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Statue of Liberty



Discussions in France over a suitable gift to the United States to mark the Centennial of the American Declaration of Independence were headed by the politician and sympathetic writer of the history of the United States, Édouard René Lefèvre de Laboulaye. French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was commissioned to design a sculpture with the year 1876 in mind for completion. The idea for the commemorative gift then grew out of the political turmoil that was shaking France at the time. The French Third Republic was still considered as a "temporary" arrangement by many who wished a return to Monarchism, or to some form of constitutional authoritarianism which they had known under Napoleon. The idea of giving a colossal representation of republican virtues to a "sister" republic across the sea served as a focus for the republican cause against other politicians.

Various sources cite different models for the face of the statue. One indicated the then-recently widowed Isabella Eugenie Boyer, the wife of Isaac Singer, the sewing-machine industrialist. "She was rid of the uncouth presence of her husband, who had left her with only his most socially desirable attributes: his fortune and… his children. She was, from the beginning of her career in Paris, a well-known figure. As the good-looking French widow of an American industrialist she was called upon to be Bartholdi's model for the Statue of Liberty." 2 Another source believed that the "stern face" belonged to Bartholdi's mother, Charlotte Bartholdi (1801-1891), with whom he was very close. 3 National Geographic magazine also pointed to his mother, noting that Bartholdi never denied nor explained the resemblance. 4 The first model, on a small scale, was built in 1870. This first statue is now in the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris.

While on a visit to Egypt that was to shift his artistic perspective from simply grand to colossal, Bartholdi was inspired by the project of the Suez Canal, which was being undertaken by Count Ferdinand de Lesseps who later became his life-long friend. He envisioned a giant lighthouse standing at the entrance to the Suez Canal and drew plans for it. It would be patterned after the Roman goddess Libertas, modified to resemble a robed Egyptian peasant, a fallaha, with light beaming out from both a headband and a torch thrust dramatically upward into the skies. Bartholdi presented his plans to the Egyptian Khediev, Isma'il Pasha, in 1867 and with revisions again in 1869, but the project was never commissioned.5

It was agreed upon that, in a joint effort, the American people were to build the base, and the French people were responsible for the Statue and its assembly in the United States. However, lack of funds was a problem on both sides of the Atlantic. In France, public fees, various forms of entertainment, and a lottery were among the methods used to raise the 2,250,000 francs. In the United States, benefit theatrical events, art exhibitions, auctions and prize fights assisted in providing needed funds. Meanwhile in France, Bartholdi required the assistance of an engineer to address structural issues associated with designing such a colossal copper sculpture. Gustave Eiffel (designer of the Eiffel Tower) was commissioned to design the massive iron pylon and secondary skeletal framework which allows the Statue's copper skin to move independently yet stand upright. Eiffel delegated the detailed work to his trusted structural engineer, Maurice Koechlin.

On June 30, 1878, at the Paris Exposition, the completed head of the statue was showcased in the garden of the Trocadéro palace, while other pieces were on display in the Champs de Mars.

Back in America, the site, authorized in New York Harbor by Act of Congress, 1877, was selected by Gen. William Tecumseh Sherman, who settled on Bartholdi's own choice, then known as Bedloe's Island, where there was already an early nineteenth century star-shaped fortification. United States Ambassador to France Levi Parsons Morton hammered the first nail in the construction of the statue.

Bartholdi's design patent

On February 18, 1879, Bartholdi was granted a design patent, U.S. Patent D11023 (PDF), on "a statue representing Liberty enlightening the world, the same consisting, essentially, of the draped female figure, with one arm upraised, bearing a torch, and while the other holds an inscribed tablet, and having upon the head a diadem, substantially as set forth." The patent described the head as having "classical, yet severe and calm, features," noted that the body is "thrown slightly over to the left so as to gravitate upon the left leg, the whole figure thus being in equilibrium," and covered representations in "any manner known to the glyptic art in the form of a statue or statuette, or in alto-relievo or bass-relief, in metal, stone, terra-cotta, plaster-of-paris, or other plastic composition".6

Fundraising for the pedestal, led by William M. Evarts, was going slowly, so Hungarian-born publisher Joseph Pulitzer (who established the Pulitzer Prize) opened up the editorial pages of his newspaper The World to support the fundraising effort. Pulitzer used his newspaper to criticize both the rich, who had failed to finance the pedestal construction, and the middle class, who were content to rely upon the wealthy to provide the funds. 7 Pulitzer's campaign of harsh criticism was successful in motivating the people of America to donate. (It also promoted his newspaper, which purportedly added up to 50,000 subscribers in the course of the statue campaign effort.)

