by Carmen Doyle
Ninety nine years ago, Fort Wayne residents had what would be a once in a lifetime opportunity to view a national symbol without leaving Fort Wayne.
July 6, 1915 was the day the Liberty Bell visited Fort Wayne.
The Bell left Philadelphia on the afternoon of July 5th, beginning a slow journey across the country to San Francisco and the Panama-Pacific Exposition- the World’s Fair.
The Liberty Bell had been on trips outside of Philadelphia before, but never as far as San Francisco. It had visited New Orleans in 1885, Chicago in 1893, Atlanta in 1895, Charleston in 1902, Boston in 1903, and St. Louis in 1904. But the Bell had never visited the West Coast before.
There was concern over the Bell’s travels. When the Bell had returned from St. Louis, many thought the crack had widened. It had also been the target of souvenir hunters. None of the Bell’s caregivers had wanted to let the Bell move out of Philadelphia again. It took a petition with signatures of several thousand California students to persuade Philadelphia to let the Bell travel across the country. A special railroad train was custom built to ensure the Bell’s safety. A lighting system was designed to show off the Bell at night. The trip covered 17 states and 105 cities.
The Bell stopping in Fort Wayne, even for 45 minutes, was of course a huge event. Mayor Hosey asked everyone to take time out from their job to visit the Bell, and for all the schools to make preparations to see one of the most recognizable icons of American history. The Bell was paraded through three streets in Fort Wayne, in order for the many people to get a good look at it. Huge crowds followed the Bell, with people hanging out windows and off utility poles in order to get a better look. Every building the Bell passed was decorated with red, white, and blue bunting. A band played “America” at one interval. It was the event of a lifetime.
The Bell returned to Philadelphia after a stay in San Francisco. It passed through more states and cities on the journey home, stopping in some towns for only five minutes. When the Liberty Bell returned to Philadelphia, it was re-hung in Independence Hall, and the city has refused any tour requests since.
July 6, 1915, was the day the Liberty Bell toured Fort Wayne. It was an event that will never be repeated.
For more on the Liberty Bell’s visit to Fort Wayne, and to see photos, check out the 2006, Vol. 2 Old Fort News: The Day the Liberty Bell Came to Town.
Editor's Note: Photos are from our collection.