The Statue of Liberty is a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor within New York City. The statue, entitled "Liberty Enlightening the World" is a colossal copper statue that was a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States to commemorate the Centennial, of the United States. The statue was designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and its metal framework was built by Gustave Eiffel, who later designed the Eiffel Tower.
The statue is a figure of Libertas, a robed Roman liberty goddess. She holds a torch above her head with her right hand, and in her left hand carries a tabula ansata inscribed JULY IV MDCCLXXVI (July 4, 1776 in Roman numerals), the date of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. A broken shackle and chain lie at her feet as she walks forward, commemorating the recent national abolition of slavery. After its dedication, the statue became an icon of freedom and of the United States, seen as a symbol of welcome to immigrants arriving by sea.
Bartholdi was inspired by a French law professor and politician, Édouard René de Laboulaye, who is said to have commented in 1865 that any monument raised to U.S. independence would properly be a joint project of the French and U.S. peoples. The Franco-Prussian War delayed progress until 1875, when Laboulaye proposed that the French finance the statue and the U.S. provide the site and build the pedestal. Bartholdi completed the head and the torch-bearing arm before the statue was fully designed, and these pieces were exhibited for publicity at international expositions.
The torch-bearing arm was displayed at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, and in Madison Square Park in Manhattan from 1876 to 1882. Fundraising proved difficult, especially for the Americans, and by 1885 work on the pedestal was threatened by lack of funds. Publisher Joseph Pulitzer, of the New York World, started a drive for donations to finish the project and attracted more than 120,000 contributors, most of whom gave less than a dollar. The statue was built in France, shipped overseas in crates, and assembled on the completed pedestal on what was then called Bedloe's Island. The statue's completion on October 28, 1886, was marked by New York's first ticker-tape parade and a dedication ceremony presided over by President Grover Cleveland.
Arriving at New York Harbor, Bartholdi focused on Bedloe's Island (now named Liberty Island) as a site for the statue, struck by the fact that vessels arriving in New York had to sail past it. He was delighted to learn that the island was owned by the United States government - it had been ceded by the New York State Legislature in 1800 for harbor defense. It was thus, as he put it in a letter to Laboulaye: "land common to all the states." As well as meeting many influential New Yorkers, Bartholdi visited President Ulysses S. Grant, who assured him that it would not be difficult to obtain the site for the statue. Bartholdi crossed the United States twice by rail, and met many Americans who he thought would be sympathetic to the project. But he remained concerned that popular opinion on both sides of the Atlantic was insufficiently supportive of the proposal, and he and Laboulaye decided to wait before mounting a public campaign.
Bartholdi made alterations in the design as the project evolved. Bartholdi considered having Liberty hold a broken chain, but decided this would be too divisive in the days after the Civil War. The erected statue does stride over a broken chain, half-hidden by her robes and difficult to see from the ground. Bartholdi was initially uncertain of what to place in Liberty's left hand; he settled on a tabula ansata, used to evoke the concept of law. Though Bartholdi greatly admired the United States Constitution, he chose to inscribe "JULY IV MDCCLXXVI" on the tablet, thus associating the date of the country's Declaration of Independence with the concept of liberty.
Although plans for the statue had not been finalized, Bartholdi moved forward with fabrication of the right arm, bearing the torch, and the head. Work began at the Gaget, Gauthier & Co. workshop. In May 1876, Bartholdi traveled to the United States as a member of a French delegation to the Centennial Exhibition, and arranged for a huge painting of the statue to be shown in New York as part of the Centennial festivities. The arm did not arrive in Philadelphia until August; because of its late arrival, it was not listed in the exhibition catalogue, and while some reports correctly identified the work, others called it the "Colossal Arm" or "Bartholdi Electric Light". Nevertheless, the arm proved popular in the exhibition's waning days, and visitors would climb up to the balcony of the torch to view the fairgrounds. After the exhibition closed, the arm was transported to New York, where it remained on display in Madison Square Park for several years before it was returned to France to join the rest of the statue.
