The “New Colossus” The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States and is a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886, designated as a National Monument in 1924 and restored for her centennial on July 4, 1986.

The New Colossus
Famous Poem by
Emma Lazarus in 1883
statue dedicated in 1886

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!”

A Short Story “Coming to America”

Just to add my own personal story, one that I am very proud of;

I remember seeing the Statue of Liberty when my parents, my brother and I came to America from Germany on April 30, 1958, on a ship called the “SS Berlin”. We arrived in New York in the late afternoon and I remember standing on the pier looking back at the statue which appeared smaller than when we first passed it, just a few hours earlier. I also remember taking a taxi to our first residence in Manhattan in a neighborhood I learned later was called “The Bowery”. It was a small apartment that our sponsors, The Lutheran Church of America” had procured for us.

The Bowery in 1958 was not as it is today. There was widespread and open use of alcohol in that neighborhood and I remember having to step over a man who was sleeping it off on the steps of the door to our building. …a bit scary for a child not even 9 years old. My parents worked day and night for 4 months to get us out of there and into a better apartment.

What I remember of the day we came to America is that I was really scared being in a different country and not speaking any English.  By the time I started school, however, I already knew some sentences which made it easier for me to make friends. Just 5 years later, I am proud to say we became Americans when we received our citizenship in 1963

Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was a French sculptor born in Alsace. He created many monumental sculptures, his most famous work was the Statue of Liberty. The statue is constructed of copper sheets which are assembled on a framework of steel supports designed by Eugene-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel. For transit to America, the figure was disassembled into 350 pieces and packed in 214 crates. Four months later, it was reassembled on Bedloe’s Island (renamed Liberty Island in 1956). On October 28, 1886, President Grover Cleveland dedicated the Statue of Liberty before thousands of spectators. Since the 1892 opening of nearby Ellis Island Immigration Station, Bartholdi’s Liberty has welcomed more than 12,000,000 immigrants to America. Emma Lazarus’s famous lines engraved on the statue’s pedestal are linked to our conception of the statue Americans call “Lady Liberty”:

Frederic Bartholdi’s design patent for the Statue of Liberty

In 1865 a young French sculptor named Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi went to a banquet near the town of Versailles, where he struck up a conversation with Edouard de Laboulaye, a prominent historian. De Laboulaye, a great admirer of the United States, observed that the country’s centennial was approaching in 1876. He thought it would be a good idea for France to present America with a gift to commemorate the occasion. Bartholdi proposed a giant statue of some kind and thought about it for the next six years. 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. In the United States, benefit theatrical events, art exhibitions, auctions and prize fights assisted in providing needed funds.

Bartholdi went back to work. He founded a group called the Franco-American Union, comprised of French and American supporters, to help raise money for the statue. He also recruited Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, soon to become famous for the Eiffel Tower, to design the steel and iron framework to hold the statue up.

In the United States, things were harder. There was some enthusiasm, but not as much as in France. It was, after all, a French statue  and not everyone was sure the country needed a French statue, even for free. The U.S. Congress did vote unanimously to accept the gift from France, but it didn’t provide any funding for the pedestal, and neither did the city of New York. Neither did the state.

By now, the Statue of Liberty’s right hand and torch were finished, so Bartholdi shipped it to the Philadelphia Centennial Exhibition and had it put on display. For a fee of 50¢, visitors could climb a 30-foot steel ladder up the side of the hand and stand on the balcony surrounding the torch. Two years later the statue’s head was displayed in a similar fashion in Paris, giving people a chance to climb up into the head and peek out from the windows in the crown. But while events like these generated a lot of enthusiasm, they didn’t raise as much money as Bartholdi hoped for.

In 1883 the U.S. Congress voted down a fresh attempt to provide $100,000 toward the cost of the pedestal; the vote so outraged Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World, that he launched a campaign in the pages of his newspaper to raise the money.

“The Bartholdi statue will soon be on its way to enlighten the world,” he told his readers, “more appropriate would be the gift of a statue of parsimony than a statue of liberty, if this is the appreciation we show of a friendly nation’s sentiment and generosity.” After two months of non-stop haranguing, he managed to raise exactly $135.75 of the $200,000 needed to build the pedestal.

By now the centennial was only two years away. It was obvious that the huge statue couldn’t be designed, financed, built, shipped, and installed on Bedloe’s Island in time for the big celebration. But Bartholdi kept going anyway.

Raising the $400,000 he estimated was needed to build the statue in France wasn’t easy. Work stopped frequently when cash ran out, and Bartholdi and his craftspeople missed deadline after deadline. Then in 1880 the Franco-American Union came up with the idea of holding a “Liberty” lottery to raise funds. That did the trick.

NOTHING TO STAND ON

In June of 1884, work on the statue itself was finished. Bartholdi had erected it in a courtyard next to his studio in Paris. The original plan had been to dismantle it as soon as it was completed, pack it into shipping crates, and send it to the United States, where it would be installed atop the pedestal on Bedloe’s Island, but the pedestal wasn’t even close to being finished. So Bartholdi left the statue standing in the courtyard.Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

Construction of Statue

COMING TO AMERICA By 1871, Bartholdi had most of the details worked out in his mind. The American monument would be a colossal statue of a woman called “Liberty Enlightening the World.” It would be paid for by the French people, and the pedestal that it stood on would be financed and built by the Americans.

Did you know?

the Statue of Liberty was built to withstand hurricane-force winds with copper skin less than two pennies thick? And that’s not all you may not know about this American icon.

