The Wheat Liberty Bell


| May/June 1976



Box 253, Mound Ridge, Kansas 67107

A hundred years ago our country celebrated its centennial with an international exposition in Philadelphia. Kansas participated in this event with an agricultural exhibit which attracted the most attention. One of the exhibits was a Liberty Bell covered with grasses and broomcorn brush, 8'9' in diameter and 8'6' high. The clapper was made of several gourds totaling 6' in length.

During this bicentennial celebration the Smithsonian Institution is endeavoring to re-enact a similar scene, only on a smaller scale. How does Goessel get involved in this display? Well, in August of 1974, the Smithsonian Institution inquired whether our local historical organization would arrange to plant some Turkey Red Wheat. They asked for 45 bundles, hand tied with straw as was the method of a hundred years ago. This request was accepted and the bundles are ready for shipment. (The first Appleby binder came later, in 1876)

In March, 1975 there was a second request - would the organization construct a Liberty Bell made with wheat. The size would be left to our discretion. The challenge was accepted, realizing, however, that the project would entail an enormous amount of work. It was agreed to make the bell 6' in diameter and 6' high. The wheat for the bell was cut with the McCormick reaper. About a pickup truckload of wheat was used to make the bell.

The bell skeleton was constructed by Wesley Duerksen, a local young man, a tool designer for Hesston Corporation. He used 3/8' hydraulic fluid tubing for the vertical pieces and 1/4' tubing for the horizontal ones. This was covered with chicken wire netting. The vertical tubing (spaced 20 degrees) would not conform to the properly contoured jig, it would always spring back, consequently, all had to be bent by hand. Time consumption for this was about 50 hours.

Following is a description of procedure in the weaving process: The stalks of wheat were broken just above the top joint and the excess leaves removed. The heads were clipped and the straw soaked in warm water for 20 minutes to make it more pliable.