During his second trip to the United States, Bartholdi addressed a number of groups about the project, and urged the formation of American committees of the Franco-American Union. Committees to raise money to pay for the foundation and pedestal were formed in New York, Boston, and Philadelphia. The New York group eventually took on most of the responsibility for American fundraising and is often referred to as the "American Committee". One of its members was 19-year-old Theodore Roosevelt, the future governor of New York and the 26th president of the United States.
The statue rapidly became a landmark. Originally, it was a dull copper color, but shortly after 1900 a green patina, also called verdigris, caused by the oxidation of the copper skin, began to spread. As early as 1902 it was mentioned in the press; by 1906 it had entirely covered the statue. An elevator was installed to take visitors from the base to the top of the pedestal.
On July 30, 1916, during World War I, German saboteurs set off a disastrous explosion on the Black Tom peninsula in Jersey City, New Jersey, in what is now part of Liberty State Park, close to Bedloe's Island. Carloads of dynamite and other explosives that were being sent to Britain and France for their war efforts were detonated. The statue sustained minor damage, mostly to the torch-bearing right arm, and was closed for ten days. The cost to repair the statue and buildings on the island was about $100,000 (equivalent to about $2,350,000 today). The narrow ascent to the torch was closed for public-safety reasons, and it has remained closed ever since.
That same year, Ralph Pulitzer, who had succeeded his father Joseph as publisher of the World, began a drive to raise $30,000 (equivalent to $705,000 today) for an exterior lighting system to illuminate the statue at night. He claimed over 80,000 contributors, but failed to reach the goal. The difference was quietly made up by a gift from a wealthy donor - a fact that was not revealed until 1936. An underwater power cable brought electricity from the mainland and floodlights were placed along the walls of Fort Wood. Gutzon Borglum, who later sculpted Mount Rushmore, redesigned the torch, replacing much of the original copper with stained glass. On December 2, 1916, President Woodrow Wilson pressed the telegraph key that turned on the lights, successfully illuminating the statue.
After the United States entered World War I in 1917, images of the statue were heavily used in both recruitment posters and the Liberty bond drives that urged American citizens to support the war financially. This impressed upon the public the war's stated purpose - to secure liberty and served as a reminder that embattled France had given the United States the statue.
In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge used his authority under the Antiquities Act to declare the statue a national monument. A suicide occurred five years later when a man climbed out of one of the windows in the crown and jumped to his death.
In 1982, it was announced that the statue was in need of considerable restoration. Careful study had revealed that the right arm had been improperly attached to the main structure. It was swaying more and more when strong winds blew and there was a significant risk of structural failure. In addition, the head had been installed 2 feet (0.61 m) off center, and one of the rays was wearing a hole in the right arm when the statue moved in the wind. The armature structure was badly corroded, and about two percent of the exterior plates needed to be replaced. Although problems with the armature had been recognized as early as 1936, when cast iron replacements for some of the bars had been installed, much of the corrosion had been hidden by layers of paint applied over the years.
In May 1982, President Ronald Reagan announced the formation of the Statue of Liberty - Ellis Island Centennial Commission, led by Chrysler Corporation chair Lee Iacocca, to raise the funds needed to complete the work. Through its fundraising arm, the Statue of Liberty - Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., the group raised more than $350 million in donations for the renovations of both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. 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, the company would contribute one cent to the renovation of the statue. The campaign generated contributions of $1.7 million to the restoration project.
July 3 - 6, 1986, was designated "Liberty Weekend", marking the centennial of the statue and its reopening. President Reagan presided over the rededication on July 4, 1986, with French President François Mitterrand in attendance and the statue was reopened to the public on July 5. In Reagan's dedication speech, he stated, "We are the keepers of the flame of liberty; we hold it high for the world to see." Here is clip of the Star Spangled Banner performance during Liberty Weekend.
A modern elevator was installed, allowing handicapped access to the observation area of the pedestal. An emergency elevator was installed within the statue, reaching up to the level of the shoulder. A group of statues stands at the western end of the island, honoring those closely associated with the Statue of Liberty. Two Americans - Pulitzer and Lazarus, and three Frenchmen - Bartholdi, Eiffel, and Laboulaye are depicted.
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