The Liberty Bell came through Kingston!
Yes, THAT Liberty Bell! And we have five glass plate negatives to help tell the tale.
Between 1885 and 1915, the Bell gallivanted around the country — down to New Orleans, across to Chicago, all the way to California — on a special flatbed railcar. In 1903, one of those trips brought the famed Bell to Boston for a commemoration of the Battle of Bunker Hill, then south to Plymouth on June 18th.
The Boston Globe proclaimed the event “one grand ovation.” After an estimated 50,000 people saw the Bell on Boston Common, hundreds more lined the tracks and thronged the stations as the train carried this most American symbol from South Station to meet its less-travelled cousin, Plymouth Rock.
On its journey, the Bell was guarded by patrolmen from Philadelphia and Boston — “their work was not arduous” said the Globe — watched over by GAR veterans and active military escorts, and accompanied by politicos and tycoons who “scattered flowers and other Liberty Bell souvenirs” to the singing, flag-waving crowds at each station stop.
The celebration in Plymouth included a sumptuous banquet at the Hotel Pilgrim, patriotic tunes, and speeches galore. The sizable Philadelphia delegation even got to stand on Plymouth Rock!
Though Kingston was not specifically mentioned in the Globe, we know the Bell came through on the way to Plymouth and back. This last image gives some idea of how Kingston celebrated. [If something about this image seems strange to you, you’re right! It’s reproduced in reverse, as is the third photo above.]
The Liberty Bell’s last train trip was to San Francisco in 1915. Officials determined that in 30 years of crossing the country, the Bell had lost 1% of itself along the way and this American icon has remained home in Philadelphia for the last 99 years.
Sources: Glass plate negatives from the Margaret Warnsman Collection MC30 (scans federally funded with LSTA funds through the Massachusetts Board of Library Commissioners and digitized at the Boston Public Library in conjunction with the Digital Commonwealth); “Seen by 50,000 on Common,” Boston Globe, June 19, 1903; Liberty Bell Timeline; National Park Service “The Liberty Bell: From Obscurity to Icon”
The Railroad Bridge over Howland’s Lane
Mr. Isaac Hedges, shown in this snapshot and identified on the back by Emily Drew, was one of the incorporators and later one of the directors of the Old Colony Railroad, as reported in the Nov. 7, 1919 issue of the Old Colony Memorial. This particular photograph is undated, but it was likely taken in the 1870’s, or perhaps even earlier.
The first run on the Boston-Plymouth line was Nov. 10, 1845; there would be two runs that day. By 1849, there were 15 locomotives, 4 baggage cars, 158 freight cars and 4 snowplows busy along the South Shore. The line has been running since, with only a few years of disuse.
We don’t know when the Howland’s Lane bridge over the tracks was built, but in 1998, the Patriot-Ledger reported it standing for at least 60 years. In 1999, it was to be rebuilt — made higher to accomodate the double-decker passenger cars on the current commuter service — but area residents thought this would make the neighborhood unmanageable and the project was not done. In 2008, however, the wooden planks that will be repaired.
Here’s another early but still undated view of an unpaved Howland’s Lane, looking towards Main Street. The buildings at right are no longer standing; the house at left is 59 Main Street.