One of the most recognizable landmarks of the US, and particularly of NYC, “The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World,” was given to the American people by the French people as a commemoration of the lasting friendship between the two nations.
The initiative was suggested in 1865, in the purpose of celebrating the creation of a viable democracy after the Union’s triumph in the American Civil War. Still, because of a lack of funds, both in France and in the US, the work on the statue began only 10 years later. The French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi designed the statue and manually created it out of sheets of hammered copper, while Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, the man who has the Eiffel Tower named after, designed the steel framework. When the statue was completed, it was disassembled and shipped from France to Bedloe’s Island, known today as Liberty Island (since 1956). After four months of reassembling, it was mounted on the pedestal, designed by the architect Richard Morris Hunt.
Standing 151 feet 1 inch high and weighing 225 tons, Lady Liberty is a Libertas figure – the Roman goddess and personification of liberty. In her right hand, she holds a torch high above her head, to light the way to those arriving at the free country, in her left hand she carries a tablet inscribed with the Roman numerals JULY IV MDCCLXXVI – the date of the US Declaration of Independence. A crown is laid on her head, with seven rays, representing the promise for freedom for each one of the seven continents. Wearing sandals, she is walking forward, stepping on the broken shackles of oppression, commemorating the abolition of slavery. On the pedestal she is standing on, there is a bronze plaque inscribed with the sonnet, “The New Colossus,” written by Emma Lazarus. There is no official information about the woman who was the model for the statue’s face, some sources claim it was based on Bartholdi’s mother, while others believe it’s a depiction of Ruth Singer, the French wife of the American businessman Isaac Singer.
The dedication ceremony on October 28th, 1886, was a private event, and the public was not allowed to participate. Out of all the reserved seats, only two women were granted access. During the ceremony, a group of suffragists rented a boat and came by the island, making speeches about the hypocrisy of the statue, a token of freedom, when the women of America cannot vote. Soon after its dedication, the statue became a welcome sign for the thousands of immigrants who passed by every day, on their way to the land of the free and the home for the brave. The statue was declared a National Monument in 1924.
More Interesting Anecdotes:
- Bartholdi’s first idea for the statue was meant to be placed at the Suez Canal in Egypt, where it was supposed to serve as a huge lighthouse called “Egypt Carrying the Light to Asia.” It was rejected due to the high expenses.
- The dedication of the statue was initially planned to held in 1876 for the centennial of the Declaration of Independence.
- Emma Lazarus donated the poem as part of a fundraising contest for the pedestal.
- During the restoration of the statue in 1986, the torch was covered with thin sheets of 24k gold.
- There are 154 steps from the bottom of the pedestal to the head of the Statue.
- The green color of the statue is the result of natural weathering of the copper.
- The site of the statue is on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List since 1984.
- There are replicas of the statue all over the world, including Paris, where a smaller version of the statue is facing west, toward its sister in New York City.
How to see the Statue of Liberty?
The statue can be seen from viewpoints in Battery park as well as on a ride with the Staten Island Ferry (going back and forth from every 30 minutes or every 15 minutes during rush hour during weekdays). If you wish to get a closer look, you can take the ferry to Liberty Island. To climb to the Pedestal (10 stories high) and/or the Crown (20 stories high), you will need to reserve a ticket. For more information, check out NPS website.