The petitions signed by hundreds of thousands of children did the trick. Philadelphia officials had to let the Liberty Bell go on one more tour despite the warnings that the aged, cracked bell might fall apart.
The bell had been on tour six times, and Philadelphia's city fathers were tired of letting it leave for big events elsewhere.
The campaign to get the Liberty Bell to the Pan-Pacific Exposition in San Francisco started three years before the bell actually got to the fair.
It was in January 1912 that children all over California started signing the petitions. Oct. 11 was declared "Liberty Bell Day." Schoolchildren were to be told the story of the bell. They would write compositions and send postcards.
By December, about 250,000 children had signed petitions, which were then pasted together and stretched for 2 miles. The giant petition was wound around a reel and paraded in San Francisco streets before it was presented in Philadelphia.
San Francisco fair officials lobbied other states and cities, alerting them that the bell would stop during its cross-country trip so their residents could see it, too.
Backers of the trip said the bell promoted patriotism and was a symbol of the nation's love of freedom. It was touted as ringing out the announcement July 4, 1776, of the United States' declaration of independence. That date wasn't quite accurate; the actual date, it seems, was July 8.
Not many had paid attention to the bell until the abolitionists used it as a symbol to free the slaves. It then gained so much prominence that later the suffragists latched onto it in their campaign to get women the vote.
Finally, after 2 ½ years of hesitating, Philadelphia officials agreed to let the bell come to San Francisco -- but it would be guarded by four Philadelphia policemen. It would not start its journey until the day after the Fourth of July 1915, months after the fair started.
Everywhere the bell stopped on its cross-country trip, it drew crowds. It passed through 15 states making 109 stops, in towns as tiny as Cayuse, Oregon, or as big as Chicago. It didn't get to San Francisco until July 16.
California Gov. Hiram Johnson and 19 other prominent state officials went to Red Bluff in a special train car to welcome the bell into California. The car was then attached to the bell train and made its way to San Francisco, stopping at towns along the way.
The next day, a big parade to the exposition featured the bell on a truck covered with roses. Little girls wrapped in American flags represented each state of the union. Two children representing Miss Columbia and Uncle Sam led the way.
The bell turned out to be one of the biggest attractions of the fair, which drew 19 million people. In November, the bell took a different route back to Philadelphia and again attracted thousands to touch and kiss it. It was the bell's last tour.
Days Gone By appears on Sundays. Contact Nilda Rego at firstname.lastname@example.org.