a small house in which the police guards are comfortably quartered.

The policemen received a large share of attention.  Sergt. E. W. Malin 5 feet 6 ½ inches tall, Patrolman Thomas Newmann 6 feet 4 ½ inches, and Patrolman John Palton 6 feet 5 inches.  They are fine looking, intelligent men, picked from the Reserve Corps of Philadelphia, which is itself picked for special duty from the main corps.

When the bell came to Beauvoir it had on it a large and beautiful wreath, presented by Miss Georgie Emlen Ketchum, of Mobile.  It also carried a pretty wreath from Mrs. James McManns, of Montgomery, Ala.

At Beauvoir the engine of the bell train took on the cars from New Orleans and proceeded on its journep.  It was then noon.  The news of the coming of the bell spread like wildfire.  The Continental Guards were ossigned as special garrdians of the bell, and opening the square so that the view of the bell would not be interfered with.  Every hamlet emptied its inhabitants to greet it as it passed by.  A large and enthusiastic crowd was at Pass Christian.  The band played a serenade, flags were waving and people cheered themselves hoarse.  The train did not stop.

At Bay St. Louis the train made a short halt.  The uproar was deafening.  The platform was massed with people.  Mayor Jas. A Ulman was out with all his officers in honor of the occasion, and Wm. T. Boardman.  The band played a serenade, flags were waving and people cheered themselves hoarse.  The train did not stop.

At Bay St. Louis the train made a short halt.  The uproar was massed  with people.  Mayor Jas. A. Ulman was out with all his officers in honor of the occasion, and Wm. T. Boardman, A. A. Ulman and G. W. Maynard fired a cannon primitive in construction and method, but satisfactory in execution.

The Custom House at the Rigolets was decorated, and not a person passed who neglected to show reverence.

The train was drawn by engine No. 11 of the Lousiville and Nashville, with Conductor M. C. Hogan, Engineer Joseph Nemo, and

Reached the City About 2 O’Clock.

The day was a beautiful one, of the most delicious of the pleasant winter days of the Sunny South.  Fair weather and sunshine coming after rains and cloudy days, made the Bell a good omen, bringing the change as it did.  There were grateful expressions, accordingly, the superstition generally prevailing.

A halt was made on Elysian Fields street and a transfer to the Morgan’s Louisiana and Texas Railroad accomplished.  The Liberty Bell  car was on a truck for broad gauge tracks, and in order to reach the Exposition it was necessary to place it on a standard gauge truck.  The care was raised off the truck by means of screws and another truck ran in underneath.  The car was secured to this and hitched on to the elegant passenger coaches of the Morgan line which took the party the rest of the way.  President A. C. Butchinson and Traffic Manager J. G. […] superintended the arrangements at this point in person.  The train corps was Conductor W. Quinn, Engineer L. Cunningham, Fireman Will Cox, Brakesmen C. B. Seiton and F. Marie.

These changes made the train again started the Liberty Bell being in the rear.  Immense crowds cheered it all the way to Canal street.  Flags were not enough ways for people to express their joy.  The shipping was all gaily decorated, tugs, and steamboats and engines blew their whistles.

At Canal Street

the scene was indescribable.  As far as the eye could see the space between the depot and the opposite street was covered with people.  The Galena, American man-of-war and Independencia, Mexican man-of-war, fired salutes.  The following detachment of the veteran company.  Washington Artillery fired nineteen guns each, making up […] of the national salute.

First Detachment—Sergeant J. M. Lanare, E. D. Charpeaux, W. A . Giffen, A. C. Jones, J. R. Abbott, P. Siebrecht, J. F. Spearing, J. G. Brown.

Second Detachment—Sergeant O. F. Peck, Henry Dupre, George Dougall, Chas. Rossetar, J. B. Cleveland, Frank Place, Edw. Augustus, Chris. Wild.

All of these were in the Confederate Army.

Corporal Schlunbrecht and Patrolman Pat Mannine, of the Special Bell Guard, took their places on the platform , along with Corporal Klotter and the Philadelphia men, Capt. Dunn, Capt. Reynold and others handled the police force, which did good service in keeping the crowds in order.

The following officers of the Galena boarded the train at Canal street : Commander T. F. Kaul, Chief Engineer C. E.  DeValm.  Surgeon F. L. DuBois, Paymaster A. Burtis, Lieut. Chas. H. Judd, Lieut. W. P. Elliott, Lieut. Chas, B. B. Moore, Past Assistant Engineer W. Rownothain, Naval Cadet T. R. Richardson, Naval Cadet Wm. Johnson.

