From July 16, 1911
“HOW I BROKE THE LIBERTY BELL” — BY THE BOY WHO BROKE IT: He Is a Pretty Old Boy Now, Being 86 Years of Age — Says All the Histories Are Wrong, and Tells How He and Other Schoolboys Cracked the Famous Bell. (PDF)
You may think you know how the liberty bell cracked, having learned one of the generally accepted stories in school. Perhaps you heard that it cracked while tolling the funeral of Chief Justice John Marshall, or when it rang in honor of Henry Clay’s visit to Philadelphia. But you haven’t heard the real story.
Now, more than three-quarters of a century after the old bell was silenced, comes a man who declares that none of the more or less accepted versions of how it came to be cracked is correct: that his version alone is the true explanation of the incident. For more than fifty years, he declares, he as been reading in newspapers and elsewhere all the various conflicting stories of the accident, but, inasmuch as his has been an extremely busy life, he has never bothered his head overmuch about them until quite recently.
The short version: A bunch of kids were walking near the old State House when the janitor called out to them to come over and have some fun ringing the bell. They did, and it broke.