The Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty holding a torch in her right hand.

On October 28, 1886, a 240-foot tall structure originally named “Liberty Enlightening the World” was revealed to an audience on Ellis Island in New York. This was the tallest structure in New York City, and it is still a great symbol in America today.1 Who would have known that a French sculptor and a French scholar would want to commemorate America for being a free nation for 100 years. These two individuals go by the names Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and Edouard-Rene Laboulaye.2  These two men met and created a sketch for the statue and wanted it to be a symbol of a “freedom-loving republic, a government in which power lay in the hands of the people, instead of a king.”3 The statue would also symbolize the alliance between France and America that began during the American War of Independence against Britain. There is a misconception that the statue was built to represent a welcoming icon for immigrants; however, this was not the initial purpose of the statue.4 France built the Statue of Liberty beginning in 1875. It was made out of 450,000 pounds of copper and steel.  It was agreed by both nations that America was to be in charge of the pedestal, which weighed 27,000 tons, for the statue to rest on.5

In the construction of the statue, Bartholdi had used three hundred copper sheets to cover the entire statue. The reason why the statue appears to be green is due to its long exposure to the atmosphere over time. Something interesting is that the features of the statue’s face resemble those of Bartholdi’s mother and the arms resemble those of his wife. The Statue of Liberty is also presented wearing a long robe, which was influenced by ancient Greek and Rome attire. The purpose of this was to serve as a reminder of the ideals of that ancient era.6

“July 4, 1776” is read on Lady Liberty’s tablet held in her left arm.

The statue is carrying a tablet in her left hand with the year “1776” written on it, which is the year that Congress signed the Declaration of Independence. The significance behind this is to serve as a reminder that “all men are created equal.” It also reinforces the idea that if the government fails to abide by the natural rights of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” then the citizens have the right to establish a new government by overthrowing the current one. This tablet also serves as a religious reminder of the Ten Commandments that Moses received when God revealed himself to him on Mount Sinai. The torch that is held in Liberty’s right hand symbolizes the light that the United States carries for the entire world. This suggests that nations should follow America’s political system, according to the French architects. She is also wearing a crown with sun rays beaming from it called a “diadem.”  This refers to the ancient sun god, Helios.7

In 1884, the entire statue was done being constructed in France; however, due to its large size, it was packed into two hundred cases to be transported to New York.8 The place where the statue was assembled was Ellis Island.  The statue is known as the “centerpiece of a magical American place,” since her popularity will grow through being imaged in magazines, newspapers, postcards, among other things.9 One issue with building the statue was the funding for the statue’s pedestal, since the U.S. government was not willing to pay for the construction of it. One way this was done was by fundraising and donations from various contributors, such as Joseph Pulitzer and Emma Lazarus.  Pulitzer published in the New York World newspaper asking for donations for this statue. Lazarus wrote a poem at a fund-raising auction to help the funding of the statue’s pedestal.10

The unveiling of the statue was on a foggy, raining day on October 28, 1886. Millions of people witnessed this revelation and took part in a parade held in Manhattan. The President at the time was Grover Cleveland. He gave a speech at the ceremony about freedom and America’s democracy. However, immigration was not mentioned in this speech. The Statue of Liberty was the first major icon that immigrants would see as they came to America. The Statue of Liberty is an important icon in American history and is still a valued symbol today. The story behind its development and upbringing involved the interaction between France and the U.S. The purpose of the construction of this statue is to recognize America’s political system, its dependence on the ideals of freedom, and how America serves as a symbol of hope and a new start for immigrants.11

