Dedicated to the United States by the people of France on October 28th, 1886, the Statue of Liberty has come to embody the
ideals of freedom, justice and new beginnings. WatchMojo.com explores the history of this iconic monument.
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History of the Statue of Liberty
She’s a symbol for freedom and one of the most recognized figures in the United States. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be learning about the Statue of Liberty.
Located in New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty is a depiction of the Roman goddess of freedom. Dedicated in a large ceremony on October 28th, 1886, the statue’s official name is Liberty Enlightening the World. Originally a gift from the citizens of France, she was designed by French sculptor, Frederic Bartholdi. Law professor, Edouard René de Laboulaye, is credited with the idea of a shared statue between the French and the Americans.
The statue was meant to commemorate to US centennial, any ideals that both French and United States shared a freedom and democracy. However, only her right hand and torch were finished by 1876 and both were displayed at the American Centennial Exhibition.
Lady Liberty, as she is often called, is represented wrapped in robes. In her right hand, she carries a torch meant to symbolize the light of reason. Her left hand is carrying a book of laws that is marked with the date the Declaration of Independence was signed. From the base of the statue to the top of the torch, she measures 151 feet in height. That height is doubled by the pedestal on which she stands.
Built on an iron support structure, the Statue of Liberty’s skin is made of copper. Originally the color of copper, by 1900 the statue’s exterior had begun to change color. Eventually, the decision was made to leave this patina on the statue, and today she is the pale green color we know and love.
The statue’s armature was design by the same man who designed France’s Eiffel Tower, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel. A joint effort of the French, Americans and countless hard workers, the statue was to be built in France and shipped by boat to America.
In the years before the statue was built, criticism was raised that she should be designed by an American artist. That, and the fact that it took many years to raise sufficient American funds to build Lady Liberty’s pedestal, stalled the project’s progress for many years. However, she was presented to the Americans on Independence Day in 1884, was finally shipped early the next year, and was ultimately opened in New York Harbor in 1886.
Many new Americans, immigrating to the country by boat, were welcome by the Statue of Liberty upon their arrival. This helped lead to her status as a symbol for the country. A poem inscribed on her base bears the famous lines, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” and welcomes settlers to the New World.
Tourists were originally open to travel up to Lady Liberty’s crown to view the harbor below, as well as making a narrow climb up to the torch. However, the torch has been closed to visitors since the First World War.
In preparation for the Statue’s centennial in 1986, a series of restorations took place. Lady Liberty’s armature was completely replaced, making her more sturdy, and several pieces of her skin were also changed.
After 2001’s terrorist attacks in New York City, the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island were closed to tourists because of safety concerns. Gradually, the island, the pedestal, and finally in 2009 the Statue herself were reopened to the public.
Because of Lady Liberty’s status as an American icon, she’s often featured in pop culture, and on tourist souvenirs. She is not threatening and not a symbol of power, and considered a beacon of hope.
Lady Liberty has witnessed well over a century’s worth of history, and has come to embody the American ideal of freedom.