“The Liberty Bell” (1893)
For $500 more, this march probably would have been named “The Devil’s Deputy.” Sousa was composing music for an operetta of that name at the request of the celebrated comedian Francis Wilson. Sousa asked $1,500 for the work, but Wilson offered $1,000. When they could not come to an agreement, Sousa withdrew with his partially completed manuscript, which included a lively march.
Sousa and George Frederick Hinton, one of the band’s managers, were in Chicago witnessing a spectacle called America when a backdrop, with a huge painting of the Liberty Bell, was lowered. Hinton suggested that “The Liberty Bell” would be a good title for Sousa’s new march. By coincidence, the next morning Sousa received a letter from his wife in which she told how their son had marched in his first parade in Philadelphia–a parade honoring the return of the Liberty Bell, which had been on tour. The new march was then christened “The Liberty Bell.” It was one of the first marches Sousa sold to the John Church Company and was the first composition to bring Sousa a substantial financial reward.
According to a story told by the Sousa Band’s first soprano, Marcella Lindh, she contributed one of the themes of the march. Sousa had heard her whistling a catchy tune of her own and had asked her permission to incorporate it into one of his marches. Several years later she heard “The Liberty Bell” march being performed by a band in Europe and recognized her own melody in the march.
Paul E. Bierley, The Works of John Philip Sousa (Westerville, Ohio: Integrity Press, 1984), 43. Used by permission.