A detachment of Marines in command of Sergt. O’Brien, accompanied the officers.  Capt. Frank S. Palfrey, Lieut. J. M. Henderson and Corporal Richard A. Phelps attended as delegates from the Crescent Rifles.  Col. J. B. Richardson, Adjutant ; E. J. Kursheedt, Capt. C. L. C. Dupuy, Capt. L. A. Adam, Veteran Company ; Lieut. Geo. Booth, Company B.; Lieuts. Selph and W. W. Charlton, represented the Washington Artillery, together with Gen. Owen and Col. J. B. Walton, post Colonels of the Battalion ; Gen. Glynn and Cols. J. D. Scott, E. C. Fenner and L. J. Fremaux and Dr. Mitchell of his staff ; Gen Adolph Meyer and Major C. L. Walker of his staff; Col. Robt. Gillespie of the Governor’s staff and Col. P McIntyre of the First Regiment came in full uniform.

Mayor Smith of Philadelphia, and some fellow-Knights from Mary Commandery, Philadelphia, also came on board as the people were shouting welcome to the Bell  at Canal street, and made the rest of the trip.  Rev Drs. J. L. Leucht and M. Eisenberg, members of the city, State and Federal Governments, Messrs. H. Kelly, R. B. Scudder, R. A. Lelorg, G. Eastwick and Isaac Delgado a committee of the Sugar Exchange, and many others, also took a ride.

The trip was finally resumed, and the train, followed by hundreds of people, and greeted by thousands along the road, went around St. Joseph street, on the tracks of the Jackson Road, to the Belt Road, and thence to the Exposition.

Engine No. 45, of the Morgan Road, Engineer James Mithell and Fireman W. P. Dunn took hold at the New Basin and finished the trip of the Bell.  Cars loaded with cotton, which unexpectedly got off the track back of the Jackson depot, delayed the special train several hours.  Through this all the best of humor was preserved, and it was dark before the train finally entered the Main Building of the Exposition.

At Exposition Park,

the largest crowd that has perhaps ever entered its gates was in attendance, the people having commenced gathering there long before noon.

It was announced that the train with the bell would leave Canal street soon  after 1 o’clock, and, as the run by steam can be made in a very short time, the concourse of people were on the tiptoe of expectation, awaiting the arrival of the precious relic, which was to be the central figure in the events of the day.  During each moment from 2 o’clock to half past 5 in the afternoon it was believed that the train was in sight and would be on the grounds the very next minute.

In the meantime telephone messages from the city announced the starting of the train from Canal street at 3 o’clock, and finally the train was last heard from when it left the Calliope street Jackson Railroad depot soon afterward.  From half-past 3 to half past 5 it was utterly lost and the Exposition authorities could do no more than the crowd–crane their necks out toward the swamp and speculate whether or not the smoke of the Hagan Avenue draining engine was the signal in the sky announcing the coming of the locomotive drawing the bell and the attendants.

At 5:30 o’clock the much belated, much more damned train actually hove in sight, and after half an hour of delay of various sorts the special train with the bell and its escort rolled into the Main Building. Here the escort disembarked and after some parley the Continental Guards and the detachment of United States marines were left with the bell which was to be removed from the car, deposited on a truck and to be transported to music hall close up the stage where, like the dead body of Caesar in the forum, the various Mark Antonios were to deliver orations over it.

Such was the program, but it never was carried out, as will be seen in the sequel.

In the meantime, however, the various committees of the Board of Managers of the Philadelphia City Council, of the New Orleans City Council, of the United States Exposition Commissioners for States, of the Firefighter’s Association and of the Press Association, attended by the naval officers of the Unites States steamer Galena, the officers of the Louisiana National Guard and other invited guests who had come in on the train with the bell, marched into  Music Hall and took seats in the stage.  Among the party was Hon. Jefferson Davis, who, attended by Hon. Frank Bacon, United States Commissioner for Kansas; by Hon J Thomas Scharf, United States Commissioner for Maryland; by Hon. R. E. Fleming Assistant Commissioner for Dakota, and by Col. J. M. Sweeny, of California, for the Press Association, entered the hall and passed to a seat on the platform, greeted by loud cheers, while the Mexican band on duty on the platform played “Dixie.”

The Scene in Music Hall

was animated and full of interest.  The vast auditorium, including galleries, was packed with people, while crowds stood up on the outskirts and peered over the heads of those who were seated.

