The base of the statue is an 11-pointed star, part of old Fort Wood; a 150-ft (45-m) pedestal, built through American funding, is made of concrete faced with granite. On it is a tablet, affixed in 1903, inscribed with "The New Colossus," the famous sonnet of Emma Lazarus, welcoming immigrants to the United States. By the early 20th cent, this greeting to the arriving stranger had become the statue's primary symbolic message. Broadening in its meaning, the statue became a symbol of America during World War I and a ubiquitous democratic symbol during World War II. An elevator runs to the top of the pedestal, and steps within the statue lead to the crown, but the public has not been permitted to climb to crown since Sept., 2001, when access to the statue was restricted for reasons of security and, subsequently, safety. The statue was extensively refurbished prior to its centennial celebration in 1986. The Statue of Liberty became a national monument in 1924. In 1965, Ellis Island, the entrance point of millions of immigrants to the United States, was added to the monument.
See M. Trachtenberg, The Statue of Liberty (1976); W. S. Dillon, ed., The Statue of Liberty Revisited: Making a Universal Symbol (1994); B. Moreno, The Statue of Liberty Encyclopedia (2000).
Liberty Enlightening the World (La liberté éclairant le monde), commonly known as the Statue of Liberty (Statue de la Liberté), was presented to the United States by the people of France in 1886. Standing on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, it welcomes visitors, immigrants, and returning Americans. The copper-clad statue, dedicated on October 28, 1886, commemorates the centennial of the signing of the United States Declaration of Independence and is a gesture of friendship from France to the United States. Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi sculpted the statue and obtained a U.S. patent for its structure. Maurice Koechlin - chief engineer of Gustave Eiffel's engineering company and 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, where a malleable metal is hammered on the reverse side.
The statue is of a robed woman holding a torch, and 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of steel (originally puddled iron) with the exception of the flame of the torch, which is coated in gold leaf (originally made of copper and later altered to hold glass panes.) It stands atop a rectangular stonework pedestal with a foundation in the shape of an irregular eleven-pointed star. The statue is tall, but with the pedestal and foundation, it is tall.
Worldwide, the Statue of Liberty is one of the most recognizable icons of the United States and 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. Visually, the Statue of Liberty appears to draw inspiration from il Sancarlone or the Colossus of Rhodes.
The general appearance of the statue’s head approximates the Greek Sun-god Apollo or Helios as preserved on an ancient marble tablet (today in the Archaeological Museum of Corinth, Corinth, Greece) - Apollo was represented as a solar deity, dressed in a similar robe and having on its head a "radiate crown" with the seven spiked rays of the Helios-Apollo's sun rays, like the Statue's nimbus or halo. The ancient Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, was a statue of Helios with a radiate crown. The Colossus is referred to in the 1883 sonnet The New Colossus by Emma Lazarus. Lazarus' poem was later engraved on a bronze plaque and mounted inside the Statue of Liberty in 1903.
The statue, also known affectionately as "Lady Liberty", has become a symbol of freedom and democracy. She welcomed arriving immigrants, who could see the statue as they arrived in the United States. There is a version of the statue in France given by the United States in return.
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 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 representation of republican virtues to a "sister" republic across the sea served as a focus for the republican cause against other politicians.
A second model, also on a small scale, was further brought to Maceió, a city in the Northeast of Brazil. This model is in front of Maceió's first city hall, built in 1869, which is now a museum.
While on a visit to Egypt that was to shift his artistic perspective from simply grand to colossal, Bartholdi was inspired by the project of the 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 the 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 Khedive, Isma'il Pasha, in 1867 and, with revisions, again in 1869, but the project was never commissioned because of financial issues the country was going through.
It was agreed 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.
Back in America, the site, authorized in New York Harbor by an act of Congress, 1877, was selected by General William Tecumseh Sherman, who settled on Bartholdi's own choice, then known as Bedloe's Island (named after Isaac Bedloe), where there was already an early 19th century star-shaped fortification named Fort Wood. United States Minister to France Levi P. Morton hammered the first nail in the construction of the statue.
On February 18, 1879, Bartholdi was granted a design patent, , 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.
The financing for the statue was completed in France in July 1882.
Fund-raising 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. His campaign was an important contribution to the effort, but ultimately Senator Evarts and the American Committee he headed raised the majority of funds for the pedestal.
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 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 was stored for eleven months in crates waiting for its pedestal to be finished, was then re-assembled in four months. On October 28, 1886, the Statue of Liberty was unveiled by President Grover Cleveland in front of thousands of spectators. (Cleveland, as Governor of the State of New York, had earlier vetoed a bill by the New York legislature to contribute $50,000 to building of the pedestal.)
