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Liberty Enlightening the World (French: La liberté éclairant le monde), known more commonly as the Statue of Liberty (Statue de la Liberté), is a colossal statue given to the United States by France in 1886, standing at Liberty Island, New Jersey in the mouth of the Hudson River in New York Harbor as a welcome to all visitors, immigrants, and returning Americans. However, the statue is actually in New Jersey. The copper-clad statue, dedicated on October 28, 1886, commemorates the centennial of the United States and is a gesture of friendship between the two nations. The sculptor was Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the designer of the Eiffel Tower, engineered the internal structure. Eugène Viollet-le-Duc was responsible for the choice of copper in the statue’s construction and adoption of the Repoussé technique.

The statue shows a woman standing upright, dressed in a robe and a seven point spiked crown representing the seven seas and continents, holding a stone tablet close to her body in her left hand and a flaming torch high in her right hand. The statue is made of a sheeting of pure copper, hung on a framework of steel (originally puddled iron) with the exception of the flame of the torch, which is coated in gold leaf. It stands atop a rectangular stonework pedestal, itself on an irregular eleven-pointed star foundation. The statue is 151′ 1″ (46.5 m) tall, with the foundation adding another 154 feet (46.9 m). The tablet contains the text “JULY IV MDCCLXXVI” (July 4, 1776) commemorating the date of the United States Declaration of Independence.

Worldwide, the Statue of Liberty is one of the most recognizable icons of the United States,[2] and, in a more general sense, represents liberty and escape from oppression. The Statue of Liberty was, from 1886 until the jet age, often one of the first glimpses of the United States for millions of immigrants after ocean voyages from Europe. In terms of visual impact, the Statue of Liberty appears to draw inspiration from il Sancarlone or the Colossus of Rhodes. The statue is a central part of Statue of Liberty National Monument and is administered by the National Park Service.


The broken shackles lying at Lady Liberty’s feet signify liberation from oppression and tyranny. [2] The USIA states that the seven spikes in the crown represent the seven seas and seven continents.[3] As the statue’s name indicates, the torch signifies enlightenment. The tablet in her hand shows the date of the nation’s birth (July 4, 1776).

Since 1903, the statue has been associated with Emma Lazarus’s poem “The New Colossus” and has acquired a new meaning as a symbol of welcome to immigrants.


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 Frédéric 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 which 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.” [4] Another source believed that the “stern face” belonged to Bartholdi’s mother, Charlotte Bartholdi (1801-1891), with whom he was very close. [5] National Geographic magazine also pointed to his mother, noting that Bartholdi never denied nor explained the resemblance. [6] The first model, on a small scale, was built in 1870. This first statue is now in the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris.

While in a visit to Egypt that was to shift his artistic perspective from simply grand to colossal, Bartholdi was inspired by the project of Suez Canal which was being undertaken by Count Ferdinand de Lesseps, who later became a lifelong friend of his. He envisioned a giant lighthouse standing at the entrance to 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.[7]

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. In France, public donations, various forms of entertainment including notably performances of La liberté éclairant le monde (Liberty enlightening the world) by soon-to-be famous composer Charles Gounod at Paris Opera, and a charitable lottery were among the methods used to raise the 2,250,000 francs ($250,000). 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.

Bartholdi had initially planned to have the statue completed and presented to the United States on July 4, 1876, but a late start and subsequent delays prevented it. However, by that time the right arm and torch were completed. This part of the statue was displayed at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, where visitors were charged 50 cents to climb the ladder to the balcony. The money raised this way was used to start funding the pedestal.

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 General William Tecumseh Sherman, who settled on Bartholdi’s own choice, then known as Bedloe’s Island, where there was already an early 19th century star-shaped fortification. United States Minister to France Levi Parsons Morton hammered the first nail in the construction of the statue.

On February 18, 1879, Bartholdi was granted a design patent, U.S. Patent D11,023 , 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.”[8]

The financing for the statue was completed in France in July, 1882.

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 fund raising effort in 1883. 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[9].

The construction of the statue was completed in France in July, 1884.

The cornerstone of the pedestal, designed by American architect Richard Morris Hunt, was laid on August 5, 1884, but the construction had to be stopped by lack of funds in January, 1885. It was resumed on May 11, 1885 after a renewed fund campaign by Joseph Pulitzer in March, 1885. Thirty-eight of the forty-six courses of masonry were yet to be built.

The Statue arrived in New York Harbor on June 17, 1885 on board the French frigate Isère. 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.)

Financing for the pedestal was completed on August 11, 1885 and 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, which stayed eleven months in crates waiting for her pedestal to be finished, was then re-assembled 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.) [10] In any event, she was a centennial gift ten years belated.

The Statue of Liberty functioned as an actual lighthouse from 1886 to 1902 ([3] [4]). At that time the U.S. 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[citation needed]. 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[citation needed].