On the great platform which alone contains one thousand chairs were seated a large number of distinguished personages.  On the right a number of tiers of seats were occupied by the Pennsylvania delegation, exhibitors and visitors with their wives and daughters.  The uniforms of the Mexican and American naval and military officers glittered in the brilliant gathering on the platform, where also were seated the members of the foreign consular and diplomatic corps, Exposition Commissioners of foreign Governments, officials of the Exposition management and Federal, State, and city officials.  Many gentlemen came up to be introduced to Hon/ Jefferson Davis and among them was the Hon Eulogio G. Gillow, Commissioner General for Mexico, who said to the ex Confederate Chief that he was happy to meet one whom history had honored, and who in this era of peace for the great American republic, peace and harmony at home and friendship with all nations, had come to celebrate over this sacred souvenir of American Liberty this occasion dedication to universal concord : to which Mr. Davis made brief but cordial acknowledgements.

While the people were waiting for the bringing in of the bell the Mexican frigate Independencia, lying in the river, fired a salute of twenty-one guns, and the Mexican band on the platform played “Hail Columbia” and “Star Spangled Banner.”

After a while the waiting became tiresome.  Everything was ready for exercises to begin except the bell, which was not brought in but for some reason unexplained at that time remained entirely out of sight.

Finally, shortly before 7 o’clock, Director General Burke came on the platform and stated that he was compelled to ask the indulgence of the audience for the unlooked for difficulties that had been encountered in bringing the bell forward.  The train bearing it had been delayed on the way from the city to the Park by having a train off the track in front of it, and after arriving, it was found that difficulties in the way of removing the bell from the car on which it had been transported had arisen.  It was therefore impossible for the ceremonies of reception, as contemplated, to be carried on, and they would have to be

Deferred Until Wednesday,

at 2 o’clock in the afternoon, at which time he hoped everybody would be prompt.  The assemblage then dissolve and the large crowd found its way home as best it could.

The Protest of the Philadelphians.

It was endeavored to hoist the bell from the truck by means of a derrick.  The Philadelphia Council Committee expressed surprise at seeing the arrangements made to take the bell off of the car on which it had come.  They, however, remained silent while the screws which held the stand to the car were taken out.  As the rope was hauled, an ominous straining was heard and the pole from which the pulley hung bent somewhat.

Mayor Smith, of Philadelphia, told the workmen to stop, as the bell could not be lifted by the rope in use.

In the meantime the Philadelphia Council Committee, o as many as could be gotten together, approached Director General Burke and remonstrated.  Alderman Edward W. Patton was the spokesman, and he said that as far as they were concerned they would not like to take the risk of having the bell removed from the car, because as Philadelphians its safety was a matter of great solicitude to them.  They had always understood that the bell would not be removed from the car.  The car was a part of the exhibit, having been built especially for the purpose.  They asked that the bell be allowed to remain as it is and not endangered by being handled.

Mayor Smith said that his great desire of gratifying the South by the loan of the bell had been accomplished, but he did not think it wise to move the bell from the car, because the car affords better facilities for protection.

Major Burke said the object had been to place the bell in the middle aisle so that the exhibits of all the States would be around it.  The car was thought to be too large for the space in the aisle and the smaller truch, handsomely decorated, had been supplied.  He promised to consider the request of the Philadelphians, and the postponement was announced.

Across the base of the platform of the Liberty Bell appears in gold letters, “Philadelphia, New Orleans.”  The hyphen is

A Pair of Clasped Hands.

The New Orleans Council Committee and Mayor Guillotte initiated this spirit of fraternity the golden symbol represents, and entertained Mayor Smith and the Philadelphia Council committee at a splendid dinner last.  Mayor Smith was compelled to leave last night , leaving the committee in charge of the bell and to receive hospitality in the name of the Quaker City.

Although rather early to broach the subject, it is intended to return the bell to Philadelphia before July 4th.  The return there will be made a great day in which it is thought all Pennsylvania will join.  A movement is already on foot to have the Council Reception Committee, representatives of the various Exchanges and other bodies accompany the bell

Back to Philadelphia

and demonstrate the good feeling of the Crescent City by participating in their celebration.


New Orleans Daily Picayune, January 28, 1885


There was something poetically beautiful and emblematically significant in the circumstances under which Mr. Jefferson Davis joined and accompanied the distinguished excursionists who had come from distant States and Territories to escort with due éclat the old Liberty Bell from the City of Brotherly Love to the Queen City of the South.

The long journey had been inspired by a spirit of peace and good will.  As remarked, “We believe that its visit to the South will be the means of burying all sectional strife.”

More precious than the freight of the Argo was the glorious burden of that train which carried more than a thousand miles, over fertile fields and darkened forests and by millions of happy homes, from the cradle of liberty to the palace of industry and art, a greeting fraught with mystic power to every true American.  If the old bell could speak!  Aye, but it does speak, and it says: “Come home.  Come and see for yourselves that the war is over; for now the sword has become a ploughshare and the spear a pruning hook.”

