Statue of Liberty: She is a national treasure, an icon, and one of the most well-known people on the planet. Millions of people travel every year to see her history and majesty because they value her principles. She is the Statue of Liberty, a representation of inspiration, hope, and freedom.
Frenchman Édouard de Laboulaye first suggested the notion of giving a significant gift from the French people to the Americans in 1865. Laboulaye, a fervent supporter of America, wanted to honor the close ties between France and America as well as remember the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence.
The recent abolition of slavery in the United States, which advanced America’s principles of liberty and freedom, also affected him.
The Statue of Liberty
Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, a sculptor, was there when Laboulaye made his declaration. Bartholdi started planning the enormous building that would soon be known as Liberty Enlightening the World because he shared Laboulaye’s philosophy.
A lot of symbolism was incorporated into Bartholdi’s design: the Statue’s foot was decorated with a broken shackle and chains to represent the abolition of slavery, the tablet’s inscribed date of July 4, 1776, in Roman numerals, and the crown’s representation of light with its spikes evoking sun rays reaching out to the world.
Inherent to Lady Liberty’s history has always been fundraising and community building. It started with initiatives to secure funding for this extraordinary project. The Statue would be made in France and assembled in America, with the pedestal being funded and built by the American people.
Public levies, various forms of entertainment, and a lottery were all employed to raise money in France. Benefit theatrical performances, art exhibits, auctions, and prizefights were conducted throughout the United States to raise money for the pedestal. In 1883, poet Emma Lazarus penned her well-known sonnet The New Colossus for a literary and art auction.
Despite these attempts, the pedestal’s financing process moved slowly. To mobilise the public, Joseph Pulitzer published a call for donations in his newspaper, the New York World, in 1885. In return, Pulitzer published the names of each donor in the paper.
With over $100,000 raised from 120,000 donors, the public rose to the occasion and raised the remaining cash required for the Statue’s pedestal.
Bartholdi needed an engineer’s help in France to solve structural problems that came up when creating such a massive copper sculpture. The huge iron pylon and secondary skeleton system that allow the Statue’s copper skin to move independently while standing upright were designed by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, soon before he began construction on his renowned Tower.
In July 1884, the Statue’s French construction was finished. In anticipation of her journey over the water, the enormous sculpture rose tall above the Parisian rooftops.
Richard Morris Hunt, an American architect, was chosen to create the granite pedestal for the Statue that year, and work on it began.
The Statue was disassembled into 350 parts and crammed into 214 containers for its transatlantic voyage on board the warship Isère. On June 17, 1885, the ship arrived in New York Harbor.
The Statue was left in pieces on what was then known as Bedloe’s Island while waiting for the building of its pedestal. After the pedestal was finished in April 1886, President Grover Cleveland finally oversaw the Statue of Liberty’s dedication on October 28, 1886, in front of a large crowd.
The Statue of Liberty’s and her island’s history is one of transformation. The island served as a significant food supply for the Lenape Indians and later Dutch settlers for many years. The island was designated a military station by the US Army in 1807, and a fort with 11 points was built to guard New York Harbor.
The building, which was later given the name Fort Wood, currently acts as the pedestal’s foundation for the Statue.
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The significance and importance of the Statue itself have changed over time. The link with welcoming “huddled crowds” is arguably the most prominent. A plaque with the words “The New Colossus” was affixed to the pedestal in 1903. With it, Lady Liberty’s importance as a source of motivation for immigrants sailing by her on their path to America increased.
The flame of the statue’s torch, as designed by Bartholdi in 1874, was not to be lit; instead, it was to be fashioned of solid copper sheet and gilt to shine brilliantly in the daylight. The torch, however, underwent a lot of changes in its first fifty years.
Two rows of portholes had been carved out of the copper at the base of the torch to allow light to enter the statue when it was consecrated in 1886. The topmost row of portholes was replaced with an 18-inch belt of glass six years later, and a red, white, and yellow glass-encased octagonal pyramidal skylight was added to the top of the flame.
1916 saw more alterations as copper was replaced with amber-coloured cathedral glass in around 250 locations. A new lighting system was built on the balcony in 1931, requiring the drilling of two 16-inch-diameter holes through which two projectors were to be mounted. Bartholdi’s design was hardly recognisable at this point.
The original torch could not be recreated, according to a group of specialists who examined the Statue in the 1980s when the Foundation renovated it for its centenary celebration. Bartholdi’s solid copper flame had undergone significant changes over the course of a century, becoming primarily made of glass. The original torch above the handle was irreparably ruined by rain leaks and environmental degradation.
On July 4, 1984, it was taken down and a copy that resembled Bartholdi’s original was put in its place.
The original torch is currently on exhibit in the Statue of Liberty Museum’s Inspiration Gallery.
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