In 1984, the Statue of Liberty was added to the World Heritage List. [11]

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.[12][13] 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. Other sources say that the copper was mined in Nizhniy Tagil.[14]

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).[15] Workers erected scaffolding around the statue, obscuring it from public view until the rededication on July 3, 1986 – the scaffolding-clad statue can be seen in the 1984 film Desperately Seeking Susan and in the 1985 film Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins. 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

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% 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[citation needed] 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.

Besides the replacement of much of the internal iron with stainless steel and the structural reinforcement of the statue itself, the restoration of the mid-1980s also included the replacement of the original torch with a replica, replacing the original iron stairs with new stairs, installing a newer elevator within the pedestal, and upgrading climate control systems. The Statue of Liberty was reopened to the public on July 5, 1986.

New torch

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.

Aftermath of 9/11

The interior of the statue used to be 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) through 25 windows, the largest approximately 18″ (46 cm) in height. The view did not, therefore, include the skyline of New York City. The wait outside regularly exceeded 3 hours, excluding the wait for ferries and ferry tickets.

Liberty Island closed on September 11, 2001; the island reopened in December, the monument itself reopened on August 3, 2004, and the statue itself has remained closed. Currently, the museum and ten-story pedestal are open for visitation but are only accessible if visitors have a “Monument Access Pass” which is a reservation that visitors must make at least two days in advance of their visit and pick up before boarding the ferry. 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.

The Statue of Liberty had previously been threatened by terrorism, according to the FBI. 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 allegedly 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. It will probably be voted on by mid-2007.[16]

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.”.[17] Critics contend that closing the Statue of Liberty indefinitely is an overreaction, and that safe access could easily be resumed under tighter security measures.


At 2:45 p.m. on February 2, 1912, steeplejack Frederick R. Law 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 [23 m] like a dead weight, the parachute showing no inclination whatsoever to open at first”, but he then descended “gracefully”, landed hard, and limped away.[18]

The first suicide took place 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 breast of the statue in the plunge.” The body landed at a patch of grass at the base, just a few feet from a workman who was mowing the grass.[19] Jeffery Magee attempted suicide in 1935 alongside Theodore Benz; the two survived with serious injuries.


The interior of the pedestal contains a bronze plaque inscribed with the poem “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus. It has never been engraved on the exterior of the pedestal, despite such depictions in editorial cartoons.[20]


  • Holdstock, Robert, editor. Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. London: Octopus books, 1978.
  • Moreno, Barry. The Statue of Liberty Encyclopedia. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000.
  • Vidal, Pierre. Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi 1834-1904: Par la Main, par l’Esprit. Paris: Les créations du pélican, 2000.
  • Smith, V. Elaine, “Engineering Miss Liberty’s Rescue.” Popular Science, June 1986, page 68.
  1. ^ Frequently Asked Questions. National Park Service. Retrieved on 200703-22.
  2. ^ Statue of Liberty. HTML. Retrieved on 200606-20.
  3. ^ USIA. Portrait of the USA: The Statue of Liberty. Retrieved on 200605-29.
  4. ^ (Ruth Brandon, Singer and the Sewing Machine: A Capitalist Romance, p. 211)
  5. ^ (Leslie Allen, “Liberty: The Statue and the American Dream,” p. 21)
  6. ^ (Alice J. Hall, “Liberty Lifts Her Lamp Once More,” July 1986.)
  7. ^ Statue of Liberty National Park: History. HTML. Retrieved on 200702-07.
  8. ^ Khan, B. Zorina (2005). The Democratization of Invention: Patents and Copyrights in American Economic Development, 1790-1920. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-81135-X.  p. 299 [1]
  9. ^ National Park Service Historical Handbook: Statue of Liberty (2000-09-25). Retrieved on 200705-19.
  10. ^ “On This Day, The New York Times, May 2, 1885, “Harper’s Weekly featured a cartoon about construction of the Statue of Liberty”
  11. ^
  12. ^ Karmøy Kommune. Retrieved on 200605-29. (Tourism website) “Vinsnes Mining Museum: The copper mines at Visnes were in operation until as recently as 1972. The copper for the Statue of Liberty in New York was extracted here.”
  13. ^ Copper Development Association. Copper Facts. Retrieved on 200605-29. A U. S. copper industry website. “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.”
  14. ^ Statue of Liberty Made of Russian Copper?.
  15. ^ Robert Pear (1986-02-14). Iacocca and Secretary of Interior Clash Over Statue Panel Ouster. The New York Times. Retrieved on 200606-06. “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.”
  16. ^ Introduction of Bills and Joint Resolutions — (Senate – June 29, 2006) S6786. Library of Congress Congressional Record (2006-06-29). Retrieved on 200608-17.
  17. ^ “Statue of Liberty’s Crown to Stay Closed” Associated Press, August 9, 2006
  18. ^ “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, p. 4
  19. ^ “Youth Plunges Off Statue of Liberty Crown, 200 Feet High, in First Suicide at That Spot.” The New York Times, May 14, 1929, p. 1
  20. ^ e.g. Barry Shelton (200006-02). New Statue of Liberty. Retrieved on 200605-28.
  21. ^ 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, 140-7. Boulder, Col.: Westview Press, 1994.

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