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Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty

Liberty Enlightening the World, commonly known as the Statue of Liberty, is a statue, given to the USA by France in the late 19th century, that stands at the mouth of the Hudson River in the harbor of New York City as a welcome to all: returning Americans, visitors, and immigrants alike. The sculptor was Frederic Auguste Bartholdi; Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame) created the armature.

The copper statue of the goddess of Liberty was a present by France, as a centennial gift to the U.S. and a sign of friendship between the two nations. The pedestal was constructed by the United States. The Statue of Liberty is often used as a symbol that personifies the entire nation of the United States, much like Uncle Sam. In a more general sense, the Statue of Liberty is used to represent liberty in general and is a favored symbol of libertarians.


The Statue of Liberty is located on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, some 3 kilometers south-west of the southern tip of Manhattan. (The island was informally known as Liberty Island since the early 1900s, but was officially Bedloe's Island until 1956.)

The goddess of liberty holds a torch in her right hand and a tablet in her left. The tablet shows the caption "JULY IV MDCCLXXVI", the date of the Declaration of Independence. One of her feet stands on chains. The seven spikes in her crown represent the seven seas or seven continents.

The height from ground to the tip of the torch is 305 feet (93 meters); this includes the foundation and the pedestal. The height of the statue itself, from the top of the base to the torch, is 151 feet (46 meters).

The statue was built from thin copper plates hammered into wooden forms. The formed plates were then mounted on a steel skeleton.
Inside the crown of the Statue

The statue is normally open to visitors, who arrive by ferry and can climb up into her crown, which provides a broad view of New York Harbor. A museum in the pedestal—accessible by elevator—presents the history of the statue.

(The statue and island were closed from September 11, 2001 to August 3, 2004 in the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Center. During this period, only the grounds of Liberty Island were open again for visitation; the Monument, museum, crown, and all outdoor observation decks were closed.)
The "New Colossus" plaque

The Emma Lazarus poem "The New Colossus" was written for the statue, and engraved on a bronze plaque in 1903, 20 years after it was written. The plaque is located on a wall of the museum, which is in the base of the Statue. (It has never been engraved on the monument itself). In its famous culminating lines, Liberty says

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"
Liberty Island, the location of the statue, is Federal property located within the territorial jurisdiction of the State of New York. Because it is nearer to the New Jersey shore, it is sometime mistakenly believed to be part of New Jersey. A longstanding dispute between New York and New Jersey over the status of nearby Ellis Island (q. v.) was settled in 1998 largely in favor of New Jersey, but Liberty Island was not involved in this dispute.

Unveiling of Statue of Liberty

French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was commissioned to design a sculpture with the year 1876 in mind for completion, to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. Bartholdi had an authentic American model, it appears: the good-looking, recently widowed Isabella Eugenie Boyer, the wife of Isaac Singer, the sewing-machine industrialist. "She was rid of the uncouth presence of her husband, who had left her with only his most socially desirable attributes: his fortune and... his children. She was, from the beginning of her career in Paris, a well-known figure. As the good-looking French widow of an American industrialist she was called upon to be Bartholdi's model for the Statue of Liberty." (Ruth Brandon, Singer and the Sewing Machine: A Capitalist Romance, p. 211)

It was agreed upon that in a joint effort the American people were to build the pedestal, and the French people were responsible for the Statue and its assembly in the United States. However, lack of funds was a problem on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. In France, public fees, various forms of entertainment, and a lottery were among the methods used to raise funds. 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.

Back in America, the site, authorized in New York harbor by Act of Congress, 1877, was selected by General William Tecumseh Sherman, who settled on Bartholdi's own choice, then known as Bedloe's Island, where there was already an early 19th-century star-shaped fortification.

Fund raising for the pedestal was going particularly slowly, so Joseph Pulitzer (noted for the Pulitzer Prize) opened up the editorial pages of his newspaper, The World, to support the fund raising effort. 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. Pulitzer's campaign of harsh criticism was successful in motivating the people of America to donate.
Statue of Liberty

Financing for the pedestal, designed by American architect Richard Morris Hunt, was completed in August 1885, the cornerstone was laid on August 5, and pedestal construction was finished in 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 was completed in France in July, 1884 and arrived in New York Harbor on June 17, 1885 on board the French frigate Isere. In 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, Pennsylvania in 1876, and thereafter at Madison Square in New York City.) The Statue was re-assembled on her new pedestal in four months' time. On October 28, 1886, the dedication of the Statue of Liberty by U.S. President Grover Cleveland took place in front of thousands of spectators. She was a centennial gift ten years late.

U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt rededicated the Statue of Liberty on its 50th anniversary (October 28, 1936).

In 1984, the Statue of Liberty was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

Extensive renovations were performed before the statue's centennial in 1986, including a new gold layer on the torch, which now shines over New York Harbor at night. The Statue of Liberty was reopened to the public on July 5 after this extensive refurbishing.


