Universal York

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The Freedom Train and Liberty Bell in York, 1948

York’s Liberty Bell at the Freedom Train Stop
The other evening I was talking to a childhood friend who now lives in California. She said that her son and his family, who have just moved to Pennsylvania, recently visited the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia. My friend remembered seeing a Liberty Bell in York when she was a child, while touring the Freedom Train during its stop in York in the late 1940s. She wondered if that bell was the Philadelphia Liberty Bell or a replica.
I did some internet searching and found an extensive web site on both the 1947-48 Freedom Train, which stopped in York October 9, 1948 and the 1975-76 Freedom Train, which only paused for about 45 minutes on the way to Harrisburg. That web site and others revealed that a double-sized Liberty Bell was cast, at the same London foundry that cast the original, especially for the 1976-76 Freedom Train. It now sits in front of Union Station in Washington, DC. The 1947-48 Freedom Train seems to have displayed mainly documents, not artifacts.
So then, what did my friend remember from 1948?

The photo above, from the York County Heritage Trust Library/Archives, and originally from the Gazette & Daily archives provided the answer. When residents found that the Freedom Train was coming to York, they super-organized for the visit. One of the most ambitious facets was to put together a whole train car full of York County historical documents, mostly from the Historical Society of York County (now part of York County Heritage Trust). In conjunction with the local display, “York’s Liberty Bell,” owned by St. John’s Episcopal Church, was also taken to the York fairgrounds for display alongside the Freedom Train at the York Fairgrounds. That was the bell my friend remembers.
I’ll write more about York’s Liberty Bell in a future post. By the way, the photo was marked “not used,” so I wouldn’t have found it by looking at the newspaper microfilm. I’m so glad those photos were eventually given to the historical society. My point? Don’t throw historically related York County items away, especially without contacting staff at York County Heritage Trust for possible donation. Contact Lila Fourhman-Shaull about paper items and photographs at lfourhman-shaull@yorkheritage.org or Jennifer Hall about objects at jhall@yorkheritage.org.
Since I found a wealth of information at the YCHT Library/Archives about the Freedom Train, I will also be writing more about that, probably in an upcoming York Sunday News column. Coincidentally, the day after I talked to my friend, Jim McClure used Walt Partymiller’s illustration of an imagined derailed Freedom Train in the York Daily Record and in his blog.. Partymiller’s point was the injustice caused in the same era by the racially-motivated closing of York’s city-run pool. Since the Freedom Train keeps coming up, we all might want to find out more about it.
My family didn’t make it to the event that October, so I don’t have first hand memories of the Freedom Train, like my friend does. How about you folks out there? Please leave a comment on what you remember about the historic visit of the Freedom Train.
Click here for more on the Freedom Train visit to York.
Click here for information on the Freedom Train scrapbooks.