The Statue of Liberty functioned as a lighthouse from 1886 to 1902. At that time the U.S. Lighthouse board was responsible for its operation. There was a lighthouse keeper and the electric light could be seen for 24 miles (39 km) at sea. As a lighthouse, it is the first to use electricity; there was also an electric plant on the island to generate power for the light.
In 1913 a group of young pilots graduated from the Moissant School of Aviation based on Long Island. One of the graduates, the Mexican pilot Juan Pablo Aldasoro was selected to perform the first flight above the Statue of Liberty. All of the graduates later on became members of the Early Birds of Aviation.
In 1916, floodlights were placed around the base of the statue. Also in 1916, the Black Tom explosion caused $100,000 worth of damage ($1.9 million in 2007 dollars) 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. 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).
In 1956, through an act of Congress, Bedloe's Island was officially renamed Liberty Island, though Liberty Island had been used informally since the turn of the century.
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.
In 1972, President Richard M. Nixon dedicated the American Museum of Immigration, housed in structural additions to the base of the pedestal on top of what was Fort Wood.
In 1984, the Statue of Liberty was added to the list of World Heritage Sites.
In 2007, the Statue of Liberty was one of 20 finalists in a competition to name the New Seven Wonders of the World.
The interior of the statue used to be open to visitors. They arrived 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 the crown. This provided a broad view of New York Harbor (it 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.
The green-blue coloration is caused by chemical reactions, which produced copper salts and created the current hue. Most copper statues in the outside elements, left to their own, will eventually turn this color in a process called patination.
There are 354 steps inside the statue and its pedestal, with 25 windows in the crown which comprise the jewels beneath the seven rays of the diadem. The tablet which the statue holds in her left hand reads, in Roman numerals, "July 4, 1776" the day of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence.
The Statue of Liberty was engineered to withstand heavy winds. Winds of 50 miles per hour cause the Statue to sway 3 inches (7.62 cm) and the torch to sway 5 inches (12.7 cm). This allows the Statue to move rather than break in high wind load conditions.
|Height from base to torch||151 ft 1 in||46 m|
|Foundation of pedestal to torch||305 ft 1 in||93 m|
|Heel to top of head||111 ft 1 in||34 m|
|Length of hand||16 ft 5 in||5 m|
|Index finger||8 ft 0 in||2.44 m|
|Circumference at second joint||3 ft 6 in||1.07 m|
|Head from chin to cranium||17 ft 3 in||5.26 m|
|Head thickness from ear to ear||10 ft 0 in||3.05 m|
|Distance across the eye||2 ft 6 in||0.76 m|
|Length of nose||4 ft 6 in||1.48 m|
|Right arm length||42 ft 0 in||12.8 m|
|Right arm greatest thickness||12 ft 0 in||3.66 m|
|Thickness of waist||35 ft 0 in||10.67 m|
|Width of mouth||3 ft 0 in||0.91 m|
|Tablet, length||23 ft 7 in||7.19 m|
|Tablet, width||13 ft 7 in||4.14 m|
|Tablet, thickness||2 ft 0 in||0.61 m|
|Height of granite pedestal||89 ft 0 in||27.13 m|
|Height of foundation||65 ft 0 in||19.81 m|
|Weight of copper used in Statue||60,000 pounds||27.22 tons|
|Weight of steel used in Statue||250,000 pounds||113.4 tons|
|Total weight used in Statue||450,000 pounds||204.1 tons|
|Thickness of copper sheeting||3/32 of an inch||2.4 mm|
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. Ore from this mine, refined in France and Belgium, was a significant source of European copper in the late nineteenth century. In 1985, Bell Labs 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 Nizhny Tagil. The copper sheets were created in the workshops of the Gaget-Gauthier company, and shaped in the Ateliers Mesureur in the west of Paris in 1878. Funding for the copper was provided by Pierre-Eugène Secrétan.
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 Statue 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). 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, in the 1985 film Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins, and in the 1985 film Brewster's Millions. 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.
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 had been compromising 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.
In 1987 Representative Frank J. Guarini, a Democrat from New Jersey, and Gerald McCann, who was Mayor of Jersey City, sued New York City, contending that New Jersey had ownership over the Liberty Island because they are in the New Jersey portion of the Hudson River. The federally owned islands are about 2,000 feet away from Jersey City and over two miles from New York City.
