The very mention of the United States of America conjures up the image of the magnificent Statue of Liberty surrounded by the blue waters of the New York Bay. Symbolic of the values of liberty and equality, the statue has stood solidly on Liberty Island against the onslaughts of time since 1886. A vacation in New York City is incomplete without a tete-a-tete with Lady Liberty. The Statue of Liberty, formerly known as the Liberty Enlightening the World, is modeled after Libertas, the Goddess of Freedom in Roman mythology. This landmark creation on the Liberty Island that is maintained by the National Park Service epitomizes deep ties of friendship between France and the USA.
Statue of Liberty – Origins
The Statue of Liberty holds the best testimony of the Franco-American diplomatic alliance since the 1770s. It was Édouard Laboulaye, the poet and the anti-slavery activist who came up with the idea of gifting the newfound American Republic with a symbol of the shared goal of democracy. For Laboulaye, this act was significant as he conceived it with the intent to inspire France to fight against its oppressive monarch Napolean III and abolish slavery in its colonies. It is fascinating to note how the lady stands amongst broken shackles that represent the abolishment of slavery, and how her right foot raises to symbolize progress.
Laboulaye collaborated with the French sculptor, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, and designer, Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, to give a concrete shape to his dream monument. Bartholdi created the entire design of the lady, raising the torch and modeled her face after his mother, Charlotte. The world-renowned designer of the Eiffel Tower created the skeletal structure. There are two dimensions when it comes to the height of the statue. When measured from head to toe, the Statue of Liberty stands 34 meters (111 feet), but when measured from the tip of the torch to the pedestal, the height changes to 93 meters (305 feet). The lady holds a gold torch and wears a crown with seven points representing seven continents and seas. Visiting Liberty Island, preserved by the National Park Service, is a rewarding experience amongst all the other sightseeing activities in New York City.
Assembly and Dedication
The Liberty Island that hosts the gigantic statue is strategically located in the boroughs of New York City and overlooks New Jersey. It was in 1877 that Bedloe’s Island, now known as the Liberty Island, was officially recognized to be the site for the statue by President Ulysses S. Grant. The Liberty Island, along with Ellis Island, got listed in 1966 on the National Register of Historic Places thereby, becoming a part of history.
This statue is a joint venture between France and the United States, wherein the French took the onus of building the monument while the Americans were in charge of its installation on the pedestal. The construction of the Statue of Liberty began in France in 1876 and the completed part of the statue’s hand holding the torch is displayed on May 18th for the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. The dissembled parts of the figure were shipped in some 200 odd crates from France to New York City in 1885.
The next four months went by in assembling the statue and mounting it on the pedestal. During this time, the United States faced a crisis that halted the work on the foundation. This entire episode is an essential chapter in the timeline of the statue’s history. Herein, stepped the famous publisher Joseph Pulitzer from the New York City for launching a six-month fund-raiser campaign raising 100,000 dollars. On 23rd October 1886, the Statue of Liberty was declared complete. Since then, this magnanimous statue stands as a symbol of unity, for it brought together people across the countries and continents.
The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island
Ellis Island holds a significant space in the history of immigration in the United States. The daunting installation of the statue was successfully done by the immigrants who traveled from various corners of Europe to have a safe haven in the newfound democratic republic. This island served as an immigration station for more than 60 years since 1892. Ellis Island hosts the famous Museum of Immigration, where you encounter a fascinating chapter in America’s diverse culture and populace.
As a part of the itinerary to visit the Statue of Liberty, you might as well spend some time in exploring the historical museum and hospital in the Ellis Island, both maintained by the National Park Service. You can either book a private tour of Ellis Island or a combo tour of both the islands. You can also opt for the audio tours available in major languages to appreciate the significance of the place. There are plenty of registered cruises that offer tours of both the islands. The guided tours of these two islands take almost half a day and are worth your visit to New York City.
The Statue of Liberty over the past years
Since the installation in 1886, the Statue of Liberty has silently borne witness to the changing times, yet continually inspiring the visitors with the spirit of liberty and equal opportunity. Over some time, a lot of modern touches have been added to the monument to make it more accessible to visitors. A double cast-iron staircase added inside the statue in 1988 was further replaced by Otis elevators in 1907. In the same year as 1907, the statue’s skin underwent considerable repairs. Viewed from a distance, Lady Liberty seems to be wearing a light green robe, which was not the original color but oxidized version of the copper skin.
The base of the statue bears the famous sonnet by Emma Lazarus, popularly known as “The New Colossus”. Engraved in 1903, each line of the sonnet is poignant in the way it welcomes everyone and more significantly lighting a ray of hope in every immigrant’s heart since time immemorial. Almost thirty-eight years after the installation, the Statue of Liberty was officially announced by President Calvin Coolidge as the National Monument of the United States of America. Finally, in 1984, UNESCO listed it as a World Heritage Site.