A gift of friendship from the French to the American people, the statue was a celebration of a century of independence. The brainchild of French politician Edouard-RenE Lefebvre de Laboulaye, it has become a potent symbol of freedom and democracy since it was unveiled by US president Grover Cleveland on October 28, 1886. Its spirit is encapsulated in a line from the sonnet engraved on its base: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” After years of wear and tear, the statue needed restoration — it was given an expensive facelift in time for its 100th anniversary in 1986.
Building the Lady
In his Parisian workshop, the sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi began by creating four scale models, the largest at one-fourth the actual size. This was divided into 300 plaster sections, and each section was then enlarged to full size. A mold of laminated wood was made from each of these sections, and sheets of copper were pounded into the molds to a thickness of just 0.1 inch (2.5 mm). In all, 350 sheets were connected with 2-inch (50-mm) wide iron straps. The straps acted like springs, which allowed the surface to flex in high winds or extremes of temperature. The statue arrived in New York packed in more than 200 crates and was attached to the frame using an estimated 300,000 copper rivets.
Although the French contributed to the cost of the statue, early on in the plan it was decided that funds for the pedestal would come from the US. Since fundraising was going slowly, the media baron Joseph Pulitzer used the editorial clout of his newspaper, The World, to criticize the wealthy for withholding their financial support and the middle class for relying on the wealthy. He pointed out that the statue was a gift to the entire US and attacked those who were not supporting it on the grounds that it was a New York project. Soon, the whole nation was involved, and the funds were raised.
The Statue of Liberty Museum is located in the base of the structure. The Torch Exhibit in the lobby holds the original 1886 torch. The Statue of Liberty Exhibit, on the pedestal’s second level, is a biography of Lady Liberty and an examination of the ideals for which she stands. Seven displays, featuring artifacts, photographs, videos, and oral histories, focus on her history. Another area has sections on her symbolism, exploring ideas such as “Mother of Exiles” and “The Statue in Popular Culture.” There is also a display of full-scale models of Liberty’s face and left foot (a model figure).
A bronze plaque bearing the text of Emma Lazarus’s famous sonnet, The New Colossus, was added to the pedestal in the early 1900s.
With a height of 305ft (93 m) from ground to torch, the Statue of Liberty dominates the harbor.
Original 1886 Torch
This now stands in the main lobby.
The statue’s base is set within the walls of an army fort. At the time, it was the largest concrete mass ever poured..
This anchors the 225-ton statue to its base.
The torch is a 1986 replacement for the original, which became corroded over the years. The replica’s flame is coated in 24-carat gold leaf.
Face of Liberty
The sculptor’s mother was the model for Liberty’s face. The seven rays of her crown represent the seven seas and seven continents.
This was designed by the great engineer Gustave Eiffel, who realized that the copper shell would react to the iron frame and so put a barrier between them.
These lead from the entrance to the top.
Statue of Liberty Museum
Posters featuring the statue are among the items on display here.
Statue of liberty National Monument
The statue sits on a 12-acre (5-ha) island at the entrance to New York’s harbor. For more than 120 years, it has welcomed the millions of immigrants to the US who have arrived by sea.
Ferries to Liberty Island
Ferries cross New York’s harbor to Liberty Island, which was originally known as Bedloe’s Island.
On July 4, 1986, after a $100 million clean-up, the statue was unveiled. The $2 million fireworks display was the largest ever seen in America.
A Model Figure
A series of graduated scale models en abled Bartholdi to build the largest metal statue ever constructed.
Making the Hand
To create the copper shell, the hand was first made in plaster, then in wood.
From Her Toes to Her Torch
Three hundred molded copper sheets riveted together make up Lady liberty.
Frederic Auguste Bartholdi
“Liberty Enlightening the World,” more commonly known as the Statue of Liberty, was intended by its designer, the French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, as a monument to the freedom he thought was lacking in his own country. He said, “I will try to glorify the Republic and Liberty over there, in the hope that some day I will find it again here.” He devoted 21 years of his life to the project, traveling to the US in 1871 to persuade President Ulysses S. Grant and others to help fund the statue’s pedestal.
French engineer Gustave Eiffel, creator of Paris’s Eiffel Tower, was commissioned to solve the problems of building a large hollow statue that could withstand the forces of wind and weather. His solution was an internal, diagonally braced frame of 1,350 ribs and verticals. This, and his use of steel posts, were seen as structural innovations.
1865: Bartholdi has the idea of building a tribute to Liberty in America.
1876: Bartholdi is given the commission to create the Statue of Liberty.
1886: The Statue of Liberty is dedicated; Bartholdi himself unveils the face.
1986: The Statue of Liberty is reopened after extensive restoration.