A new torch replaced the original in 1986, which was deemed beyond repair because of the extensive 1916 modifications. The 1886 torch is now 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.
Visitors to Liberty Island and the Statue are 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 connected with the Front de libération du Québec (FLQ), seeking independence for Quebec from Canada, who were sent to destroy the statue and at least two other national monuments — the Liberty Bell in Philadelphia and the Washington Monument in Washington, D.C.
In June 2006, a bill, S. 3597, was proposed in Senate which, if approved, could re-open the crown and interior of the Statue of Liberty to visitors. In July 2007, a similar measure was proposed in the House of Representatives.
On August 9, 2006 National Park Service Director Fran P. Mainella, in a letter to Congressman Anthony D. 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. Critics contend that closing the Statue of Liberty indefinitely is an overreaction, and that safe access could easily be resumed under tighter security measures.
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." Gleason was killed when he landed on a patch of grass at the base, just a few feet from a workman who was mowing the grass.
On August 23, 2001, French stuntman Thierry Devaux parasailed onto the monument and got hung up on the statue's torch in a bungled attempt to bungee jump from it. He was not hurt and was charged with four misdemeanor offenses including trespassing.
The bronze plaque in the pedestal contains a typographical error: the comma in "Keep, ancient lands" is missing, causing that line to read "'Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!' cries she", and noticeably altering its meaning.
Hundreds of other Statues of Liberty have been erected worldwide.
Boy Scouts of America placed a small-scale replica of the Statue of Liberty at the Gentry Building in Columbia, Missouri in 1950. Located at the Parks & Recreation Administration Offices, at 7th and Broadway, the plaque notes that the statue was dedicated as a pledge of everlasting fidelity and loyalty. The local project was a component of the Scouts' national 40th anniversary celebration which had Strengthen the Arm of Liberty as its theme. More than 200 replicas were placed nationally as a result.
There is also a replica statue in the middle of the Susquehanna River near Harrisburg, PA. The statue is almost entirely white as viewed from US-322 East and West going past the river. Another replica, in the city of Cape Girardeau, Missouri, stands at the entrance of Capaha Park.
There is a sister statue in Paris and several others elsewhere in France, including one in Bartholdi's home town of Colmar, erected in 2004 to mark the centenary of Bartholdi's death; they also exist in Austria, Germany, Italy, Japan, China, Brazil and Vietnam; one existed in Hanoi during French colonial days. There are replicas in theme parks and resorts, including the New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas on the Strip, replicas created as commercial advertising, and replicas erected in U.S. communities by patriotic benefactors, including no less than two hundred donated by Boy Scout troops to local communities. During the Tiananmen Square protest of 1989, Chinese student demonstrators in Beijing built a 10 m image called the Goddess of Democracy, which sculptor Tsao Tsing-yuan said was intentionally dissimilar to the Statue of Liberty to avoid being "too openly pro-American." At around the same time, a copy of this statue was made and displayed on Connecticut Avenue in Washington, DC, in a small park across the street from the Chinese Embassy.
The Statue of Liberty quickly became a popular icon, featured in scores of posters, pictures, motion pictures, and books. A 1911 O. Henry story relates a fanciful conversation between "Mrs. Liberty" and another statue; it figured in 1918 Liberty Loan posters. During the 1940s and 1950s, pulp Science Fiction magazines featured Lady Liberty surrounded by ruins or by the sediments of the ages.
It has been in dozens of motion pictures. It is a setting in the 1942 Alfred Hitchcock movie Saboteur, which featured a climactic confrontation at the statue. Half submerged in the sand, the Statue provided the apocalyptic revelation at the end of 1968's Planet of the Apes. The statue became a character in the 1989 film, Ghostbusters II, in which it comes to life and helps defeat the evil villain, and was the setting for the climax of the first X-Men film. In the 2004 movie The Day After Tomorrow, the statue gets frozen, and in the 2008 movie Cloverfield, it is decapitated by a giant monster; its head lands in a Manhattan street. In the film, National Treasure: Book of Secrets, the sister statue in Paris provides a clue that leads treasure hunter Ben Gates (Nicholas Cage) closer to discovering a lost city of gold.
It was the subject of a 1978 University of Wisconsin-Madison prank in which Lady Liberty appeared to be standing submerged in a frozen-over local lake. It has appeared on New York and New Jersey license plates, is used as a logo for the NHL's New York Rangers and the WNBA's New York Liberty, and it was the subject of magician David Copperfield's largest vanishing act.
The statue is often used as a comparative measurement (usually referring to height rather than length) in books and documentaries.