Financing for the pedestal, designed by American architect Richard Morris Hunt, was completed in August 1884. The cornerstone was laid on August 5, and pedestal construction was finished on April 22, 1886. When the last stone of the pedestal was swung into place, the masons reached into their pockets and showered into the mortar a collection of silver coins.

Built into the pedestal's massive masonry are two sets of four iron girders, connected by iron tie beams that are carried up to become part of Eiffel's framework for the statue itself. Thus, Liberty is integral with her pedestal.

The Statue was completed in France in July 1884 and arrived in New York Harbor on June 17, 1885 on board the French frigate Isere. To prepare for transit, the Statue was reduced to 350 individual pieces and packed in 214 crates. (The right arm and the torch, which were completed earlier, had been exhibited at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1876, and thereafter at Madison Square in New York City.) The Statue was re-assembled on her new pedestal in four months' time. On October 28, 1886, the Statue of Liberty was dedicated by President Grover Cleveland in front of thousands of spectators. (Ironically, it was Cleveland who, as Governor of the State of New York, had earlier vetoed a bill by the New York legislature to contribute $50,000 to the building of the pedestal.)8 In any event, she was a centennial gift ten years belated.

The Statue of Liberty functioned as a real lighthouse from 1886 to 1902.9 At that time, the US Lighthouse Board was responsible for its operation. In fact, there was a lighthouse keeper, and the electric light could be seen for 24 miles (39 km) at sea. There was an electric plant on the island to generate power for the light.

In 1916, the Black Tom Explosion caused $100,000 worth of damage to the statue, embedding shrapnel and eventually leading to the closing of the torch to visitors. The same year, Gutzon Borglum, sculptor of Mount Rushmore, modified the original copper torch by cutting away most of the copper in the flame, retrofitting glass panes and installing an internal light. After these modifications, the torch severely leaked rainwater and snowmelt, accelerating corrosion inside the statue. President Franklin D. Roosevelt rededicated the Statue of Liberty on its 50th anniversary (October 28, 1936).

As with all historic areas administered by the National Park Service, Statue of Liberty National Monument, along with Ellis Island and Liberty Island, was listed on the National Register of Historic Places on October 15, 1966.

In 1984, the Statue of Liberty was added to the World Heritage List. 10

Origin of the copper

Historical records make no mention of the source of the copper used in the Statue of Liberty. In the village of Visnes, in the municipality of Karmøy, Norway, tradition holds that the copper came from the French-owned Visnes Mine.11 Ore from this mine, refined in France and Belgium, was a significant source of European copper in the late nineteenth century. In 1985, Bell Laboratories used emission spectrography to compare samples of copper from the Visnes Mines and from the Statue of Liberty, found the spectrum of impurities to be very similar, and concluded that the evidence argued strongly for a Norwegian origin of the copper.

Liberty Centennial

The Statue of Liberty was one of the earliest beneficiaries of a cause marketing campaign. A 1983 promotion advertised that for each purchase made with an American Express card, American Express would contribute one penny to the renovation of the statue. The campaign generated contributions of $1.7 million to the Statute of Liberty restoration project. In 1984, the statue was closed so that a $62 million renovation could be performed for the statue's centennial. Chrysler chairman Lee Iacocca was appointed by President Reagan to head the commission overseeing the task (but was later dismissed "to avoid any question of conflict" of interest).12 Workers erected scaffolding around the statue, obscuring it from public view until the rededication on July 4, 1986. Inside, work began with workers using liquid nitrogen to remove seven layers of paint applied to the interior of the copper skin over the decades. That left two layers of tar originally applied to plug leaks and prevent corrosion. Blasting with baking soda removed the tar without further damaging the copper. Larger holes in the copper skin had edges smoothed then mated with new copper patches. The removed copper was used as ink on banknotes created by the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation in a partnership with the Gold Leaf Corporation commemorating the Statue's Centennial celebration.13

