What's Written at the Bottom of the Statue of Liberty?

written-bottom-statue-liberty Credit: Wagner T. Cassimiro "Aranha"/CC-BY-2.0

The inscription at the base of the Statue of Liberty reads: "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore."

These lines come from a sonnet called "The New Colossus," which was written by Emma Lazarus in 1883. This same quote appears on a plaque in the Statue of Liberty Museum. The bronze plaque has been a part of Lady Liberty's pedestal since the early 1900s. The plaque serves as a source of inspiration to immigrants arriving in the United States and to people seeking freedom around the world.

The Statue of Liberty was given to the United States as a gift from France. It symbolizes a lasting friendship between the two nations. The concept for the statue emerged in 1865 after the end of the Civil War, when the French government wanted to honor the United States' transition to a democratic society.

Statue of Liberty History

Lady Liberty was designed by a French sculptor named Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, who had experience constructing large statues. Bartholdi created the Statue of Liberty from thin sheets of copper. He then enlisted the help of Alexandre-Gustav Eiffel, the man who designed the Eiffel Tower, to help make the steel frame for the statue. The goal was to have the statue complete by 1876, which was just in time for the centennial anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. While the French created the statue and its framework, they intentionally left the base off. Their rationale was that the statue should symbolize the two nations working collaboratively. Although the French assembled the statue, they wanted the American people to create the pedestal on which the finished product would stand.

Arrival in America

Work on the sculpture did not actually begin until 1875, as it took the two nations quite some time to raise the requisite funds. The statue was finished in 1885, then disassembled and packaged into 200 crates for shipment to New York City. It arrived in the summer of 1885, and Americans spent the next few months reassembling the pieces. When it was finally restored, the statute reached a full height of 305 feet. Lady Liberty was formally dedicated to the United States on October 28, 1886 by President Grover Cleveland. It was dedicated as a National Monument in 1924. Since 1933, the National Park Service has been in charge of maintaining the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island for the public's enjoyment.

In honor of the statute's intent to welcome immigrants, the U.S. government opened an immigration office on nearby Ellis Island in 1892. Between 1892 and 1954, Lady Liberty welcomed millions of immigrants who arrived at Ellis Island before continuing their journey into the United States. In 1883, Emma Lazarus' "New Colossus" sonnet was selected to be the inscription at the statue's base. Lazarus won that honor as part of a fundraising contest. In keeping with its tradition, the Statue of Liberty remains a symbol of American freedom and democracy. In addition to the statue itself, visitors can explore the Statue of Liberty Exhibit, which opened in 1986. The exhibit shows the statue's history with museum artifacts, photographs, and stories of immigrants who came to the United States. People can also see the Torch Exhibit, which includes the original torch and a renovated model in the lobby.