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Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty

Liberty Enlightening the World, commonly known as the Statue of Liberty, is a statue, given to the U.S. by France in the late 19th century, that stands at the mouth of the Hudson River in New York Harbor as a welcome to all: returning Americans, visitors, and immigrants alike. The sculptor was Frederic Auguste Bartholdi; Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame) created the armature.

The copper statue of the goddess of Liberty was a present by France, as a centennial gift to the U.S. and a sign of friendship between the two nations. The pedestal was constructed by the United States. The Statue of Liberty is often used as a symbol that personifies the entire nation of the United States, much like Uncle Sam. In a more general sense, the Statue of Liberty is used to represent liberty in general and is a favored symbol of libertarians.



The Statue of Liberty is located on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, about 2000 feet (600 meters) from Jersey City, New Jersey and 1-5/8 statute miles (2.6 kilometers) southwest of the southern tip of Manhattan. (The island was officially called "Bedloe's Island" until 1956, but the name "Liberty Island" has been in popular use since the early 1900s.)

The goddess of liberty holds a torch in her right hand and a tablet in her left. The tablet shows the caption "JULY IV MDCCLXXVI", the date of the Declaration of Independence. One of her feet stands on chains. The seven spikes in her crown represent the seven seas or seven continents.

The height from ground to the tip of the torch is 305 feet (93 meters); this includes the foundation and the pedestal. The height of the statue itself, from the top of the base to the torch, is 151 feet (46 meters).

The statue was built from thin copper plates hammered into wooden forms. The formed plates were then mounted onto a steel skeleton.

Inside the crown of the Statue
Inside the crown of the Statue

The statue is normally open to visitors, who arrive by ferry and can climb up into her crown, which provides a broad view of New York Harbor. A museum in the pedestal—accessible by elevator—presents the history of the statue. At one time, the ladder in the right arm was also open to the public, but it has for many years been restricted to staff use, for maintaining the lighting equipment in the torch.

The statue and island were closed from September 11, 2001 to August 3, 2004 in the aftermath of the destruction of the World Trade Center. During this period, only the grounds of Liberty Island were open again for visitation; the Monument, museum, crown, and all outdoor observation decks were closed.

The "New Colossus" plaque
The "New Colossus" plaque

The Emma Lazarus poem "The New Colossus" was written for the statue, and engraved on a bronze plaque in 1903, 20 years after it was written. The plaque is located on a wall of the museum, which is in the base of the Statue. (It has never been engraved on the monument itself). In its famous culminating lines, Liberty says

"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

Although Liberty Island is closer to New Jersey than to New York, it has been part of New York since the issuance in 1664 of the colonial charter that created New Jersey (see charter text). Portions of nearby Ellis Island that were formed by subsequent landfilling are, under a Supreme Court decision, part of New Jersey, but that decision had no effect on Liberty Island. The island is owned by the federal government and is administered by the National Park Service. (For additional details, see Liberty Island).


French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was commissioned to design a sculpture with the year 1876 in mind for completion, to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. Bartholdi had previously prepared, in 1869 a scale model of a giant statue of a lady holding a torch, for the entry of the recently built Suez Canal. The idea for the commemorative gift grew out of the political turmoil which was shaking France at the time. The French Third Republic was still considered as a "temporary" arrangement by many, who wished a returned to monarchism, or to some form of constitutional dictatorship which they had known under Bonaparte. The idea of giving a colossal representation of republican virtues to a "sister" republic across the sea served as a focus for the republican cause, against other political opponents.

Bartholdi had an authentic American model, it appears: the good-looking, recently widowed Isabella Eugenie Boyer, the wife of Isaac Singer, the sewing-machine industrialist. "She was rid of the uncouth presence of her husband, who had left her with only his most socially desirable attributes: his fortune and... his children. She was, from the beginning of her career in Paris, a well-known figure. As the good-looking French widow of an American industrialist she was called upon to be Bartholdi's model for the Statue of Liberty." (Ruth Brandon, Singer and the Sewing Machine: A Capitalist Romance, p. 211)

It was agreed upon that in a joint effort the American people were to build the pedestal, and the French people were responsible for the Statue and its assembly in the United States. However, lack of funds was a problem on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. In France, public fees, various forms of entertainment, and a lottery were among the methods used to raise the 2,250,000 francs. In the United States, benefit theatrical events, art exhibitions, auctions and prize fights assisted in providing needed funds. Meanwhile in France, Bartholdi required the assistance of an engineer to address structural issues associated with designing such a colossal copper sculpture. Gustave Eiffel (designer of the Eiffel Tower) was commissioned to design the massive iron pylon and secondary skeletal framework which allows the Statue's copper skin to move independently yet stand upright. Eiffel delegated the detailed work to his trusted structural engineer, Maurice Koechlin.

Back in America, the site, authorized in New York harbor by Act of Congress, 1877, was selected by General William Tecumseh Sherman, who settled on Bartholdi's own choice, then known as Bedloe's Island, where there was already an early 19th-century star-shaped fortification.