Each of the 1,350 shaped iron ribs backing the skin had to be removed and replaced. The iron had experienced galvanic corrosion wherever it contacted the copper skin, losing up to 50 percent of its thickness. Bartholdi had anticipated the problem and used an asbestos/pitch combination to separate the metals, but the insulation had worn away decades before. New bars of stainless steel bent into matching shapes replaced the iron bars, with Teflon film separating them from the skin for further insulation and friction reduction. Liquid nitrogen was again introduced to parts of the copper skin in a cryogenics process, which was treated by a (now defunct) Michigan company called CryoTech, 14 to ensure certain individual parts of the statue were strengthened and would last longer after installation.

The internal structure of the upraised right arm was reworked. The statue was erected with the arm offset 18" (0.46 m) to the right and forward of Eiffel's central frame, while the head was offset 24" (0.61 m) to the left, which compromised the framework. Theory held that Bartholdi made the modification without Eiffel's involvement after seeing the arm and head were too close. Engineers considered reinforcements made in 1932 insufficient and added diagonal bracing in 1984 and 1986 to make the arm structurally sound.

New torch

Original torch, replaced in 1986.

A new torch replaced the original, which was deemed beyond repair because of the extensive 1916 modifications. The 1886 torch is now located in the monument's lobby museum. The new torch has gold plating applied to the exterior of the "flame," which is illuminated by external lamps on the surrounding balcony platform. Upgraded climate control systems and two elevators (one to the top of the pedestal and a small emergency elevator to the crown) were added. The Statue of Liberty was reopened to the public on July 5, 1986.

After 9/11

Until September 11, 2001, the interior of the statue was open to visitors. They would arrive by ferry and could climb the circular single-file stairs (limited by the available space) inside the metallic statue, exposed to the sun out in the harbor (the interior reaching extreme temperatures, particularly in summer months), and about 30 people at a time could fit up into her crown. This provided a broad view of New York Harbor (she faces the ocean and France) through 25 windows, the largest approximately 18" (46 cm) in height. The view did not, therefore, include the skyline of New York City, however. The wait outside regularly exceeded 3 hours, excluding the wait for ferries and ferry tickets.

Liberty Island closed on September 11, 2001; the islands reopened in December, and the statue itself reopened on August 3, 2004. Currently, the museum and ten-story pedestal are open for visitation. The interior of the statue remains closed, although a glass ceiling in the pedestal allows for views of Eiffel's iron framework.

Visitors to Liberty Island and the Statue are currently subject to restrictions, including personal searches similar to the security found in airports.

That was not the first time, however, that the Statue of Liberty had been threatened by terrorism. On February 18, 1965, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) announced it had uncovered a plot by three commandos from the Black Liberation Front, who were connected to Cuba, and a female co-conspirator from Montreal seeking independence for Quebec from Canada, who were sent to destroy the statue and at least two other national shrines - the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.

In June 2006, a bill, S. 3597, was proposed in Congress which, if approved, could re-open the crown and interior of the Statue of Liberty to visitors. Approval or disapproval of this bill will probably occur in early- to mid-2007.15

On August 9, 2006, National Park Service Director Fran Mainella, in a letter to Congressman Anthony Weiner of New York, stated that the crown and interior of the statue would remain closed indefinitely. The letter stated that "the current access patterns reflect a responsible management strategy in the best interests of all our visitors."16


At 2:45 p.m. on February 2, 1912, steeplejack Caressea M. Lentino successfully performed a parachute jump from the observation platform surrounding the torch. It was done with the permission of the army captain administering the island. The New York Times reported that he "fell fully seventy-five feet 23m like a dead weight, the parachute showing no inclination whatsoever to open at first," but he then descended "gracefully," landed hard, and limped away.17

The first and so far only death on Liberty Island occurred on May 13, 1929. The Times reported a witness as saying the man, later identified as Ralph Gleason, crawled out through one of the windows of the crown, turned around as if to return, "seemed to slip" and "shot downward, bouncing off the breasts of the statue in the plunge." Gleason's body landed on a patch of grass at the base, just a few feet from a workman who was mowing the grass.18

Replicas and derivative works

The Statue of Liberty copy on the river Seine in Paris, France. Given to the city in 1885, it faces west, towards the original Liberty in New York Harbor.

