The Statue of Liberty was a collaboration between France and the United States to commemorate the two countries’ long-standing friendship. The statue was created by French Sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi out of sheets of hammered copper. The steel framework was designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, the man behind the famous Eiffel Tower.
The Statue of Liberty was then given to the United States and erected on a small island in Upper New York Bay. It is now known as Liberty Island, atop an American-designed pedestal, and also dedicated by President Grover Cleveland in 1886. The statue stood tall as millions of Immigrants arrived in America via nearby Ellis Island over the years. In 1986 it underwent a major renovation to commemorate the centennial of its dedication. The Statue of Liberty is still one of the world’s most recognizable landmarks and an enduring symbol of freedom and Democracy.
The History of the Statue of Liberty
As the American Civil War came to an end in 1865. Edouard de Laboulaye, a French historian, proposed that France create a statue to give to the United States. In recognition of that country’s success in establishing a viable Democracy. The commission was given to the sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, who is known for his large-scale sculptures. The Sculpture was to be completed in time for the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence in 1876. The project would be a collaborative effort between the two countries—the French would be in charge of the statue and its assembly, while the Americans would construct the pedestal on which it would stand—and a symbol of their peoples’ friendship.
Bartholdi, who was said to have modeled the woman’s face after that of his mother. He hammered large copper sheets to create the statue’s “skin” (using a technique called repousse). Bartholdi’s massive creation, titled “Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World,” depicted a woman holding a torch in her raised right hand and a tablet in her left. Upon which was engraved “July 4, 1776,” the adoption date of the Declaration of Independence. To create the skeleton on which the skin would be assembled, he also called on Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, designer of Paris’ Eiffel Tower.
Assembly and Dedication of the Statue of Liberty
While work on the statue continued in France, fundraising efforts for the pedestal continued in the United States, including contests, benefits, and exhibitions. Near the end, leading New York newspaperman Joseph Pulitzer used his World to raise the final funds required. The pedestal of the statue, designed by American architect Richard Morris Hunt, was built inside the courtyard of Fort Wood. It’s a fortress built for the War of 1812 on Bedloe’s Island. It is off the southern tip of Manhattan in Upper New York Bay.
In 1885, Bartholdi finished the statue, which was disassembled, packed in more than 200 crates. It was then shipped to New York aboard the French frigate Isere that June. Workers reassembled the statue and mounted it on the pedestal over the next four months; its total height, including the pedestal, was 305 feet (or 93 meters). President Grover Cleveland officially dedicated the Statue of Liberty in front of thousands of spectators on October 28, 1886.
Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty
The United States government established a federal immigration station on Ellis Island. It is near Bedloe’s Island in Upper New York Bay, in 1892. Between 1892 and 1954, approximately 12 million immigrants were processed on Ellis Island before being granted entry into the United States. 5,000 to 10,000 people passed through every day from 1900 to 1914, when it was at its busiest.
The Statue of Liberty presented a beautiful greeting to travelers going through Ellis Island. A sonnet called “The New Colossus,” written in 1883 as part of a fundraising contest. It is engraved on a plaque at the entrance to the statue’s pedestal. “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore/Send them, the homeless, tempest-tost to me/I lift my candle by the golden door!”
The Statue of Liberty Over the Years
Until 1901, the Statue of Liberty was operated by the United States Lighthouse Board. The torch on the statue served as a navigational aid for mariners. Because Fort Wood was still an operational army station after that date, it was put under the control of the United States War Department. The federal government designated the statue as a national monument in 1924. Then it was turned over to the National Parks Service in 1933. Bedloe’s Island was renamed Liberty Island in 1956, and Ellis Island became a component of the Statue of Liberty National Monument in 1965. After more than a decade after it was closed as a federal immigration station.
By the early twentieth century, oxidation of the Statue of Liberty’s copper skin caused by rain, wind, and sun exposure had given the statue a characteristic green tint known as verdigris. The statue was closed to the public in 1984 to undergo extensive restoration in readiness for its centenary commemoration. The United Nations classified the Statue of Liberty as a World Heritage Site even before the restoration began. The Statue of Liberty reopened to the public on July 5, 1986, as part of a centennial celebration.
After the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Liberty Island was closed for 100 days. The Statue of Liberty itself was not reopened to visitors until August 2004. The statue’s crown reopened to the public in July 2009, albeit visitors must make a reservation to climb to the top of the pedestal or to the crown.