New York’s Liberty Bell, a witness to three centuries of celebration and tragedy, miraculously survived the devastating fire that destroyed Middle Collegiate Church on December 5, 2020. Along with countless other momentous events, the bell pealed upon the reading of the Declaration of Independence in 1776, announced the inauguration and death of every American president, and tolled in remembrance of the lives lost on September 11, 2001.
Donated by Colonel Abraham de Peyster to Middle Collegiate Church—then the New Dutch Church on Nassau Street—the bell was cast by the foundry of Jan Albert de Grave in Amsterdam in 1731. The 900-pound bell rings with a distinctive silver tone, thanks to donated coins thrown into the metal mix.
During the Revolution, the bell was moved to York, Pennsylvania, for safekeeping, but it was not silenced for long. The bell echoed through the 19th century from Middle Church at Lafayette Place, Ninth Street Church, and St. Nicholas Collegiate in Midtown. In 1949, the bell was relocated to Middle Church’s present East Village location.
The New-York Historical Society is honored to provide a temporary home for the bell while the Middle Church rebuilds its sanctuary.
Exhibitions at New-York Historical are made possible by Dr. Agnes Hsu-Tang and Oscar Tang, the Saunders Trust for American History, the Evelyn & Seymour Neuman Fund, the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, and the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Andrew Cuomo and the New York State Legislature. WNET is the media sponsor.