An editorial with the title “Get the lead out” appeared in the Daily News-Sun in early-January 1976 urging residents to contribute unused metal objects to the community project of building a replica of the Liberty Bell to celebrate the nation’s Bicentennial.
The idea was spawned in a meeting of the volunteer group of 120 residents who planned Sun City’s Bicentennial celebration. It was but one idea for a year-long celebration that included a massive Bicentennial parade attracting a crowd of 40,000 residents and visitors.
Collection of metal donations took place at Sun City Stadium at the northwest corner of the intersection of 111th and Grand avenues. Both the Milwaukee Brewers spring training and Sun City Saints women’s softball games were played at the stadium, but neither team had games scheduled during January or early February. The stadium had a highly secured area where donations were kept safe until shipment to a foundry.
The goal was to collect about 7,000 pounds of metal. Donations of items as small as earrings and as large as box springs and bicycles were acceptable. One gentleman tried to donate an old Chrysler, but was turned away because of potential pollution. Examples of accepted metal included service medals, artillery casings, metal lamps and standing metal ashtrays, candlesticks, musical instruments, anti-tank projectiles, tools, watches and clocks, a drill bit for an oil well, small appliances and horseshoes.
When the weight goal was met, the entire collection was shipped to Redi-Melt, a Phoenix metal processor tasked with sorting the various metal under the watchful eyes of committee volunteers and Del Webb employees. Del Webb was underwriting the cost of the entire project.
After sorting, the piles were compressed and placed in sealed boxes for shipment to Los Angeles for melting into ingots to be analyzed for purity and labeled. Copper and tin ingots were then shipped to a foundry in Holland to be cast into a bell. All steel and other metals went to Pennsylvania where the bell was to be inscribed, a simulated crack and repair rivets added along with construction of a clapper, the base plate and an A-frame for hanging the bell. Other requirements were that the bell was to be ringable and tuned to the key of “F.” Hopes were high to have the bell in Sun City and in place for July 4, 1976.
The schedule was tight. It did not happen.
Instead, an unveiling of the bell was scheduled at the Sun Bowl July 8, 1976. Residents attending would be among the first to touch the bell, and many of the 1,500 metal donors would be in attendance. The 120 volunteers who brainstormed Bicentennial activities, including the replica of the Liberty Bell, were introduced to the large crowd along with Myrtle Toutges. She won the contest for writing an inscription for the bell and her winning entry announced. It read:
“We the people of Sun City, Arizona in 1976, the Bicentennial Anniversary of the birth of our nation, dedicate this bell to the future. May we with the wisdom of those who wrote our Constitution, with the faith of those who pressed westward in covered wagons, with the courage of those who gave their lives for our freedom, be vigilant that we may preserve our heritage. May our Liberty Bell ring out for freedom in all time to come.”
The formal dedication for Sun City’s Liberty Bell was delayed until Nov. 15, 1976, weeks after its formal placement at the new Bell Recreation Center. Planners for the dedication chose the date, as it fell on the 199th anniversary of the adoption of the Articles of Confederation, the precursor of the U.S. Constitution. During the dedication, a time capsule in the bell’s base was sealed. Messages written by residents, Liberty Bell memorabilia and articles about the Bicentennial were placed inside. The time capsule is scheduled for opening July 4, 2026.
In the interim, visit the Del Webb Sun Cities Museum, 10801 Oakmont Drive, Sun City. Those who enjoy learning the history of the first Sun Cities can become a member of the Del Webb Sun Cities Museum where members receive endless interesting historical insights and take history of the Sun Cities classes.