"We will not forget that Liberty has here made her home;
nor shall her chosen altar be neglected."
-- President Grover Cleveland,
at the dedication of the Statue of Liberty
Sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was commissioned to design her. The Statue of Liberty was supposed to be completed in 1876, in time for the centennial celebration, but it didn't turn out that way.
The Americans were going to build the pedestal - the French would build the Statue. Both countries ran into fundraising problems, running various events (entertainment, a lottery, and public fees in France; theatrical events, auctions, prize fights, and art exhibits in the U.S.) to raise the necessary monies. In the U.S., Joseph Pulitzer, for whom the Pulitzer Prize is named, used his newspaper editorial pages to rebuke the rich and the middle class for failing to support the construction costs. It worked.
The design was unique - a colossal copper sculpture. Bartholdi recruited Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, famous for his namesake tower, to address structural issues. His solution was a massive iron pylon, and a skeletal framework, to allow the copper skin to move independenly while she stood upright (originally, it was thought that she would be filled with sand for stability). The name of the great statue was "Liberty Enlightening the World."
She was transported on the French frigate Isere, in 350 individual pieces. She was placed on her pedestal inside the star-shaped walls of Fort Wood, and dedicated in 1886 in front of thousands.
Her island has been managed by various groups - among them the U.S. Lighthouse Board and the War Department. She was declared a National Monument in 1924, and in 1933 responsibility for her care fell to the National Park Service.
In 1956, Bedloe's Island, on which she stood, was renamed Liberty Island. Ellis Island became part of the Monument in 1965.
After almost 100 years of standing watch over New York Harbor, the massive statue required significant restoration; Ronald Reagan was the impetus behind the most successful public/private partnership in U.S. history. He appointed Lee Iaccoca to raise the necessary funds, $87 million.
The United Nations named her as a World Heritage site in 1984, when her restoration began.
She reopened during Liberty Weekend on July 5, 1986.
After a century of serving as the symbol of freedom, and greeting countless hopeful immigrants, the Statue also witnessed one of her country's darkest days. One of the most poignant pictures of Manhattan on 9/11 was the site of her silouetted against thick, black smoke. She remained proud, defiant, and unafraid, a metaphor for the indomitable American spirit - standing tall even in the wake of profound adversity. On that dark day, National Park Service employees and dozens of area emergency personnel set up a triage center on Ellis Island.
Her Island was closed for 100 days; she was closed until August of last year. Now, visitors can explore her pedestal observation deck and lower promenade levels - by guided tour. They can also explore the museum and Fort Wood. More than 5 million people visit her yearly.
But the trip that I made as a gradeschool student, the long climb to the top, is a thing of the past, a casualty of the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history.Statue of Liberty Facts:
Height: 151 feet, 1 inch, from the top of her base to her torch. From the ground to her torch, she is 305 feet, one inch tall. She is 111 feet, 1 inch, from her heel to the top of her head.
Her hand is 16 feet, 5 inches; her index finger 8' even.
Her right arm is 42' long and 12' thick.
The tablet she holds is 23' 7" x 13'7" x 2'
Inscribed on it, in Roman numerals, is a date - July 4, 1776
She is constructed of 31 tons of copper sheeting 3/32 of a inch thick, and 125 tons of steel. Her pedestal weighs in at a whopping 27,000 tons.
The 25 windows in her crown symbolize gemstones of Earth and heaven's rays shining down on the world.
Although she appears to stand perfectly still, she does move in the wind - she sways 3" in a 50-mph wind. Her torch has a 5" sway.Statue of Liberty Replicas:
France has several - a 1/4 size replica stands in the Seine, on the Ile des Cygnes (Island of Swans). Her gaze is turned towards her larger sister in New York.
Another copy stood in Bordeaux, France, until the Nazis melted her down in what is an eerily symbolic gesture. In the year 2000, the replica was replaced - and vandalized - cracking placque that honored the victims of September 11th.
Still another replica stands in Barentin, in northwest France - that one was originally designed for a movie.
And one stands in Colmar, France - the birthplace of her designer, Bartholdi.
A 1/2 size replica stands at the New York-New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas.
Hanoi, of all places, boasted a copy that stood 2.85 meters tall, from 1887 to 1945, when she was toppled, seen as a symbol of the French colonization.
At the Heidepark Soltau German theme park, a 35 meter replica guards a lake that boasts Mississipi steamboats.
During the Tiananmen Square protest in 1989, Chinese students built a replica they called the Goddess of Democracy to symbolize their struggle.
Various copies have also been displayed in the U.S. (at the Liberty Warehouse, the Met Museum, in Sioux Falls, S.D., and donated by the Boy Scouts of America to various towns), and in Japan, Norway, and Kosovo.
For more information, visit:The National Park Service - The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
The New Colossus
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "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!"
-- Emma Lazarus