Fundraising for the pedestal, led by William M. Evarts, was going slowly, so Joseph Pulitzer (noted for the Pulitzer Prize) opened up the editorial pages of his newspaper, The World, to support the fund raising effort. Pulitzer used his newspaper to criticize both the rich who had failed to finance the pedestal construction and the middle class who were content to rely upon the wealthy to provide the funds. Pulitzer's campaign of harsh criticism was successful in motivating the people of America to donate.

Financing for the pedestal, designed by American architect Richard Morris Hunt, was completed in August 1885, the cornerstone was laid on August 5, and pedestal construction was finished in April 22, 1886. When the last stone of the pedestal was swung into place the masons reached into their pockets and showered into the mortar a collection of silver coins.

Built into the pedestal's massive masonry are two sets of four iron girders, connected by iron tie beams that are carried up to become part of Eiffel's framework for the statue itself. Thus Liberty is integral with her pedestal.

The Statue was completed in France in July, 1884 and arrived in New York Harbor on June 17, 1885 on board the French frigate Isere. In transit, the Statue was reduced to 350 individual pieces and packed in 214 crates. (The right arm and the torch, which were completed earlier, had been exhibited at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania in 1876, and thereafter at Madison Square in New York City.) The Statue was re-assembled on her new pedestal in four months' time. On October 28, 1886, the dedication of the Statue of Liberty by U.S. President Grover Cleveland took place in front of thousands of spectators. She was a centennial gift ten years late.

U.S. President Franklin Roosevelt rededicated the Statue of Liberty on its 50th anniversary (October 28, 1936).

In 1984, the Statue of Liberty was added to the UNESCO list of World Heritage Sites.

Extensive renovations were performed before the statue's centennial in 1986, including a new gold layer on the torch, which now shines over New York Harbor at night. The Statue of Liberty was reopened to the public on July 5 after this extensive refurbishing.


On September 11, 2001 the Statue of Liberty was closed to the public due to "upgrading security systems." August 4, 2004, the pedestal was reopened [1], however the statue itself remains closed. Visitors are subject to restrictions, including personal searches via the use of a device that blows air into clothing to test for traces of chemicals that are associated with explosives.

Smaller copies

The Statue of Liberty copy on the river Seine in Paris, France. Given to the city in 1885, it faces west, towards the original Liberty in New York Harbor.
The Statue of Liberty copy on the river Seine in Paris, France. Given to the city in 1885, it faces west, towards the original Liberty in New York Harbor.

A smaller-scale copy of the Statue of Liberty is found in Paris, France, where it stands on an island in the river Seine, looking towards the Atlantic Ocean and hence towards its "larger sister" in New York Harbor.

From 1902 to 2002, visitors to midtown Manhattan were occasionally disoriented by what seemed to be an impossibly nearby view of the statue. They were seeing a 37-foot-high (11 m) replica located at 43 West 64th Street atop the Liberty Warehouse. In February 2002 the statue was removed by the building owners to allow building expansion. As of 2004 it is in storage at the Brooklyn Museum of Art awaiting eventual relocation to the sculpture garden. (See External Links below).

Between 1949 and 1951, approximately two hundred 100-inch (2.54 m) replicas of the statue, made of stamped copper, were purchased by Boy Scout troops and donated to various towns in the United States. The mass-produced statues are not great art nor meticulously accurate (a conservator notes that "her face isn’t as mature as the real Liberty. It’s rounder and more like a little girl’s"), but they are cherished, particularly since 9/11. Many have been lost or destroyed, but preservationists have been able to account for about a hundred of them, and BSA Troop 101 of Cheyenne, Wyoming has collected photographs of over fifty of them (see External Links below).

There is a half-size replica at the New York-New York Hotel & Casino in Las Vegas, Nevada (see photo). A 35-meter copy is found in the German theme park Heidepark Soltau, located on a lake with cruising Mississippi steamboats.

Another replica is the Bordeaux Statue of Liberty. This 2.5-meter (8-foot) statue is found in the city of Bordeaux in Southwest France . The first Bordeaux statue was taken down and melted by the Germans in World War II. The statue was replaced in 2000 and a plaque was added to commemorate the victims of the September 11 terrorist attacks. On the night of March 25, 2003, unknown vandals poured red paint and gasoline on the replica and set it on fire. The vandals also cracked the pedestal of the plaque honoring victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. The mayor of Bordeaux, former prime minister Alain Juppé, condemned the attack. There is another good replica in Northwest of France, in the small town of Barentin near Rouen. It was made for a French movie, Le Cerveau ("the brain"), directed by Gérard Oury and featuring actors Jean-Paul Belmondo and Bourvil.

Bronze sculpture in Met Museum
Bronze sculpture in Met Museum

A bronze sculpture of the Statue of Liberty is on display in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York city.

During the Tiananmen Square protest of 1989, Chinese student demonstrators in Beijing built a 10-meter version of the Statue of Liberty to symbolize their struggle. They called it the Goddess of Democracy.

A small Statue of Liberty is also a well-known symbol of the Amerika-mura (American Village) shopping district in Osaka, Japan.