Hundreds of other Statues of Liberty have been erected worldwide. There is a sister statue in Paris and several others in France; they exist in Austria, Germany, Italy, Japan, and Vietnam. One existed in Hanoi during French colonial days. There are replicas in theme parks and resorts, including the New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on the Strip, replicas created as commercial advertising, and replicas erected in U.S. communities by patriotic benefactors, including no less than two hundred donated by Boy Scout troops to local communities. During the Tiananmen Square protest of 1989, Chinese student demonstrators in Beijing built a 10 m image called the "Goddess of Democracy," which sculptor Tsao Tsing-yuan said was intentionally dissimilar to the Statue of Liberty to avoid being "too openly pro-American."19

In popular culture

The Statue of Liberty quickly became a popular icon, featured in scores of posters, pictures, motion pictures, and books. A 1911 O. Henry story relates a fanciful conversation between "Mrs. Liberty" and another statue; it figured in 1918 Liberty Loan posters. During the 1940s and 1950s, pulp Science Fiction magazines featured Lady Liberty surrounded by ruins or by the sediments of the ages. It has been in dozens of motion pictures, such as the 1942 Alfred Hitchcock movie Saboteur, which featured a climactic confrontation at the statue. In the 1989 film Ghostbusters 2, the ghostbusters use positively charged slime to bring the Statue of Liberty to life in order to help defeat the evil Vigo. Half submerged in the sand, the Statue provided the apocalyptic revelation at the end of Planet of the Apes. It was the subject of a 1978 University of Wisconsin-Madison prank in which Lady Liberty appeared to be standing submerged in a local lake. It has appeared on New York and New Jersey license plates and is the mascot for the WNBA's New York Liberty. It was the subject of magician David Copperfield's largest vanishing act. Several video games have used it as a setting, including Civilization II, Civilization IV, Rise of Nations: Thrones and Patriots, Spider-Man 2, Parasite Eve, Deus Ex and Castlevania.

Photo gallery

  • February 1979: Statue of Liberty apparently submerged, Lake Mendota (Madison, Wisc.)

  • Statue's of Liberty profile in front of the sun.

