177: Rare John Wilbank, 1836 Philadelphia Bell
Rare John Wilbank, 1836 Philadelphia Bell
cast bronze, signed and dated 1836, bell form with yoke, stamped within two upper rings.
Bell: 14 in. DOA: 18.5 in.
Only three John Wilbank bells are said to exist in the United States. Harry Long, MD of www.americanbell.org writes "John Wilbank was a Bronze Founder in Germantown, Philadelphia, PA. His greatest claim to fame was his ownership of the cracked Liberty Bell. In 1828, in preparation for a visit to Philadelphia by the Marquis de Lafayette, the city fathers renovated the old State House where the Marquis 'held court'. The Pass & Stow Statehouse Bell was cracked and had a poor tone. The city fathers contracted with John Wilbank to cast a new bell for the clock tower at the Old State House (Independence Hall). In order to reduce the cost, they gave the Liberty Bell to Wilbank for scrap value ($400). When Wilbank saw it in the clock tower, he felt that it would cost him more than $400 to remove and cart it to his foundry. The city sued him, and the judge gave him ownership of the bell, but allowed him to leave it with the city on permanent loan. Subsequently, the Liberty Bell became the centerpiece of the Abolition Movement because of its inscription. In recent years, Wilbank's heirs sued in court to take possession of the Liberty Bell. The original court records could not be found, and the Liberty Bell remains in the possession of the National Park Service. This is all that I know about John Wilbank. His foundry was obviously in existence in 1828, and the new clock tower bell was delivered in 1832. The bell that my mother had was John Wilbank & Son, so the foundry probably existed for at least two generations. His bells are attractive and are similar in design to the British Bronze church bells. The current bell in the clock tower of Independence Hall is the Wilbank Bell."