The History Of The Statue Of Liberty

An American icon, but she isn't even American. Learn all about The Statue of Liberty from her voyage from France to her home in New York today.

The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France to the United States of America in celebration of America's one hundredth birthday. The massive one hundred and fifty-one foot tall statue was designed by French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. Bartholdi started his career as a painter and later became a successful sculptor. Inspired by the pyramids and the Sphinx on a visit to Egypt, Bartholdi wanted to create sculptures that were large and impressive at first glance.

According to Bartholdi, while having dinner with several fellow Frenchmen in 1865, they discussed their admiration of America's success at establishing a democratic government. The men discussed how France and America both shared a desire and respect for a free nation and they decided to build a monument to be given as a gift to the United States from France. France and the United States were said to be sister nations since France was instrumental in helping America to win its freedom from the British during the American Revolution. France provided guns, ships, monetary assistance and soldiers to the American colonies.

Bartholdi made a sketch and a miniature model of the statue he called "Liberty Enlightening the World," the official name of the statue. Some people believed that Bartholdi's mother, Charlotte, was the inspiration for Lady Liberty, although Bartholdi never revealed who, if anyone, was the true model.

While touring America, Bartholdi showed the sketch and the model to the American people. The Americans seemed pleased about the idea of a statue celebrating freedom, however few were willing to donate money to pay for the statue.

In 1874, Bartholdi finally started work on the statu. Because the statue would be expensive to build, it was decided that France and America would share the cost of the statue: France would pay for the statue; America would pay for the pedestal and foundation on which the statue would stand.

Fund raising events were held in both countries to collect money to erect the statue and her pedestal. Money was collected, not primarily from the wealthy, but from the ordinary citizens of each country.

The skeleton for the Statue of Liberty was designed by famed engineer Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, who later designed the Eiffel Tower in France.

The statue took an immense amount of time to build. There was no way the statue would be completed in time for America's Centennial. Bartholdi decided that even if he could not complete the entire statue, he could at least complete the raised arm and the torch for showing at the International Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. It took hours of labor, with twenty men working ten hour days, seven days a week -- working to meet the deadline. Despite the efforts of the laborers, the thirty foot arm and torch was not completed in time for the opening of Philadelphia's Exhibition, although it did arrive in August 1878 before the Exhibition ended.

On June 15, 1885, the Statue of Liberty, disassembled into 350 pieces and packed inside 214 wooden crates, arrived at Bedloe's Island, the island that would later be renamed Liberty Island, in New York Harbor. Bartholdi assumed that the foundation and pedestal would be completed by the time the statue arrived in America, he was wrong.

Architect Richard Morris Hunt, in America, was selected to build the pedestal for Lady Liberty. The foundation required 24,000 tons of concrete. It measures 52 feet and 10 inches in height. At the bottom it is 91 feet square, the top is 65 feet square. The pedestal stands 89 feet above the foundation. The Statue of Liberty finally began her assembly over her new home in New York Harbor in May 1886. It would take six months to finish mounting the statue to her base.

The Statue of Liberty was finally unveiled on October 28, 1886. Despite the rainy, foggy weather - more than one million people lined New York's streets to watch the parade that was held to celebrate the Lady's dedication. At the time the Statue of Liberty was dedicated, she was the tallest structure in New York, reaching to a total height of 305 feet.

In 1981, the French-American Committee for the Restoration of the Statue of Liberty was established. It was determined that substantial work needed to be done to restore damage and deterioration that time inflicted on the statue. The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation was then formed to raise the needed funds and to oversee the restoration of both the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island. As in the past, private contributions were solicited to pay for the cost of restoring the statue. More than $295 million was collected, of which $86 million was spent to restore the Statue of Liberty.

America threw a birthday party for the Statue of Liberty on July 4, 1986. President Ronald Reagan proclaimed, "We are the keepers of the flame of liberty; we hold it high for the world to see."

The Statue of Liberty, though born in France, has found a home and a place of honor in America, where she continues to bring hope to its citizens day after day, year after year.

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