History of the Statue of Liberty
The iconic statue of a robed woman holding a torch in an outstretched arm was a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States. It was meant to commemorate the friendship between the two countries and also mark the 100-year anniversary of American Independence (although it arrived almost a decade late due to fundraising and other difficulties).
The statue was manufactured in Paris, France, and then disassembled into 350 pieces and transported by sea to New York. It arrived in 1885 and was reassembled over 4 months after the pedestal was complete.
The people of France donated the funds for the statue. The Americans agreed to build the pedestal, mostly with money raised by newspaper publisher John Pulitzer. On October 28, 1886, it was formally dedicated by President Grover Cleveland.
The statue, designed by Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi is made of a copper skin on the exterior and is supported by iron framework on the interior. To create the copper surface that the statue is made of, Bartholdi hammered out each piece of copper to 3/32 of an inch in thickness.
The iron framework designed by Gustave Eiffel (co-designer of the Eiffel tower) supports the copper exterior.
The statue is very symbolic. Her right hand holding a torch signifies the enlightenment of the world. The seven rays on her crown represent the seven seas and the seven continents. The chains lying at her feet symbolize her escape from tyranny.
The inscription on the tablet she holds in her left hand reads JULY IV MDCCLXXVI (July 4, 1776 in Roman numerals), the date the United States declared independence.
The statue faces southeast, visible to the over 12 million immigrants who sailed past the statue on their way to Ellis Island between 1892 and 1924.
American poet Emma Lazarus wrote a sonnet in 1883 called "The New Colossus". The poem is inscribed on a bronze plaque and placed on the inner walls of the statue's pedestal. It reads:
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 the 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-tost, to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!