Besides serving as a local attraction and patriotic symbol at the two world's fairs held in Philadelphia (to celebrate the United States centennial in 1876 and sesquicentennial in 1926), the Liberty Bell was an invited guest at several other U.S. expositions. From 1885 to 1915, the Liberty Bell traveled from coast to coast and was viewed by hundreds of thousands of citizens who were unable to visit Philadelphia. These road trips greatly increased the bell's popularity.
The Panama Pacific International Exposition, held in 1915 in San Francisco, featured the bell among its displays. The special train of five coaches (occupied by forty-two accompanying dignitaries) and a gondola car for the bell made brief stops at a number of cities along its route from Philadelphia to the West Coast. Nebraska stops included Omaha, Lincoln, Hastings, and McCook.
The Lincoln Star of July 7, 1915, reported that Lincoln was planning carefully for the bell's visit: "The Liberty bell committee at a meeting in the Commercial club Wednesday afternoon, completed detailed arrangements for the exercises to be held Friday [July 9] on the platform at Ninth and Q streets as soon after 12:45 p.m. as the Liberty bell can be switched from the Burlington over which it enters the city from Omaha. Merchants of Lincoln will be asked by the committee to close their places of business from noon to 2 p.m. and to decorate their store fronts with flags in honor of the visit of the bell. An appeal is also made to those in the residence district to show their patriotism by displaying a flag.
"As soon as the bell arrives, Mayor C. W. Bryan will introduce Gov. John H. Morehead, who will preside at the exercises. After an invocation by Rev. T. W. Jeffrey, the governor will make a brief address of welcome to which Rudolph Blankenburg, mayor of Philadelphia, will respond.
"The school children of Lincoln will be arranged in a group during the program, and each will be given a little flag by the Commercial club as far as the 2,000 flags already ordered will go. A double male quartet under the direction of Prof. C. H. Miller of the city schools will sing patriotic songs, and will close the program with 'America,' in which the children and the assembly will join. The Fifth regiment band will play.
"The general public will then be allowed to march past the bell and view it. The crowds will be policed by a hundred members of the national guard under the command of Adjutant General Phil Hall." Subsequent reports in the Star reveal that more than twenty thousand people (far more than expected) turned out to view the Liberty Bell.
The Liberty Bell comes to Lincoln. Photo from private collection.
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