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If you’re not a historical reenactor or a history teacher, you probably hate the idea of history lessons on vacation. But Philadelphia is the exception. Think you know all there is to know about the beginnings of the good old U.S. of A? Think again. The City of Brotherly Love is no stranger to American history myths. We’ve got the inside scoop on the truth and what you ought to see.
Myth 1: Ring My Bell
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The Liberty Bell, the beloved symbol of the American Revolution, is the subject of multiple myths, starting with its famous flaw. The bell’s trademark crack wasn’t the result of ringing the bell to announce the signing of the Declaration of the Independence. Rather, it likely cracked sometime during the first half of the 19th century, although exactly when is disputed.
Whether it happened in 1824 during the visit of Lafayette, or 1835 for the funeral of Chief Justice John Marshall, we do know that there was a small crack when it was rung in 1846 to celebrate George Washington’s birthday. At first it was loud and clear, then it cracked beyond repair.
If you’re planning on a photo op with the bell, we have two suggestions. The window behind the bell (which nicely frames Independence Hall) often causes over exposed photos. So think about taking a late afternoon shot. If you don’t have to have the crack in the photo, take your shot from behind the bell.
Myth 2: Declaring Independence
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Just around the corner from the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall dominates Independence National Historical Park. The Assembly Room, which has been restored to its 18th-century splendor, is where the Second Continental Congress met and ultimately voted to approve the resolution for independence on July 2nd. They voted to approve the document itself on July 4th. But no one, including John Hancock, signed the declaration in July. Most of the delegates penned their name in August 1776. And no, there’s no secret treasure map on the back of the original. Sorry.
This is one of the most visited sites in Philly, which is why admission is by timed entry tickets only. You’ll want to follow Ben’s example and be the early bird in order to snap up the free tickets for the tour time of your choice. That means being there before distribution begins at 8:30a.m.
Myth 3: Stitching Stars
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She just might be the most famous seamstress in history, but there’s no actual proof that Betsy Ross stitched the first American flag. Whether you doubt her claim or support the oral tradition that this widow created the first flag at the behest of Washington, her small home is one of the top places to visit in Philadelphia. We do know that the home served double duty as her upholstery shop.
Interactive presentations with costumed interpreters bring her story to life. Ask her about her really neat trick for cutting a perfect five-point star.