The Statue of Liberty is one of the most recognized symbols around the globe. Located on Liberty Island in
the New York Harbor, this masterpiece has stood for over 100 years. It has historically greeted immigrants entering
the country. Now a popular tourist attraction for people visiting New York, the statue continues to stand tall as a
tribute to the values of the United States. For people unfamiliar with the making of the statue, they may find its
origins both interesting and surprising.
Origins and Creation of the Statue
The concept for The Statue of Liberty was first proposed in 1865, after the Civil War had come to an end.
Edouard de Laboulaye, a French historian and abolitionist who later became known as the “Father of The Statue of
Liberty,” was struck by the idea as a result of the Union’s victory and the signing of the 13th Amendment
which abolished slavery. He saw the statue as a way to honor the United States steps towards freedom and justice,
and also as a way to encourage France towards democracy.
He commissioned the French sculptor Auguste Bartholdi to create the statue. Bartholdi began designing the statue,
which was called The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, in 1870. In 1875, it was announced that the
project would move forward. The cost of building the statue would be divided between France and the United States,
with the U.S. paying for the pedestal on which the statue would stand and the French paying for the statue itself.
To raise money for the statue, the Franco-American Union was created. In efforts to help raise money in the U.S. for
the pedestal, the arm and torch of the statue was displayed first in Philadelphia at the Centennial Exposition in
1876, and then in New York City.
The statue itself was built-in Paris, starting in 1881. The internal support of the tower was designed by the
structural engineer Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel. Eiffel, who later created the Eiffel Tower, took over the internal
design of the statue following the death of Eugene Viollet-le-Duc, the original designer. Once completed it was
dismantled into over 200 pieces before it was transported to the U.S. aboard the frigate named Isere. The
pieces arrived in 1885.
A year before the arrival of the statue, the United State ran out of money for the pedestal. Joseph Pulitzer, who was
a supporter of the statue and a newspaper publisher, used the pages of his newspaper to successfully urge Americans
to contribute money. The pedestal was designed by Richard Morris Hunt, an American architect. The construction and
placement of the pedestal was on Bedloe’s Island, inside Fort Wood. In 1886, the statue was reassembled and mounted,
after the completion of the pedestal. This process took four months to complete.
Description of the Statue
The Statue of Liberty stands, from the ground to the torch tip, at 305 feet. She is made of pounded copper
sheeting that is the thickness of two pennies. In one hand she holds the torch, while in the other arm she cradles a
tablet that reads July IV MDCCLXXVI. This is the date of American Independence written in Roman numerals. There are
parts of the statue that cannot be seen from the ground. In particular, the broken shackle at her feet. She is
stepping on the shackles of chain with one foot, with the other foot lifted as if she is walking forward. On the
statue’s head, there is a crown with seven spikes or rays. The rays are said to represent the world’s seven seas and
continents. Also, there are 25 windows in the crown that visitors can look out of. The torch is a replacement of the
original. It was installed in 1986 and is made of copper and covered in 24k gold leaf.
In the museum, at the base is the plaque containing the sonnet The New Colossus. This sonnet was originally
written to help raise funds for the pedestal and was the work of poet Emma Lazarus. New Colossus contains the now
world-famous passage, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” It did not
become a part of the pedestal until 1903 and was moved to the Statue of Liberty Museum in the pedestal’s base during
the renovation efforts in 1986. Visitors to the statue will also find the original torch is kept in the base of the
pedestal lobby on display.
The symbolism of the Statue
The Statue of Liberty has long been a symbol with numerous meanings around the world. As a gift from the
French, was a symbol of friendship between the two countries, dating back to the American Revolution.
Universally, including in the U.S., it is a representation of democracy, freedom from oppression, and hope.
Immigrants coming to the United States see it as a representation of a new beginning and the opportunity to fulfill
their dreams. The statue also personifies justice, and the torch in her hand is a symbol of enlightenment. For most
the people living in the United States, it stands as a proud symbol of the country itself.
The Statue Today
Today The Statue of Liberty stands as a National Monument. In the fall of 2011, the statue underwent
year-long safety renovations. During that year, it also reached its 125th anniversary. Additions were made to the
statue in terms of web cameras placed around the torch. This allows people in the United States and all over the
world to see live and continuous footage of the statue and New York. The webcam footage is from the viewpoint of the
torch, which has been closed since the early 20th century.
- History.com: Origins of the Statue
University School of Materials Engineering: Statue of Liberty
- The Statue
of Liberty: An Icon of Freedom and Hope!
- The Statue
of Liberty, Fredric Auguste Bartholdi
- The Symbolism of the Statue of
- Statue of Liberty, Including Long Description
- Statue of Liberty: It’s
History, Symbolism, and Stamps
- Statue of Liberty
on the Statue of Liberty
- Emma Lazarus “The New
- Rethinking the Statue of Liberty: Old Meanings, New Contexts
- A Look at
Lady Liberty’s First 125 Years
- Seven Obscure Facts
About the Statue of Liberty
- The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island
Foundation, Inc.: Fun Facts About the Statue of Liberty
- Why Was the Statue of Liberty Built?