  1. Dictionary of American History, 2003, s.v. “Statue of Liberty,” by John Higham.
  2.  UXL Encyclopedia of U.S. History, 2009, s.v. “Statue of Liberty,” by Sonia Benson, Daniel E. Brannen, Jr., and Rebecca Valentine.
  3. James L. Outman, Statue of Liberty In U.S. Immigration and Migration Reference Library (Detroit: UXL, 2004), 364.
  4. James L. Outman, Statue of Liberty In U.S. Immigration and Migration Reference Library (Detroit: UXL, 2004), 364-365.
  5.  Dictionary of American History, 2003, s.v. “Statue of Liberty,” by John Higham.
  6. James L. Outman, Statue of Liberty In U.S. Immigration and Migration Reference Library (Detroit: UXL, 2004), 366-367.
  7. James L. Outman, Statue of Liberty In U.S. Immigration and Migration Reference Library (Detroit: UXL, 2004), 368-369.
  8.  James L. Outman, Statue of Liberty In U.S. Immigration and Migration Reference Library (Detroit: UXL, 2004), 369.
  9.  Dictionary of American History, 2003, s.v. “Statue of Liberty,” by John Higham.
  10. James L. Outman, Statue of Liberty In U.S. Immigration and Migration Reference Library (Detroit: UXL, 2004), 365-370.
  11. James L. Outman, Statue of Liberty In U.S. Immigration and Migration Reference Library (Detroit: UXL, 2004), 370-374.

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This Post Has 90 Comments

  1. This was an interesting article, and enjoyed reading it. Every time I think of the Statue of Liberty, I think of it as just another tourist attraction of the many that New York holds. I remember learning the it was a gift from the french, which was an amazing thing they did. It represents so much for Americans, but it was a gift from France which is ironic.

  2. I loved this article! I remember the summer going into my freshman year of high school, I got to go to New York and see the statue of liberty up close and personal, and I was in complete awe. I know we got briefed before touring the statue, but this article gave me such a better understanding and background that it has me even more excited to see it again!

  3. I really enjoyed this article. I love New York so much that for my 15th birthday I went to New York with my family and visited the Statue of Liberty and actually got to go in her Crown. I did learn about the history and where she came from and I love to hear it again in this article. The author did an amazing job on the description and detail. Coming from France it was such a nice thing and using all those material and money just to send it to us. Even without the tools and resources we have in the U.S to assemble it. Great job on the article I really enjoyed reading it.

  4. I have never had the privilege of seeing the Statue of Liberty in real life just in pictures but I think that the history behind it is really fascinating which is one of the reasons why I liked this article. The part I thought was interesting was how they actually got the statue over here from France but the article actually explains how that was even possible. This was a great article to read and I learned some stuff that I actually didn’t know.

  5. nice article on an interesting topic. some sentences could have been combined so that the story flowed better and read easier but besides that was really interesting/ One question I always had was how did they ship a statue that large over here but now I know! overall good article, glad I read it.

  6. This article vividly detailed the structure and reason for the creation of the Statue of Liberty. But what stood out most to me in the article were to “all men are created equal, and it is also enforcing the idea that if the government fails to abide by the natural rights of life liberty and the pursuit of happiness than the government has a right to establish a new government by overthrowing the current one.

    I also found it quite intriguing the reasoning behind why the Statue of Liberty is dressed in ancient Greek and Roman attire and that it represented the ideals of that ancient era. Another significant point was the Author’s description of the statues features and arms and how the artists use the likeliness of his mother and wife to create the image of the Statue of Liberty.

  7. The Statue of Liberty is a resemblance of democracy and liberty that has held the American government strong. Although I was born here with Latin roots, I consider myself as part of the American history, because my future children and grandchildren will live here as well and I will share the story of my Mexican and Salvadoran family that came to the United States for a better living. I think the importance of the Statue of Liberty is significant, because it reminds us that we should be grateful for the freedom that we have in our country.

  8. I have always wanted to visit the Statue of Liberty so reading this article is great because I get to learn more about a place before I go visit. I was surprised to read that the Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French. I also did not know that it was made from a tremendous amount of copper and steel. This article was very well written with good image selection. Good work.

  9. I believe many Americans don’t know the true story behind the statue of liberty including myself, therefore, I am glad I came across this article. The statue of liberty is a very popular symbol here in the United States. I’ve always wanted to visit New York and while being there I totally want to visit the statue. Overall I enjoyed reading the article as I did learn from it.

  10. Wow, this article is so neat. The statue of liberty gets its fair share of screen time for popular movies, shows, and tours in New York. It is a representation of the United States that most people recognize, and it was not even made by us. France was very nice in using so many resources and time and money just to send it to us. They didnt even have tools that we do to put it together, and that is such a neat topic to write about.

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