  • Statue against Manhattan

  • The same picture at sunset

  • Statue of Liberty from a vantage point near the base

  • Statue on Grenelle Island in Paris

  • The Lady in her harbor from above Newark Airport

  • The Statue of Liberty from the east, embellished by golden sunset


  1. ↑ Statue of Liberty, New York Arts and Events. Statue of Liberty. Retrieved May 24, 2007.
  2. ↑ Ruth Brandon, Singer and the Sewing Machine: A Capitalist Romance (Kodansha America, 1996, ISBN 1568361467), 211.
  3. ↑ Leslie Allen, Liberty: The Statue and the American Dream (New York: Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation with the cooperation of the National Geographic Society, 1985), 21.
  4. ↑ Alice J. Hall, "Liberty Lifts Her Lamp Once More." National Geographic (July 1986), 2-19. Retrieved April 22, 2008.
  5. ↑ "History: Statue of Liberty," American Park Network History: Statue of Liberty Retrieved March 24, 2007.
  6. ↑ B. Zorina Khan, The Democratization of Invention: Patents and Copyrights in American Economic Development, 1790-1920 (Cambridge University Press, 2005, ISBN 052181135X), 299.
  7. ↑ Michael Brantley, "History of the Statue of Liberty," June 11, 2005, History of the Statue of Liberty Retrieved March 24, 2007.
  8. ↑ "On This Day," The New York Times May 2, 1885, "Harper's Weekly featured a cartoon about construction of the Statue of Liberty."
  9. ↑ Statue of Liberty, NY Lighthousefriends.com. Retrieved July 31, 2014.
  10. ↑ UN World Heritage "Statue of Liberty" Retrieved March 24, 2007.
  11. ↑ "Copper Facts." Copper Development Association. Retrieved July 31, 2014. "The Statue of Liberty contains 179,000 pounds of copper. It came from the Visnes copper mines on Karmoy Island near Stavanger, Norway, and was fabricated by French artisans."
  12. ↑ Robert Pear, Iacocca and Secretary of Interior Clash Over Statue Panel Ouster, 1986-02-14 The New York Times. Retrieved June 6, 2006. "Interior Secretary Donald P. Hodel… dismissed Mr. Iacocca on Wednesday from the commission 'to avoid any question of conflict' of interest arising from Mr. Iacocca's simultaneous service as head of a private foundation that has raised $233 million for restoration of the statue and Ellis Island. The foundation also awards contracts for the restoration work."
  13. ↑ "Statue of Liberty Centennial Celebration: The Making of the Liberty Banknote" EAI Elemental Analysis, Inc Statue of Liberty Centennial Celebration: The Making of the Liberty Banknote Retrieved March 24, 2007.
  14. ↑ Statue of Liberty Centennial Celebration: The Making of the Liberty Banknote Retrieved March 24, 2007.
  15. ↑ "INTRODUCTION OF BILLS AND JOINT RESOLUTIONS-(Senate - June 29, 2006)" Library of Congress Introduction of Bills and Joint Resolutions-(Senate - June 29, 2006) Retrieved March 24, 2007. Library of Congress Congressional Record S6786
  16. ↑ "Statue of Liberty's Crown to Stay Closed." Associated Press, August 9, 2006.
  17. ↑ "Parachute Leap Off Statue of Liberty; Steeplejack Had First Thought of Jumping Off the Singer Building. Steers With His Arms And Lands Safely on Stone Coping 30 feet from Water's Edge-He Won't Talk About It." The New York Times, February 3, 1912, 4.
  18. ↑ "Youth Plunges Off Statue of Liberty Crown, 200 feet High, in First Suicide at That Spot." The New York Times, May 14, 1929, 1.
  19. ↑ Tsing-yuan Tsao, "The Birth of the Goddess of Democracy." In Popular Protest and Political Culture in Modern China, Edited by Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom and Elizabeth J. Perry. (Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994 ISBN 9780813320427), 140-147.


  • Allen, Leslie. Liberty: The Statue and the American Dream. New York: Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation with the cooperation of the National Geographic Society, 1985. ISBN 0870446223
  • Brandon, Ruth. Singer and the Sewing Machine: A Capitalist Romance. Kodansha America, 1996. ISBN 1568361467
  • Holdstock, Robert, (ed). Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. London: Octopus books, 1978. ISBN 978-0706407563
  • Khan, B. Zorina. The Democratization of Invention: Patents and Copyrights in American Economic Development, 1790-1920. Cambridge University Press, 2005. ISBN 052181135X
  • Moreno, Barry. The Statue of Liberty Encyclopedia. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000. ISBN 978-0684862279
  • Smith, V. Elaine, "Engineering Miss Liberty's Rescue." Popular Science (June 1986), 68.
  • Tsao Tsing-yuan. "The Birth of the Goddess of Democracy." In Popular Protest and Political Culture in Modern China, Edited by Jeffrey N. Wasserstrom and Elizabeth J. Perry. Boulder, CO: Westview Press, 1994. ISBN 978-0813320427
  • Vidal, Pierre. Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi 1834-1904: Par la Main, par l'Esprit. Paris: Les créations du pélican, 2000. ISBN 978-2719105658

External links

All links retrieved July 13, 2014.

  • National Park Service The official Historical Site handbook.
  • PBS documentary about statue of liberty
  • Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation Fun facts, children's picture contest, and other information on the foundation.
  • The Statue of Liberty article by Alexandra Kollontay, 1916.
  • The Statue of Liberty U.S. Immigration website