Philadelphia Record, Saturday, July 4, 1942, page 1

Reporting Taking Snapshot of Liberty Bell Arrested; You Can Buy One for 5¢

News and Professional Photographers Allowed to Take Pictures -- But Residents and Vistors Aren't

By Joseph Shallit
Reporter for the Record

`I'm going to have to start my Fourth of July celebration this year in a Magistrate's Court.

I was arrested yesterday. My crime was to try to take a snapshot of the Liberty Bell.

In this birthplace of American liberty, in the year of our independence the 166th, a citizen isn't permitted to photograph the bell that once proclaimed "liberty throughout the land unto all the inhabitants thereof."

No Law Against It.

There isn't a law against it. But the Bureau of City Property is against it.

And when I insisted that the prohibition was not in accordance with the great traditions of the bell and Independence Hall, and I clicked my shutter, a guard grabbed me by the collar, dragged me aside, and sent for the police.

I was taken to the 12th and Pine sts. station, questioned by a detective, slated for "breach of the peace," and put in a cell after my necktie was taken away, presumably in fear of suicide.

Things Happened Fast.

Things happened so fast, I got dizzy. I think I ruined my picture by clicking the shutter twice.

"The most impudent fellow I've ever had to put up with," growled the guard.

"Are you a Communist?" demanded Howard W. Murphey, chief of the Bureau of City Property.

"Charges could be brought against you that could send you up for 10 years!" declared Detective Sergeant John McEnroe.

No Wonder He's Dizzy.

I'm still dizzy.

I'm certainly glad United States Commissioner Norman J. Griffin, former president of the Catholic Historical Society, was in the rotunda of Independence Hall to witness the proceedings. I think he'll back me up if the guards testify I was disorderly or irreverent.

I'm glad Edgar Scott, president of the Philadelphia Stock Exchange, was there, too. And also Harry K. Butcher, executive secretary of the Committee of Seventy.

I had asked them to be present as neutral observers.

The reason I got interested in this example of arbitrary officialdom is that I'm a neighbor of the Liberty Bell.

I live three blocks away. I pass Independence Hall many a morning while walking to work.

I often stop for a visit with the bell that called the good citizens together in 1776 to hear the reading of the document beginning, "When in the course of events..."

I've seen guards time after time admonishing visitors to put away their cameras. I've talked to some of the visitors, who come here from everywhere in these broad States.

They have told me how disappointed they were not to be able to take a picture, particularly in these times when photographing the bell is equivalent to an act of homage to a dearly cherished and stanchly defended tradition. As a neighbor, I felt apologetic for the conduct of the custodians of the bell.

I felt doubly apologetic and indignant when the visitors pointed out that commercial photographers have no trouble getting permits to take pictures. Right across the street, postcard views of the bell are sold for 5 cents apiece. On the back of the pictures is the legend, "Copyrighted 1937 and Publ. by K. F. Lutz, 441 N. 32nd st., Phila., Pa."

He Was Embarrassed.

I was too embarrassed to confess to the visitors that photographers from my own newspaper can take pictures whenever any celebrity or semicelebrity visits the bell.

In fact almost anyone can photograph the Liberty Bell except a humble, liberty-loving plain citizen.

But maybe my indignation was excessive, I thought. I asked C. Jared Ingersoll how he felt about it. He is chief of the Philadelphia Ordnance District; his ancestor and namesake signed the Constitution.

"I feel picture taking should be permitted, provided it were done in a dignified way," he told me.

"If proper precautions are taken that the photographs are not personalized with persons posing against the bell, I don't see any objection," said Dr. James A. Barnes, associate professor of American history at Temple University. "I understand they permit photographs to be taken in the Lincoln Memorial in Washington."

Maybe City Has Reason.

"I can't see any reason why pictures shouldn't be allowed," declared D. Knickerbacker Boyd, secretary of the Organization for the Conservation of Sites in Old Philadelphia, made up of representative of 60 historical and civic organizations. "Possibly the city has some reason I don't know about, but I should think that if any foreign enemy had any use for a picture of the Liberty Bell he could buy it on a postcard."

That's when I got my Brownie camera and went down to make a picture --- as a citizen, not as a newspaper representative.

Warned by Guard.

"Don't open that camera," called a swarthy guard, as I focused in front of the bell.

"Why not?" I asked.

"See that sign?" he said, walking between me and the bell.

The sign, on a tripod, read, "No Photographing Allowed Inside of Buildings."

Chief Guard Runs Up.

I remember thinking that the "of" in the sign was grammatically redundant, as I walked around the guard and tried to focus again.

Then things happened fast. A good-looking blond-haired fellow in plain clothes, who I later learned was the chief guard, hurried up.

The under guard grabbed my hand. "He wants to take a picture," he spluttered. "He'd better not," said the chief. "I'm going to," I said. "Then let him --- we'll arrest him," said the chief.

A second later the guard was propelling me by my sleeve and collar to the chief guard's little office near the back entrance to the Hall. The chief called the 12th and Pine sts. station for a wagon.

Quizzed by Murphey.

While I was waiting for the conveyance, a quiet-spoken, bespectacled gentleman appeared and began to question me. I was told he was Howard W. Murphey, chief of the Bureau of City Property. I don't know who called him from City Hall.

"Why did you want the picture?" he wanted to know.

"This is a historic time, and I want to have a picture of the bell to commemorate it," I said --- just like a Congressman.

Didn't I hear the guard tell me not to use my camera?

"There's no law against it," I said.

"We make the laws here," said the chief of the Bureau of City Property.

When the police came, Murphey told them to take my camera and expose the film. I doubt if the snapshot was much good, anyway.

The ride in the red car was pleasant. At 12th and Pine sts., McEnroe told me that this is an emergency period, and cameras are dangerous instruments.

Peace-Time Law, Too.

I told him that the prohibition against picture-taking in Independence Hall existed in peacetime, too, and was more than 25 years old.

Furthermore, commercial photographers are permitted to take pictures.

Furthermore, the guards don't prohibit anyone from taking a picture of the exterior of Independence Hall, which would probably be more interesting to an enemy agent than an interior shot.

Called "Vindictive"

"You're vindictive and persistent," said Sergeant McEnroe.

He told the police to hold me for breach of the peace.

The turnkey put me in a cell with a drunk. After about five minutes, the turnkey's heart softened, and he took me out and put me in a private cell. Later, I was released until the hearing today.'