Discover the history, history, and symbolism behind New York’s most famous monument, the Statue of Liberty.
Lady Liberty found her home in the waters of New York Bay on Liberty Island in 1886 and quickly became an international hope for more than 9 million immigrants in the 19th century. The Statue of Liberty, a centenary gift from France to the United States, was originally an idea of the poet and anti-slavery activist Édouard de Laboulaye. Laboulaye believed that the celebration of the recently discovered American post-civil democracy and the abolition of slavery could also strengthen France’s democratic ideals.
source: The Statue of Liberty under construction in Paris circa 1884 | © Granger/REX/Shutterstock
The young French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, who had already experimented with large-format works, enthusiastically supported the idea of a statue of Laboulaye and started to work on the drawings. The final version of its design was patented in 1879 and construction began soon after. Bartholdi’s design was colossal – in fact, larger than any other sculpture in the world at the time. Finally, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the designer of the Eiffel Tower, designed the skeleton structure of the statue. Eiffel’s expertise in structural design was essential to keep the statue upright and secure. The iron interior would have a huge weight of 450,000 pounds (200,000 kilograms), while the 100 US tonnes of exterior copper could move independently of each other.
source: Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904), photographed in his studio surrounded by some of his projects, including the Statue of Liberty
Building the statue was an easy task not only because of its size. The United States was responsible for the construction and funding of the 27-meter stone base, while France concentrated on the statue itself and shipped the sculpture in 350 parts across the Atlantic. Both countries have had funding problems and have asked for public assistance. Finally, they received construction funds through art events, auctions, donations, and public fees. Joseph Pulitzer, editor of The World in New York, played an important role in convincing the American public to contribute to the project. In exchange for the donation of money for the pedestal, Pulitzer printed the names of the donors in his journal, which led to the first crowdfunding campaign in the United States. And it turned out to be a success.
source: The feet of the Statue of Liberty arrive on Liberty Island in 1885 | © Universal History Archive/REX/Shutterstock
The full name of the dressed lady, named after the Roman goddess Libertas, is Liberty Enlightening the World. It is made of iron, steel, and 300 layers of hand-hammered copper and is approximately 34 meters high. However, if you measure the foundation, the base, and the torch, their total height is 93 meters. His right-hand rises to hold a 24-karat gold torch, and on his head is a seven-pointed crown that symbolizes the seven continents and the seven seas. At their feet are broken ties that represent a woman free from oppression and tyranny. Its characteristic water green color, also known as a patina, is the result of the natural weathering of copper which covers its entire exterior.
source: Statue of Liberty, New York Harbor, New York City, circa 1905 | © Glasshouse Images/REX/Shutterstock
At the base of its base is a bronze plaque on which the American poet Emma Lazarus is inscribed with a sonnet. This represents not only Lady Liberty herself but also the original essence of America. Today, around 4 million people visit the statue each year.
source: Statue of Liberty National Monument, Liberty Island, New York City | © Michael Szonyi/imageBROKER/REX/Shutterstock