On September 11, 2001 the Statue of Liberty was closed to the public due to "upgrading security systems." August 4, 2004, the pedestal was reopened, however the statue itself remains closed. Visitors are subject to restrictions, including personal searches via the use of a device that blows air into clothing to test for traces of chemicals that are associated with explosives.

Smaller copies
The Statue of Liberty copy on the river Seine in Paris, France. Given to the city in 1885, it faces west, towards the original Liberty in New York.

A smaller-scale copy of the Statue of Liberty is found in Paris, France, where it stands on an island in the river Seine, looking towards the Atlantic Ocean and hence towards its "larger sister" in New York.

From 1902 to 2002, visitors to midtown Manhattan were occasionally disoriented by what seemed to be an impossibly nearby view of the statue. They were seeing a 37-foot-high (11 m) replica located at 43 West 64th Street atop the Liberty Warehouse. In February 2002 the statue was removed by the building owners to allow building expansion. As of 2004 it is in storage at the Brooklyn Museum of Art awaiting eventual relocation to the sculpture garden. (See External Links below).

Between 1949 and 1951, approximately two hundred 100-inch (2.54 m) replicas of the statue, made of stamped copper, were purchased by Boy Scout troops and donated to various towns in the United States. The mass-produced statues are not great art nor meticulously accurate (a conservator notes that "her face isn’t as mature as the real Liberty. It’s rounder and more like a little girl’s"), but they are cherished, particularly since 9/11. Many have been lost or destroyed, but preservationists have been able to account for about a hundred of them, and BSA Troop 101 of Cheyenne, Wyoming has collected photographs of over fifty of them (see External Links below).

There is a half-size replica at the New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada, see photo here A 35 meter copy is found in German theme park Heidepark Soltau, located on a lake with cruising Mississippi steamboats.

Another replica is the Bordeaux Statue of Liberty. This 2.5-meter (8-foot) statue is found in the city of Bordeaux in Southwest France . The first Bordeaux statue was taken down and melted by the Germans in World War II. The statue was replaced in 2000 and a plaque was added to commemorate the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks. On the night of March 25, 2003, unknown vandals poured red paint and gasoline on the replica and set it on fire. The vandals also cracked the pedestal of the plaque honoring victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The mayor of Bordeaux, former prime minister Alain Juppé, condemned the attack. There is another good replica in Northwest of France, in the small town of Barentin near Rouen. It was made for a French movie, Le Cerveau ("the brain"), directed by Gérard Oury and featuring actors Jean-Paul Belmondo and Bourvil.
Bronze sculpture in Met Museum

A bronze sculpture of the Statue of Liberty is on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York city.

During the Tiananmen Square protest of 1989, Chinese student demonstrators in Beijing built a 10-meter version of the Statue of Liberty to symbolize their struggle. They called it the Goddess of Democracy.

A small Statue of Liberty is also a well-known symbol of the Amerika-mura (American Village) shopping district in Osaka, Japan.

A 12-meter replica of the Statue of Liberty in Colmar, the city of Bartholdi's birth, was dedicated on July 4, 2004 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his death. It stands at the north entrance of the city.

The Statue of Liberty in popular culture
Feb. 1979: Statue of Liberty apparently submerged in Lake Mendota

Perhaps the most famous appearance of the statue in cinema was in the ending of the 1968 film Planet of the Apes, where the statue appears decayed and half-buried in sand, serving as painful, undeniable proof to the film's protagonist, Taylor, that he has been on Earth the whole time. It also appears in the beginning of its first sequel, Beneath The Planet Of The Apes and against a dark nighttime backdrop of a futuristic, desolate Manhattan in Escape From New York

In 1978, at University of Wisconsin-Madison, Jim Mallon and Leon Varjian of the "Pail and Shovel Party" won election by promising to give campus issues "the seriousness they deserve." In 1979 (and again in 1980), they created their own version of the Planet of the Apes scene by erecting replicas of the torch and the top of the head on the frozen surface of Lake Mendota, creating a fanciful suggestion that the entire statue was standing on the bottom of the lake.

The Statue of Liberty was animated and walked through New York City in the film Ghostbusters II (1989). In the film Independence Day (1996) it was destroyed. This statue is also the stage for the climax in the films Saboteur (1942) and X-Men (2000). Much of the advertising for the film The Day After Tomorrow (2004) used an image of the Statue of Liberty nearly buried in snow and ice, after a gigantic tidal wave and catastrophic climate change. The first level of the video game Deus Ex takes place on Liberty Island and inside the statue; in the game's backstory, the statue's head has been destroyed by terrorists. In the sequel Deus Ex: Invisible War, the last level is again at the statue, which has been re-erected as a light sculpture.

The Statue of Liberty has appeared on a fake $1,000,000 (million) dollar bill. (see and

See also

External links

Some resources in French

The Liberty Warehouse replica in New York

The Boy Scouts of America replicas

Other links


  • National Park Service (public domain text)

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