The Taco Liberty Bell
On April 1, 1996 — April Fool’s Day — people around the country opened their newspapers and saw the announcement that the Mexican fast food chain had purchased the iconic Liberty Bell.
A full-page ad appeared in several major American newspapers, including The Philadelphia Inquirer, New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Dallas Morning News, USA Today, and The Los Angeles Times.
The advertisement announced that the fast food chain Taco Bell had purchased the Liberty Bell. Underneath a photo of the American icon, the text of the announcement read:
In an effort to help the national debt, Taco Bell is pleased to announce that we have agreed to purchase the Liberty Bell, one of our country’s most historic treasures.
It will now be called the “Taco Liberty Bell” and will still be accessible to the American public for viewing.
While some may find this controversial, we hope our move will prompt other corporations to take similar action to do their part to reduce the country’s debt.
In a separate press release, Taco Bell said the newly-purchased Liberty Bell would divide its time between Philadelphia and the Taco Bell headquarters in Irvine.
They compared the purchase to the adoption of highways by corporations, and added that they were just “going one step further by purchasing one of the country’s greatest historic treasures.”
“Taco Bell’s heritage and imagery have revolved around the symbolism of the bell,” they added. “Now we’ve got the crown jewel of bells.”
Of course, it was all a hoax, a joke, an April Fool’s day prank. But that doesn’t mean people didn’t fall for it, and flood the company (and the US Department of the Interior) with calls — both complaints and congratulations.
They paid a couple hundred thousand dollars for the ads, plus the restaurant’s parent company — PepsiCo — contributed $50,000 to the park in Philadelphia that keeps the Bell to go toward the upkeep of the national symbol of liberty.
And in return? They got millions of dollars’ worth of publicity. (And here we are, decades later, still talking about the prank.)
Also in that press release, the fast food restaurant revealed that they had calculated that the famed bell weighed the same as 11,093 tacos, 3,247 seven-layer burritos, or 3,974 Mexican pizzas (2,080 pounds). What’s more, it would take 5,376 packets of hot sauce to fill up the inside of the Bell.
Taco Bell buys the Liberty Bell – April Fool’s Day 1996
As published in The Los Angeles Times (Los Angeles, California) April 1, 1996