A 12-meter replica of the Statue of Liberty in Colmar, the city of Bartholdi's birth, was dedicated on July 4, 2004 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of his death. It stands at the north entrance of the city.

The Statue of Liberty in popular culture

During the 1940s and 1950s the iconography of Science Fiction in the United States was filled with images of ancient, decayed Statues of Liberty, set in a far future. The covers of now famous Pulp magazines such as Amazing Stories and Astounding Science Fiction all featured Lady Liberty at one time, surrounded by ruins or by the sediments of the ages, as curious aliens or representatives of advanced or degenerate humans of the future gazed upon her remains.

Perhaps the most famous appearance of the statue in cinema was in the ending of the 1968 film Planet of the Apes, where the statue appears decayed and half-buried in sand, serving as painful, undeniable proof to the film's protagonist, Taylor, that he has been on Earth the whole time. It also appears in the beginning of its first sequel, Beneath the Planet of the Apes and against a dark nighttime backdrop of a futuristic, desolate Manhattan in Escape From New York

In 1978, at University of Wisconsin-Madison, Jim Mallon and Leon Varjian of the "Pail and Shovel Party" won election by promising to give campus issues "the seriousness they deserve." In 1979 (and again in 1980), they created their own version of the Planet of the Apes scene by erecting replicas of the torch and the top of the head on the frozen surface of Lake Mendota, creating a fanciful suggestion that the entire statue was standing on the bottom of the lake.

The Statue of Liberty was animated and walked through New York City in the film Ghostbusters II (1989). In the film Independence Day (1996) it was destroyed. This statue is also the stage for the climax in the films Saboteur (1942) and X-Men (2000). Much of the advertising for the film The Day After Tomorrow (2004) used an image of the Statue of Liberty nearly buried in snow and ice, after a gigantic tidal wave and catastrophic climate change. She and her renovation scaffolding were also featured in Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985) as the setting for a fight scene.

The first level of the video game Deus Ex takes place on Liberty Island and inside the statue; in the game's backstory, the statue's head has been destroyed by terrorists. In the sequel Deus Ex: Invisible War, the last level is again at the statue, which has been re-erected as a light sculpture.

In the computer game Red Alert 2 , the destruction of the Statue of Liberty is seen twice, once during the first allied mission and once during the introduction, though both scenes depict the same event from different perspectives.

On April 8, 1983, CBS broadcast a program, the fifth of a series featuring illusionist David Copperfield, in which he made the statue apparently vanish. The effect took place at night. The program showed the statue from the point of view of an audience seated on a ground-level platform, viewing the statue through a proscenium arch. According to William Poundstone, the illusion involved closing curtains fitted in the arch; turning off the statue's floodlights; and slowly rotating the platform on which the audience was sitting. In a literal example of misdirection, the now dim, but not quite invisible statue, was no longer aligned with the arch. Thus, when the curtains were opened, the arch now framed darkness. Televised views from a helicopter showing the statue's "disappearance" were, according to Poundstone, views of a duplicate ring of lights, surrounding empty ground, that had been installed on Liberty Island for the illusion.

The Statue of Liberty has appeared on a fake $1,000,000 (million) dollar bill. (see [2] and [3].)

The Statue is also often the first image used during the opening credits of the popular sketch-comedy show Saturday Night Live which proudly brodcasts its performance each week live from New York City. In fact, during the 1984-85 and 1985-86 seasons, an image of the statue surrounded in scaffolding was used during the credits to commemorate the renovations being done to the statue during that time.

List of movie appearances

This is a list of movies the statue has appeared in:

Year Movie Appearance
1942 Saboteur
1968 Planet of the Apes
1968 Beneath the Planet of the Apes
1981 Escape From New York
1985 Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins
1986 An American Tail Under construction but was seen finished in the end
1989 Ghostbusters II Brought to life to rally positive support from New Yorkers
1995 Batman Forever It says Gotham in the crown. It's head is damaged by the helicopter
1996 Independence Day
1998 Deep Impact Destroyed when wave reaches New York City
2000 X-Men
2001 A.I.
2002 Men In Black 2 Agent Kay pushes a button and the torch of the Statue of Liberty neuralizes the whole New York.
2004 The Day After Tomorrow Multiple scenes: when New York City is flooded; after freezing over (seen here); when the survivors are being picked up
2004 Around The World In 80 Days Under construction
2004 National Treasure Brief view in an intro shot of New York City
2004 Taxi Seen in intro
2004 Team America: World Police In the end of the scene taking place in New York City.

See also

External links

Some resources in French

The Liberty Warehouse replica in New York

The Boy Scouts of America replicas

Other links


  • Holdstcok., Robert. editor Encyclopedia of Science Fiction. Londo: Octopus books, 1978.
  • Poundstone, William (1986), Bigger Secrets, Boston, Houghton Mifflin, ISBN 039538477X: Description of Copperfield illusion.
  • Vidal, Pierre. Frédéric-Auguste bartholdi 1834-1904: Par la Main, par l'Esprit. Paris: Les créations du pélican, 2000.

Last updated: 10-16-2005 03:03:45
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