The Liberty Bell Comes to Chico

I read an article in the April 2017 issue of Smithsonian about the 1915 national tour of the Liberty Bell to promote war bonds (“Saved by the Bell” by Stephen Fried). Even though the U.S. had not yet entered World War I, the trip was organized “as President Wilson, former President Theodore Roosevelt and other leaders felt the need to whip the nation into a patriotic frenzy to prepare for the war to end all wars.”

On its 4-month long rail journey the bell stopped in 275 American cities and towns, but according to the map that accompanies the article, only 12 of those towns were in California. Among them were Red Bluff, Chico, Marysville, and Sacramento. The bell spent four months at the Panama-Pacific International Exhibition at San Francisco.

Everyone flocked to see it when it came to town. As Theodore Roosevelt said, ” Can any puerile, peace-talking molly-coddle stand before this emblem of Liberty without a blush of shame?”

The Bell came to Chico on Friday, July 16, 1915.  The Chico Record headline the next day proclaimed: 5000 of Patriotic Citizens of Chico View Liberty Bell. That number included folks from Oroville, Gridley, Biggs, Durham, and “fifty school children of Hamilton City.” Banks and stores closed for business so all could view the bell.


The Liberty Bell in Chico. Photo courtesy Special Collections, Meriam Library, CSU Chico.

The special train carrying the bell and its escort of Philadelphia officials arrived at 1:05, an hour and ten minutes late, and remained in Chico fifteen minutes. During the stop members of the party on the train tossed souvenirs, a basket of peaches and apricots was presented the visitors by the Chico Development Committee and patriotic airs were played by the Park band.

Even Mother Nature herself got into the act:

As if in an exuberant, patriotic mood, Mount Lassen gave vent to its American spirit and fired a salute of steam and smoke as the Liberty Bell train passed down the valley toward Chico.

What a sight that must have been!

About nancyleek

Nancy is a retired librarian who lives in Chico, California. She is the author of John Bidwell: The Adventurous Life of a California Pioneer.
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