The Statue of Liberty was originally called "Liberty Enlightening the World." It is also called "Lady Liberty" and "Liberty Statue." She has always been a symbol of welcome and a promise of freedom for immigrants entering the United States.
This colossal statue stands on Liberty Island, in the New York Harbor.
The statue symbolizes liberty in the form of a woman wearing flowing robes and a spiked crown of seven spokes, (symbolizing the seven oceans and the seven continents).
She holds a torch aloft in her right hand. Once made of glass and metal, it has been replaced with gilded copper.
In her left hand, she carries a book of law with the inscription, "July 4, 1776."
The broken chains that lie at her feet, symbolize the overthrow of tyranny.
The statue is formed of copper sheets riveted to an iron framework.
There are 167 steps from the land level to the top of the pedestal, 168 steps inside the statue to the head, and 54 rungs on the ladder leading to the arm that holds the torch ... the equivalent of climbing a 22-story building.
The Statue of Liberty can trace its unlikely origins to a pair of Parisian Republicans. In 1865, political activist Edouard René Lefebvre de Laboulaye and sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi went to a dinner party and conceived the idea of France giving the United States a monument for its Centennial of 1876 to commemorate the American Revolution.
In 1871, Bartholdi visited America to seek inspiration and support. Before his ship docked in New York Harbor, he had finished his first sketches for a colossal statue and had chosen Bedloe's Island as its site. (Bedloe Island was later renamed Liberty Island). Although most Americans (including President Grant) did not share his enthusiasm for the project, Bartholdi returned to France undaunted.
The Statue was a joint effort between America and France and it was agreed upon that the American people were to build the pedestal, and the French people were responsible for the Statue and its assembly here 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 funds.
Back in America, fund raising for the pedestal was going particularly 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.
Construction began in late 1875. Bartholdi's major innovation was to build a shell of thin copper plates around a sturdy steel frame for the 151-foot, 225-ton statue that would have to be shipped and reassembled across the Atlantic. Bartholdi's team hand-worked 300 sheets of copper for the shell. The inner framework was supervised by Alexandre Gustav Eiffel, who would later build Paris' great Tower.
The Statue was completed in France on May 21, 1884 and was formally presented to the United States on July 4, 1884.
It arrived in New York Harbor in June of 1885 on board the French frigate, "Isere." In transit, the Statue was reduced to 350 individual pieces and packed in 214 crates. The Statue was re-assembled on her new pedestal in four months time.
On October 28th 1886, the "Liberty Enlightening the World," modeled on the Colossus of Rhodes, was finally unveiled in New York Harbor before President Grover Cleveland, thousands of spectators, and a harbor full of tooting ships. She was a centennial gift ten years late.
The Statue of Liberty was designated a National Monument on October 15, 1924.
Nearby Ellis Island was incorporated as part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument on May 11, 1965.
Between 1892 and 1954, approximately 12 million steerage and third class steamship passengers who entered the United States through the port of New York were legally and medically inspected at Ellis Island.
Reopened on September 10, 1990 after a massive restoration, the Main Building on Ellis Island is now a museum dedicated to the history of immigration and the important role this island claimed during the mass migration of humanity in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
"Lady Liberty" stands on a 151-feet tall pedestal that was built in the United States. The sonnet, "The New Colossus," was inscribed on it in 1903. It was written by an immigrant poet, Emma Lazarus, in 1883. The sonnet has come to stand for the hope of all who have journeyed to America to find a better life.
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch,
Whose flame is imprisoned lightning,
And her name Mother of Exiles.
From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome;
Her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor
That twin cities frame,
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!"
Cries she with silent lips.
"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-post to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"