But when the train had reached the station hard by the sea-side home of the ex-President of the Confederacy its wheels ceased to revolve, and a messenger was sent to tender him an offering of the national greeting and hospitality.  Then the grand old man arose immediately to accept it, and rode to the station accompanied by his granddaughter.  On the way he told the child the story of the bell, and her young heart thrilled and beat responsive to those wild notes of freedom that rang out from the belfry of Independence Hall more than a hundred years ago.

By this time the whole country has read the noble and magnanimous speech delivered by Mr. Davis on that occasion.  It was a speech for all time, a speech to touch and mellow every heart.  Brief as it was, it left nothing unsaid that ought to have been said: not a word was out place, not a sentiment was ill-timed or otherwise in any respect that was eminently appropriate.  But great as the speech was, the conduct of the little girl was more eloquent than anything her grandfather said or could have said.  She begged the favor of touching the bell, and when strong arms had raised her to level with it she embraced it.  Think under whose roof she had been raised, and what a teacher taught her to venerate and love the heroes of the Union!  While malignant tongues and pens were reviling that teacher he was instructing her in the pure lessons of patriotism.  There, then, genius has a theme for a poem that should live forever.  Alienated hearts of North and South come together, and there is a little child to lead them.  Is there anything in fiction more strangely sweet than this romance of the truth.

In song and story let us cherish the memory of this prophetic incident.  For it means that the infants of this generation will grow up to womanhood and manhood without bitterness because of the war that has been fought, and is never to be renewed.

Philadelphia Evening Bulletin, January 27, 1885

The recent resuscitation of Jeff Davis must least be gratifying to one person—the old rebel and traitor himself.  But has he not been sufficiently gratified? The controversy with General Sherman, which was elevated from the newspapers to the floor of the United States Senate, actually led the old fossil to suppose that he was still an important living part of this country.  Still more recently he has written an antebellum letter to the Society of the Army and Navy of the Confederate States, thanking that Society for electing him an honorary member.  “The certificate of membership which you have conferred upon me,” he says, “shall be left as an heirloom to my children and children’s children, that they may never forget what is due to their father’s friends, the ‘old soldiers of the Maryland line.’”  And he closes “with ever increasing respect for your devotion to constitutional liberty.”  Yesterday, when the train conveying the Liberty Bell to New Orleans reached Beauvoir, Jeff Davis was invited to accompany it, and he gave vent to some platitudes about liberty and to hopes that the harmonizing tendencies of the journey of the bell across the States might be realized.  Of anything more ridiculous could be imagined than that a cracked bell—no matter what its history—could make men better or worse, friends or foes, by being hippodromed from State to State, it is the actual spectacle of the late President bombastically apostrophizing this same cracked bell as “You, sacred organ!” and of his promising to hand down an heirloom to his children’s children, when he is childless.

New Orleans Daily Picayune, January 27, 1885


No man has lived without at sometime in his life feeling the blood tingle in his veins at a mere sentiment or idea.  Such was the case yesterday the people of the city, who, whether personally present at the reception of the bell or not, felt that something unusual was going on in their midst.  Not that the bell itself had anything in it to attract, but the recollection of what it commemorated was alive in the minds of all, and our people were once more ready to proclaim their liberty from threatening embraces.  In the olden day it was from real and tangible wrong inflicted upon them, now it comes from that release from a misconception of us by our brothers of the Northland, a misconception which we feel is fast disappearing from better acquaintance, as the fog disappears from the deepening sunshine.

We welcome the bell!  It can tell us of the love our Northern friends bear for us ; it can only take back to them the goodly wishes of the Southland.  As in the days gone by, the days of its youth, it told a tale of freedom from foreign foes, so now, in its age, though voiceless, it shall render the softer melody of freedom from family feuds.



  1. […] [4] An interesting footnote to history is that Jefferson Davis, the former President of the Confederacy, visited the bell in 1885 in Biloxi, Mississippi, during one of its seven trips around the country from 1885 to 1915. In his remarks paying homage to the bell, Davis called for national unity: “I think the time has come when reason should be substituted for passion and when men who have fought in support of their honest convictions, shall be able and willing to do justice to each other.” See […]

  2. Ken Speth says:

    To learn more about the exposition, and the Liberty Bell’s visit there, consider reading “1884-NEW ORLEANS-1885 The Great World’s Fair” – ISBN 9780692065099 – containing over 250 rare photographic images of New Orleans and the exposition from the personal collection of Kenneth R. Speth.

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