The History Of The Statue Of Liberty

Overview of the history of the Statue of Liberty.

Statue of Liberty - The Grand Gift

On October 28, 1986, the Statue of Liberty was 100 years old. It was given as a gift to the United States from France in 1886 to commemorate the friendship between the two countries that was begun during the American Revolutionary War. Over time, the statue has come to represent more than just a symbol of international friendship. It has come to represent freedom and liberty, especially to those who have immigrated to the United States from around the world.

Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was the French sculptor commissioned to produce a sculpture commemorating the American War for Independence. He was born at Colmar, Alsace, France in 1834. It was in 1865 that Bartholdi and a French historian, Edouard-Rene de Laboulaye, came together with the idea of a French gift for the United States centennial. Bartholdi and his assistants worked 300 sheets of copper by hand around a steel frame. The inner steel frame was the work of Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, builder of the Eiffel Tower. Bartholdi's mother is thought to be the model for the face of the statue. In 1876, the arm holding the torch was the only piece of the statue ready to display in the United States, where it was exhibited in Philadelphia. The actual name of the statue was not originally the Statue of Liberty. It was first named "Liberty Enlightening the World."

The project was not only a gift from France, but was a project to be built by both the United States and France. The United States was to be responsible for the building of the pedestal for the statue. France held the responsibility of building the statue and of transporting the statue to New York harbor. Immediately, though, money for the project was a difficulty for both countries. In the United States there were plays, art exhibits, prize fights, etc. with the proceeds donated to the statue project. In France, taxes were used, as well as a lottery, among other things, to build up funds for the project. Joseph Pulitzer, owner of "The World" newspaper, wrote scathing editorials criticizing the rich for not donating enough to the project. He also condemned the middle-class for leaving the burden of donations to the wealthy.

Financing for the United States portion of the project was finalized in August 1885. The pedestal was finished and ready to receive the statue in April 1886. In France, the statue was finished in July 1884. In order to transport the statue, it was cut down into 350 parts and packed in over 200 crates for shipping. The statue came across the Atlantic on the French vessel "Isere." Upon arrival, it took four months to assemble all the pieces on the pedestal. The statue was dedicated October 28, 1886 with thousands of people in attendance. President Grover Cleveland led the dedication.

The pedestal upon which the statue stands is in the courtyard of Fort Wood, a fort built for the War of 1812. The fort was built in the shape of a star. In the first years, the statue was the responsibility of the United States Lighthouse Board. This continued until 1901. After 1901, the statue came under the jurisdiction of the War Department. In 1924, a Presidential Proclamation made Fort Wood and the Statue of Liberty a national monument. In 1933, the National Park Service was given responsibility of the statue. In 1965, Ellis Island was included in the Statue of Liberty National Monument. In 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed a committee to commence a joint public and private sector partnership to gather funds to restore the aging statue. The amount needed and raised was $87 million. The restoration was completed and the statue was opened to the public in on July 5, 1986 to celebrate the statue's one hundred years.

It takes 354 steps to reach the crown of the statue. There are many items with the statue that are symbolic. The 25 windows that are in the crown represent 25 of the gemstones found in the earth. They also represent heaven's or freedom's light illuminating the world. The crown has seven rays in it which represent the seven seas and land masses of the earth. The statue's right hand holds the torch. In the statue's left hand is held a tablet of law with the date of July 4, 1776 inscribed in Roman numerals. There is a broken shackle of chain at the statues feet which represents the crushing of tyranny.

The amount of material used in the statue is tremendous. The weight of the copper in the statue is 31 tons. The weight of the steel used in the framework is an additional 125 tons. There are 27,000 tons of concrete in the foundation of the statue.

The Statue of Liberty still stands as a beacon of liberty to all the world. Within the base of the statue hangs the plaque with the poem by Emma Lazarus still with the invitation: "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breath free"¦" It is an invitation still welcomed around the world.

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