A Symbol of Friendship
Located on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, the statue commemorates the friendship between the United States and France that began during the American Revolution. Her official name is “Liberty Enlightening the World.”
The statue – also known as “Lady Liberty” – has many symbolic features. Her torch represents liberty. In Roman numbers, her tablet reads “July 4, 1776,” America’s independence day.
Her crown has 25 windows, recognizing the gemstones found on the earth and the heaven’s rays shining over the world. The rays of her crown symbolize the seven continents and seven seas. At her feet are chains, representing the tyranny of colonial rule from which America escaped.
Building the Statue
In 1876 French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi began designing the statue. Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the designer of the Eiffel Tower, worked with him. While Bartholdi developed the look of the statue, Eiffel worked on the framework. Bartholdi made the statue out of copper sheets, and Eiffel made the framework of steel. In July 1884, the statue was completed in France.
Richard Morris Hunt, designer of New York City’s first apartment building, designed the pedestal. The construction of the pedestal was completed in April 1886.
In addition to the architectural challenges of building the statue and pedestal, both countries faced challenges in getting money for the project. The French charged public fees, held fundraising events, and used money from a lottery to finance the statue.
In America, boxing matches, plays, art exhibitions, and auctions were used to raise money with limited success. Joseph Pulitzer, founder of the Pulitzer Prize, was able to more successfully motivate Americans with critical editorials in his newspaper, The World, and financing was completed in 1885.
On June 19, 1885, the French ship Isere arrived in New York Harbor with the Statue of Liberty. The statue was divided into 350 pieces held in 214 crates during the shipment. Over the next four months, a group of workers re-assembled Lady Liberty on the pedestal at Fort Wood on Bedloe Island, as Liberty Island was then known.
Thousands of people came to Fort Wood on October 28, 1886, as President Grover Cleveland officially accepted the statue.
Events in Statue History
In 1924, the statue became a national monument. Bedloe’s Island, home to Fort Wood and the statue, was renamed Liberty Island in 1956. That same year Ellis Island was included with Liberty Island to make up the Statue of Liberty National Monument. As the Lady Liberty’s 100th birthday neared, the country began working to restore the monument.
Starting in 1982, $87 million was raised for the restoration. When statue’s restoration began in 1984, the United Nations named it a World Heritage Site. The statue was re-opened on July 5, 1986, for her centennial celebration.
Visitors have not been able to enter the Statue of Liberty since September 11, 2001, but the island remains open. A fundraising drive is currently underway to make the necessary security and safety upgrades to re-open the statue itself.
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Statue of Liberty – New Jersey