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Let Freedom Ring…But No Pics Please!

Earlier this year, my Aunt Carol recently sent out to the family an old newspaper clipping she came across that pictured my grandfather, Francis Kelly. I did a little online research and found some info about the picture…a photographer arrested for taking a picture of the Liberty Bell in 1942. My grandfather, who later worked his way up to Detective, was one of the Philadelphia Police officers called to take away the photographer, Joseph Shallit. Remember, this was July 1942, just seven months after Pearl Harbor. The war was on and national security was on everyone’s mind. Here’s the full story…

Reporting Taking Snapshot of Liberty Bell Arrested; You Can Buy One for 5¢
News and Professional Photographers Allowed to Take Pictures — But Residents and Visitors Aren’t

By Joseph Shallit, Reporter for the Record
July 4, 1942

Liberty Bell Arrest

My grandfather, circled, Francis E. Kelly

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, 461 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.’ He was acquitted of the charge of “breach of the peace” by Magistrate Nathan A. Belfel.

Liberty Bell hearing photo

The man circled is my grandfather, Francis E. Kelly

Here is Mr. Shallit’s Obituary from 1995…

Joseph Shallit, Who Took A Photo In ’42 That Made A Ringing Point

June 15, 1995 | By Andy Wallace, INQUIRER STAFF WRITER

It was the day before Independence Day 1942, and as American soldiers fought tyranny around the world, Joseph Shallit, a 25-year-old journalist, snapped a photograph in Philadelphia that got him immediately thrown behind bars.

No sooner had he taken his shot than the 5-foot-3, 130-pound reporter and mystery writer was hustled off to jail, his camera confiscated and film exposed.

Now, Shallit was no spy photographing the Navy Yard or some secret military target for America’s World War II enemies. His subject, just three blocks from his Center City home, was the Liberty Bell.

The tyrant, in this case, was the Bureau of City Property, which then oversaw the bell. Under its rules, commercial or news photographers could take pictures of the bell and souvenir dealers could sell its postcard likeness, but ordinary people with ordinary box cameras were prohibited from photographing it.

Mr. Shallit, who died Tuesday of complications of Alzheimer’s disease at Coatesville Veterans Medical Center, succeeded in making an emphatic point: Freedom in America had its limits – and taking pictures of its most enduring symbol of freedom was one of them.

“In this birthplace of American liberty, in the year of our independence the 166th,” he proclaimed in a story published in the Philadelphia Record on July 4, 1942, the day after his dramatic arrest, “a citizen isn’t permitted to photograph the bell that once proclaimed ‘liberty throughout the land and unto all the inhabitants thereof.’

“There isn’t a law against it, but the Bureau of City Property is against it.”

That story, said his wife, Louise Outlaw Shallit, “aroused widespread interest and indignation. . . . Everybody in town was in an uproar about it.”

In the days that followed, the Record, which would go out of business in 1947, ran stories quoting leaders of veterans groups, public officials, and even descendants of Declaration of Independence signers as condemning the Bureau of City Property’s rule.

The head of the bureau countered that the rule was in place to keep anyone from “cheapening” the bell. And to be sure, a few observers backed the prohibition and condemned Mr. Shallit. The national president of the Colonial Dames of America said she viewed the photo session as a Democratic plot to embarrass the Republican city administration.

At the time, the photo ban was 25 years old, yet no one could recall why it was instituted. It was not, officials insisted, meant as a friendly gesture to souvenir vendors.

The newspaper clippings do not tell the outcome of Mr. Shallit’s trial for breach of the peace four days later. Nor do they tell whether the rule was changed.

But Louise Outlaw Shallit, the rewrite person on the story her future husband phoned in from jail, said the rule was revoked shortly afterward. The bell came under the supervision of the U.S. Park Service in 1950, and visitors have been snapping away ever since.

Mr. Shallit focused on the bell again in 1969. He was with a small group of patriots who gave it a “symbolic cleansing” after anti-Vietnam War activists held a ceremony there. The cleansing, he said, was “our expression of indignation over use of the bell to glorify totalitarianism.”

Mr. Shallit, who lived 37 years in Wynnewood before moving to the medical center in 1990, graduated from Central High School at age 15 and won a mayor’s scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania, where he earned a journalism degree.

He left the Record’s science beat in 1942 to enlist in the Army. After graduating from Military Intelligence School, he was shipped to the Pacific, where he stayed until his discharge, with the rank of captain, in 1946.

After the war, he was a freelance writer for such publications as Readers’ Digest, Science Digest and Parents magazine, and wrote novels whose hero was a city detective. One of his books, Lady, Don’t Die on My Doorstep, was bought for a movie that was never made, his wife said.

From 1953 until 1980, he worked for the Pennsylvania Railroad, Penn Central and Conrail as a writer or editor of company magazines and as manager of employee relations.

Writing was not only his living but also his hobby – and his wife’s hobby, too.
“He came home and wrote novels,” Louise Outlaw Shallit said. “He wrote detective novels, and I wrote romance novels. We had two dens.”

Besides his wife, Mr. Shallit is survived by sons, Jonathon O. and Jeffrey O.; three grandchildren; and two sisters.

Memorial contributions may be made to the Alzheimer’s Unit, Building 9-B, Veterans Administration Medical Center, Coatesville, PA.

Incredible Painting

Futura vs. Verdana SMACKDOWN!

Business Card – FAIL!

Here’s a guy that thinks way too much of his business card. Reminds me of the guy from American Psycho…”Oh my God, he even has a watermark!” :)