"The Liberty Bell" was written for Sousa's unfinished operetta The Devil's Deputy, but financing for the show fell through. Shortly afterwards, Sousa and his band manager George Hinton attended the Columbian Exposition in Chicago. As they watched the spectacle "America", in which a backdrop depicting the Liberty Bell was lowered, Hinton suggested "The Liberty Bell" as the title of Sousa's recently completed march. Coincidentally, Sousa received a letter from his wife, saying their son had marched in a parade in honor of the Liberty Bell. Sousa agreed. He sold "The Liberty Bell" to the John Church Company for publication, and it was an immediate success. The march is played as part of an exhibit in the Liberty Bell Center.
The United States Marine Corps Band has played "The Liberty Bell" march at five of the last seven presidential inaugurations: the 1993 inauguration of President Bill Clinton, the 2005 inauguration of President George W. Bush, the 2009 and 2013 inaugurations of President Barack Obama, and the 2017 inauguration of President Donald Trump.
The march follows the standard form of AABBCDCDC. The trio (sections C and D) uses tubular bells to symbolize the Liberty Bell ringing. The bells usually begin during the first breakstrain (section D), but some bands use them at the first trio (section C).
The march is often associated with the British TV comedy program Monty Python's Flying Circus (1969-74), which used the version performed by the Band of the Grenadier Guards as a signature tune. The British comedy troupe Monty Python's use of the melody is ironic; the bouncy melody of the march may be what the troupe found appealing. Terry Gilliam, the only American member of the troupe, decided to use the theme. He has said the piece was chosen because the troupe thought it could not be associated with the program's content, and that the first bell strike and the subsequent melody gave the impression of getting "straight down to business."
The Monty Python mode of presenting the tune was with a single strike of the bell, lifted from the third section and increased in volume, followed by a strain of each of the first two sections, followed by the famous stomping foot and a noticeably flatulent "splat" sound reminiscent of a whoopee cushion. (The first episodes, however, used a "hiss.") At the end of the film Monty Python: Live At The Hollywood Bowl, the entire march was played over the closing credits.
"The Liberty Bell" was used by the Foot Guards before it became associated with the television series, after which they chose another march. Nevertheless, the march remains popular with British military bands.