The Liberty Tree

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Florida Guide > Magic Kingdom

The Liberty Tree

Standing just across the street from the Hall of Presidents, in Magic Kingdom, is the Liberty Tree. I am sure you cannot help but have noticed it, with its wide spreading branches giving welcome shade from the heat of the sun. But have you ever thought about its significance?

Well, the tree takes its name from the original ‘Liberty Tree, ’ which was located near Boston Common. This tree was made famous when a protest against the Stamp Act of 1765 led to the hanging of effigies of tax collectors from its branches. Resistance to the rule of England over the American colonies had been growing and when the British Government imposed a tax on all legal documents, newspapers, pamphlets, playing cards permits etc. this was regarded as a means of censorship, preventing people from being able to read and write freely. The protest by a group of men called ’The Sons of Liberty’ in the summer of 1765 concluded with the mock hanging.

Over the years, other trees were called ‘Liberty Trees’ as they provided casual meeting places below their branches at a time when assemblies and protests were dangerous, and could carry the threat of imprisonment or death. It was thought that groups of people chatting beneath the tree would not alert suspicion.

Lanterns and banners were often used to decorate their branches, and there was usually a pole which would be used as a signalling device. Thus when a flag, usually yellow, was raised it meant that the Sons of Liberty were about to meet. If you look into the branches of the Disney Tree of Liberty you will see 13 lanterns hanging from them – one for each of the original states.

The tree itself was found growing on the southern edge of the Disney property, and is a Southern Live Oak. The Imagineers decided to dig it up and move this 35 ton tree, which was a massive undertaking as its root ball measured 18’x16’x4. ’ The tree could not be moved by lifting it with cables around its trunk as the weight of the tree would cause the cables to slice through the bark, and this would seriously damage the tree, even killing it. So they had to drill two holes horizontally through the trunk, through which metal rods were inserted which would then have cables attached to them.

The whole tree was then lifted using a large crane, and transferred to a flatbed truck. The plugs which they had removed were then replaced, but unfortunately, they had been contaminated and introduced an infection into the trunk which began to eat it away. They had no alternative but to remove the plugs and clean out the diseased portions before filling the holes with cement.

A young Southern Live Oak was then grafted onto the base of the tree. Thankfully the tree recovered and you can no longer see the scars as bushes have grown up round the trunk.

So next time you are passing, tarry awhile, look up into the branches and see if you can see the lanterns.

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