New York UN Headquarters

Here Is A Brief History Of The Original Peace Bell In New York City

"The bell embodies the aspiration for peace not only of the Japanese but of the peoples of the entire world. Thus it symbolized the universality of the United Nations."

- Renzo Sawada, Japanese Observer to the UN ~ 1954


The Peace Bell was presented to the United Nations on June 8, 1954, by the United Nations Association of Japan, in the name of the People of Nippon. The bell was cast from coins donated by the delegates of sixty nations, participating in the Thirteenth General Conference of United Nation Associations held in Paris in 1951, and from individual contributions of coins and metals. The bell is 3 feet 3 inches high and 2 feet in diameter at the base; it weights 256 pounds. It is housed in a shinto-like shrine made of cypress wood and is located in a landscaped area north-west of the Secretariat building at UN Headquarters in New York City at 42nd Street and First Avenue. The bell bears the inscription in Japanese: "Long Live Absolute World Peace." The base of stone for the Peace Bell structure was donated by Israel.

The Tada Factory in Japan completed the bell on United Nations Day - October 24, 1952. Mr. Chiyoji Nakagawa cast the bell and initiated the idea of donating the Peace Bell to the United Nations. Since Japan had not yet been admitted to membership in the United Nations, the presentation was made by Mr. Renzo Sawada, the Japanese Observer to the United Nations. In presenting the gift to the United Nations, he said, "The bell embodies the aspiration for peace not only of the Japanese but of the peoples of the entire world. Thus it symbolized the universality of the United Nations.  It is rung every year on Earth Day at the moment of the March Equinox ... in a simultaneous global ceremony involving distinguished members of the UN community and citizens worldwide.

The bell traveled back home to Osaka, Japan as part of Expo 1970 and then returned to its permanent New York location. A new wooden hammer was delivered in 1977 and a new bell cord was presented and blessed by Shinto priests in a ceremony marking Earth Day - March 20, 1990, with the prayer "that there might be yet another generation of peace." Commemorated on a stamp in 1970 (as part of the UN postal Service's Art at the United Nations series), the six-cents and twenty-five cents Peace Bell stamps were designed by Ole Hamann of Denmark and printed by the Government Printing Bureau of Tokyo, for the UN.

The bell was tolled on October 4, 1966 (The Feast Day of St. Francis) marking the first anniversary of His Holiness Pope Paul VI's visit to the United Nations Headquarters on that date a year earlier. The bell was tolled by three girls and four boys from the United Nations International School. Through the years it has remained a focal point for the annual Earth Day ceremony at the United Nations, an event initiated by Earth Day Founder, John McConnell. The March 20 - 21 Equinox was chosen as Nature's symbol of harmony and an appropriate time to rededicate our efforts for peace and the care of Earth.

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