The ‘Statue of Liberty’ is the first thing that comes to mind, whenever one thinks of the United States of America. It is an icon of the country, the monument that symbolically represents America.
Did you know? From 1886 to 1902, the Statue of Liberty functioned as a lighthouse. To generate power for this lighthouse, there was an electric plant on Bedloe’s Island.
The Statue of Liberty, originally named in French as La Liberté éclairant le monde meaning Liberty Enlightening the World, is a colossal, neoclassical statue with steel framework. Built by a Frenchman, and gifted by the French to the Americans on the centenary of the American Declaration of Independence, the statue stands for friendship, freedom, and world peace.
- A French professor of law and a renowned politician, Édouard René de Laboulaye, commented in 1865, “If a monument should rise in the United States, as a memorial to their independence, I should think it only natural if it were built by united effort – a common work of both our nations.” This was the thought that possibly triggered the idea of gifting a statue to America that would commemorate its independence.
- Actually, the construction of the statue was a joint venture between Frederick Bartholdi, a French sculptor who designed it, and Gustave Eiffel, a French engineer (and the man behind the conception of the Eiffel Tower) who built its frame.
- Work on the statue began in France in 1875. In 1877, Bartholdi completed sculpting the head, which was exhibited in 1878 in the Paris World’s Fair, for the purpose of raising funds in order to complete the remaining statue.
- The statue was completed in 1884. However, it was so huge that it had to be dismantled before being shipped to New York in 1885. It was then reassembled, piece by piece, on the place where it was to be installed.
- It is a standing figure of the Roman goddess Libertas, the personification of liberty. It bears a burning torch, symbolizing enlightenment, in the raised right hand, while the left hand, placed close to the body, holds the tabula ansata (a tablet evoking the law), on which is inscribed “July IV MDCCLXXVI” meaning July 4, 1776, the date of the American Declaration of Independence.
- ‘Lady Liberty’ is dressed in a flowing full-length robe and wears a spiked crown having seven points. The seven spikes of the crown are said to represent the seven continents or the seven seas.
- At the feet of the statue, lies a broken chain that is invisible when viewed from the ground. It symbolically represents freedom from bondages and slavery.
- The statue comprises copper sheets mounted onto a steel framework. Large copper sheets fastened to the steel frame have imparted enough flexibility to the statue, due to which it has managed to stand upright, withstanding a number of storms.
- The height of the monument is 305 feet from the ground level to the tip of the torch, whereas the statue itself rises to 151 feet. The aggregate weight of the statue is 450,000 pounds.
- The American people were to pay for the pedestal of the statue. In order to raise funds from the public, the original torch of the statue was at display in Madison Square Park for a period of six years (from 1876 to 1882). Finally in 1886, the statue was erected, ten years after the decided date.
- Richard Morris Hunt designed the pedestal for ‘Lady Liberty’. He is the same person who designed the Tribune Building and the Lennox Library. The base of the pedestal is a star with eleven points.
- The pedestal itself is regarded as one of the heaviest pieces of masonry ever constructed. It rises 89 feet above its foundation. There are 192 steps to the top of the pedestal from the ground, and a total of 354 steps, if one wants to reach the crown of the statue.
- Standing tall at 305 feet, the Statue of Liberty is arguably the most popular monument in the world today. It stands on the Liberty Island (Bedloe’s Island till 1956), where it was dedicated by the American President Grover Cleveland on October 28, 1886. Subsequently, in 1924, it was declared as the National Monument of the United States of America.
- The Statue of Liberty has been renovated a number of times since its installation on the Liberty Island. Owing to this, a lot of changes were made to the original statue. For instance, the torch that we see today is not the original one. It was replaced during the 1984-86 restoration. The original torch now lies in the Statue of Liberty’s lobby museum.
- Much of the internal structure of the statue was also replaced during the numerous restoration efforts. The iron bars that underwent corrosion over a period of time, were replaced with stainless steel bars.
- The lobby museum located in the basement of the monument, displays, apart from various models and scale replicas, a copper plaque engraved with ‘The New Colossus’, a famous sonnet by Emma Lazarus. It contains the famous words, “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
- From the crown of the statue, one can not only get a 360° view of the Liberty Island, but also a view of the complete skyline of New York city.
- The United States Lighthouse Board looked after the statue till the year 1901, after which its administration was taken over by the Department of War until 1933. From 1933 onwards, the statue is being administered and maintained by the National Park Service.
- In the year 1984, the Statue of Liberty was declared as the World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). According to the UNESCO ‘Statement of Significance’, the statue is a “masterpiece of the human spirit that endures as a highly potent symbol – inspiring contemplation, debate and protest – of ideals such as liberty, peace, human rights, abolition of slavery, democracy and opportunity.”
- Statue of Liberty stamps that have been released include, a fifteen cent stamp issued on November 11, 1922; a three cent stamp issued on June 24, 1954; an eight cent stamp issued on April 9, 1954; and an eleven cent stamp issued on June 11, 1961.
- The New York State Quarter, minted in 2001, had an imprint of ‘Lady Liberty’ with the words “Gateway to Freedom” inscribed on it.
- When it was installed on the Bedloe’s island in 1886, the Statue of Liberty was the tallest structure in New York.
- Over the years, due to constant weathering, the copper has turned green. The green patina is as thick as the copper sheets, in some places.
- The Statue of Liberty, the monument of hope, prosperity, opportunity and freedom, has been featured in several movies such as Independence Day, Planet of the Apes and The Day after Tomorrow.
- The length of the nose of ‘Lady Liberty’ is 4 feet 6 inches.
- Replicas of the Statue of Liberty are found in numerous countries including France, Austria, Germany, Norway, Spain, Ukraine, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Brazil, China, Israel, Philippines, and Australia.
Following the 9/11 attacks in the year 2001, the monument was closed down for security reasons. However, the pedestal was reopened for visitors in the year 2004, and the statue in 2009, on a condition that only a limited number of visitors would be allowed to climb up to the crown. Again, till October 28, 2012, the monument remained closed because the National Park Service wanted to install some safety features. However, the island remained open for the visitors. Unfortunately, only one day after the reopening of the monument, Hurricane Sandy struck the United States, and so it had to be closed again. Tourists from across the globe are eagerly waiting for the monument to reopen.