The Liberty Bell Wreck
(that never actually happened)

An article by Gene Hull, in the Arkansas Railroader, Vol. 25, Number 7, July 1994, asserted that the Liberty Bell had survived a railroad accident when it was on tour in January, 1902. In writing about an incident that had allegedly occured 92 years earlier, Hull referenced content from an article that appeared in the Pennsylvania Grange News in July, 1936, by Charles R. Rosenberg, titled, "When the Liberty Bell Was Wrecked." This was 34 years after the alleged incident, but nearly 60 years before the 1994 article.

The Liberty Bell was indeed on tour in 1902. And a train that was involved in transporting the bell did suffer an accident that year. But the accident was in June 1902, not January, and the Liberty Bell was not on the train at the time of the accident. An escort train was en route to South Carolina to pick up the Liberty Bell to take it back to Philadelphia. The engine exploded just north of Fredericksburg, Virginia. The bell, not having been loaded on to the train, which had not yet arrived where it was in South Carolina, was nowhere near the accident.

A photo from the Bell's 1902 South Carolina visit.
PD image from the National Park Service

Rosenberg, the author of the erroneous 1936 article that was the primary source for the equally erroneous 1994 article, claimed to have been an employee of the Pennsylvania Railroad Company who was on the train at the time of the wreck, and he provides great detail about his and others' efforts to safeguard the Bell and get it on another train. It's an exciting and inspirational story, but Mr. Rosenberg was either lying or his memory of the incident 34 years earlier had eroded considerably.

Hull, writing in 1994, accepted the veracity of Rosenberg's 1936 article and ressurected the rumor. A few years later, this website reprinted excerpts from Hull's incorrect article, further spreading the erroneous story of a January 1902 wreck in which the Liberty Bell was directly involved.

Thanks are due to Karie Diethorn, of the National Park Service, and Irvin Muritz for bringing it to our attention and providing detailed information to set the record straight.