Thousands flocked to see Liberty Bell in Austin during World War I

Rail tour in 1917 popularized the 1776 symbol, later used to raise money for war bonds.


On Nov. 17, 1915, the Liberty Bell landed in Austin for 40 minutes. An estimated 18,000 people viewed it at the Missouri, Kansas & Texas freight depot at East Fourth and Brazos streets. The occasion was a national tour of the famously cracked Revolutionary War bell.

Austin history advocate Bob Ward got curious about the road tour when he read “How the Liberty Bell won the Great War,” an article in the April 2017 edition of the Smithsonian magazine. The fragile instrument — which announced the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, but was left almost to ruin for decades — was sent around the country in 1915 to whip up patriotic frenzy. It was later rung — along with thousands of other bells — 13 times, once for each of the colonies, in 1917 after the U.S. had entered World War I in a stunt to raise desperately needed money through bonds.

Ward dug up articles about the Austin stop from the Austin Statesman and Tribune from 1915. It was supposed to arrive at 4:30 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 17 and remain at the freight yard until 6 p.m. Ramps were set up for a gondola to be separated from its touring train.

“The committee in charge of the bell desires that the school children be given the first opportunity to see it,” the newspaper reported about the preparations. “It is probable that the school children will march to the railway station to see the bell. … University students will place two wreaths upon the bell.”

In fact, the train was late. The march did not begin until 6:30 p.m. and the train pulled away from the depot at 7:10 p.m.

Various officials, including Mayor A.P. Wooldridge, spoke from a platform.

“A long series of hurrahs greeted the old bell as it was slowly pushed into sight from behind the Katy freight depot,” goes one newspaper report. “The special train carrying the bell was occupied by 41 persons. The next stop after the bell left Austin was Georgetown.”



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

JUST IN: Man in his 20s found dead near airport after apparent hit-and-run, Austin police say
JUST IN: Man in his 20s found dead near airport after apparent hit-and-run, Austin police say

A man was found dead after an apparent hit-and-run crash in South Austin near Austin-Bergstrom International Airport on Wednesday morning, authorities said.  A passerby called Austin police shortly after 7 a.m. to report a dead person on the side of the road in the 3200 block of U.S. 183 South, on the west side of the airport, authorities said...
FORECAST: Afternoon rain possible as heat nears 100; Gulf storm system heading for Texas
FORECAST: Afternoon rain possible as heat nears 100; Gulf storm system heading for Texas

Wednesday forecast for Austin: The Austin area could see some scattered showers in the afternoon as temperatures could hit 100 for the 42nd time this year. The outlook for Wednesday calls mostly sunny skies with a 30 percent chance of rain, mainly after 2 p.m. High humidity will continue to intensify summer temperatures, sending heat index readings...
NORTHEAST AUSTIN: 2 injured in school bus crash on U.S. 290 service road
NORTHEAST AUSTIN: 2 injured in school bus crash on U.S. 290 service road

A pickup truck apparently ran a red light before hitting a school bus carrying two students in Northeast Austin on Wednesday morning, an Austin school district spokesperson said. Austin-Travis County EMS medics took the drivers of the bus and the pickup truck to St. David’s Medical Center in Central Austin with injuries that were...
How Powerball manipulated the odds to make another massive jackpot
How Powerball manipulated the odds to make another massive jackpot

At $700 million, Wednesday night's Powerball prize is the second-largest lottery jackpot in its history, and the math is working out in favor of lotto commissions. Two years ago, your chances of becoming an instant millionaire were 1 in roughly 175 million. Now, the odds are 1 in roughly 292 million. Tweaks to the game in October 2015 increased the...
DOWNTOWN GARAGE SUED: Woman files lawsuit after car’s 7-story fall last month 
DOWNTOWN GARAGE SUED: Woman files lawsuit after car’s 7-story fall last month 

The woman whose car plummeted from the seventh floor of a downtown parking garage last month has sued the garage’s owner and its management, alleging they were negligent by not upgrading a cable barrier system that failed to keep the car from going over the edge of the building. Cedar Park resident Christi Bowmer, 49, is asking for more than...
More Stories