Statue of Liberty
A gift to the people of the United States from the nation of France, the Statue of Liberty became a symbol of the United States and its largest city following its dedication. Envisioned by the president of France's anti-slavery society and designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the Statue symbolizes the friendship between France and the United States and the concept of liberty, equality, and opportunity in the United States. The statue was built by Gustave Eiffel, and dedicated on October 28, 1886. Liberty Island also contains five smaller statues of individuals who were instrumental in the effort to create this statue and its pedestal. Those individuals are Edouard René de Laboulaye, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, Emma Lazurus, Gustave Eiffel, and Joseph Pulitzer.
Backstory and Context
The United States had difficulty raising money for the pedestal, and many feared that the US would not be able to meet its commitment and the project would be canceled. However, Joseph Pulitzer and others worked to promote a fundraising campaign that attracted donors. He attracted over one hundred and twenty thousand contributors, most who gave less than a dollar. The first poem read at the inaugural fundraiser was Esther Scol's "The New Colossus." In later years, the poem would be inscribed at Liberty Island and its powerful lines about immigration gave a voice to the Statue of Liberty.
The statue was built in France and shipped to the United States in crates. When the statue was completed, it was marked with New York City's first ticker tape parade. Until 1901, the statue was maintained by the United States Lighthouse Board. At that point, the Department of War maintained the building until 1933 when the National Park Service stepped in. In 1924, it was deemed a National Monument. By the early 1980s, the statue was found to have deteriorated significantly since it had been assembled. Between the years of 1984 and 1986, the Statue of Liberty was closed for renovations. Post renovations the statue was closed long-term after the September 11 terrorist attacks due to safety and security. The pedestal was reopened in 2004, and the remained of the statue opened again in 2009.
Lady Liberty was created to mimic Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom. She also holds a tabula ansata, a tablet evoking the law, inscribed with the date, July 4, 1776, the day that the United States declared her independence from Great Britain. The statue's official name is "Liberty Enlightening the World," with her torch representing the most important symbol, enlightenment. The original torch was removed in 1984, and it was replaced with a copper torch covered in 24K gold to reflect the sunlight during the day and is lit by floodlights at night. Though they are not visible from the ground, Lady Liberty's feet are surrounded by broken chains symbolizing "breaking free from tyranny and servitude." Many also believe that the seven spikes on her crown represent the seven seas and seven continents. Lady Liberty faces the southeast, serving as a welcoming face for arriving ships, and a symbol of freedom and liberty to all.
Lazurus, Emma. The New Colossus. Poetry Foundation. Accessed August 02, 2017. https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/46550/the-new-colossus.
Visiting the Statue of Liberty. National Park Service Foundation. Accessed August 02, 2017. https://www.nationalparks.org/explore-parks/statue-liberty-national-monument.