It is alledged that Miss Liberty of Statue-of-Liberty fame wasn’t always imagined as the scowling, linebacker-throated Midwestern matron of steely spiky Germanic stock that she is today. She was supposed to look like an Arab peasant, robed in the folds of Muslim precepts. She wasn’t even supposed to be eternally standing at the entrance of New York Harbor, welcoming new arrivals to the New World. She was supposed to be the welcome ma’am at the entrance of the Suez Canal in Egypt, that her name was supposed to be either Egypt or Progress, and that the flame she was brandishing was to symbolize the light she was bringing to Asia, which had claims to newness all its own.

Illustration from U.S. Patent D11023, Filed Jan 2, 1870 by Bartholdi

Lighting the Way to Asia

All this from the imaginative scruffles of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the Alsatian-French sculptor who’d fallen in love with his own Orientalist fantasies about the Middle East after a trip to Egypt’s Luxor spreads in 1855. He liked Egypt’s colossal sculptures, those “granite beings of imperturpable majesty” with their eyes seemingly “fixed on the limitless future.” He liked just as much the then-fashionable notions of Europeans thinking themselves the “Orient”‘s best thing since unsliced baklava. Bartholdi returned to Egypt in 1869 with the blueprints for a toga-draped giant of a woman who’d double-up as a lighthouse at the entrance of the Suez Canal, which opened that year to fanfare and (British and French) stockholders’ delight.

The Suez Canal may have been in Egypt. But Egypt wasn’t reaping its monetary benefits. The American Civil War had done wonders for Egyptian wealth thanks to the blockade of Southern cotton, which turned Egyptian cotton into gold. But the price of cotton crashed after the Civil War and so did Egypt’s economy. Suez revenue could have picked up the slack. Instead, it went into the pockets of European investors (until Egypt’s Gama Abdel Nasser nationalized the waterway in 1956, to the disingenuous fury of France and Britain).

From Lady Egypt to Lady Liberty

As Bartholdi was sketching one likeness of his great statue after another, it became apparent that his plan would never get Egypt’s financing. Bartholdi was crushed. He sailed to New York. And there, as his ship was entering New York Harbor, he saw Bedloe’s Island, deserted, oval-shaped, perfectly positioned to bear his creation. She wouldn’t be Egypt. But she’d still be Barthold’s. He worked out an arrangement with Gustav Eiffel to build the statue in 350 pieces in Paris, for the French government to pay for the statue (that was back when French and Americans had more respect than reproach for each other), and with American donors to pay for the 89-foot pedestal. Bartholdi’s goal was to have the dedication coincide with the centennial of the American Revolution, somewhere around July 4, 1876.

It happened a bit later, on Oct. 28, 1886, with a military, naval and civic parade in Manhattan, ending at the Battery at the tip of the island, with Gen. Charles P. Stone, who as the statue’s American engineer, was essentially its midwife, was the parade’s grand marshal. She was no longer an Egyptian woman. She was “Liberty Enlightening the World.”

New York Inaugurates Liberty

The weather did not cooperate. The rain was so bad that a New York Times editorioal called it “almost a national misfortune” that “robbed the pageant of much of its effect.” Not that U.S. President Grover Cleveland was going to miss a chance to make himself slightly immortal by association with Lady Liberty as he accepted “this grand and imposing work of art,” though in words of granite neither grand nor imposing: “This token of the affection and consideration of the people of France assures us that in our efforts to commend to mankind a government resting upon popular will, we still have beyond the American continent a steadfast ally, while it also demonstrates the kinship of the republic.” At that point the historical record notes that there were loud cheers, not least those wondering who wrote that stuff.

But Cleveland got a bit more colorful in his next salvo: “We are not here today to bow before the representative of a fierce and warlike god, filled with wrath and vengeance, but instead, we contemplate our own peaceful deity keeping watch before the open gates of America.” Well, the battleship Tennessee’s warlike batteries, which had just boomed, notwithstanding. “Instead of grasping in her hands the thunderbolts of terror and of death, she holds aloft the light that illumines the way to man’s enfranchisement.”  Liberty’s light, he concluded, “shall pierce the darkness of ignorance and men’s oppression until liberty shall enlighten the world.”

One last irony: Bedloe’s Island was not officially renamed until many years later, when it became Liberty Island. The year? 1956.

The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island can be seen from the Lower Manhattan Tour given by FREE TOURS BY FOOT!

Read More on the Suez Canal, Where Lady liberty Was Originally to Stand

Bedloe’s Island  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liberty_Island

Wiki Link  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statue_of_Liberty

the National Park Service  http://www.nps.gov/stli/index.htm

PBS Timeline  http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/statueofliberty/timeline/

Link to Canal http://middleeast.about.com/od/middleeast101/a/statue-of-liberty-egypt.htm

 

 

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17 Responses to “History on The Statue of Liberty”

  1. Aside from being one of the largest statue in the whole world, parallel of its size it the story behind the creation of it. It symbolizes true freedom and democracy to the American people. How great that through it it was declared an independence for them. Hail to America! Liberty!
    Gayleen TRAVIS recently posted..MLSP

  2. Great research! Your story is really very interesting i was impressed.

  3. I never made it out there when i was in NY but this would make me want to – great post!

    • I lived in NYC and left there in 1970 and had not been to the top of the Statue of Liberty. I will be going to NYC end of this month but only for a week so it does not give me the time to visit the Statue, but I do know I will be going on the walking tour and the ferry that will bring me closer to the Statue. It takes a whole day to visit her. Hopefully you will get a chance to go to NYC.

  4. I love NYC and this post was a great way to relive trips to this city! The Statue of Liberty is an amazing structure. I was lucky to climb all the way up once :)

    I also love walking tours in the city and will check into this company. Have you looked into the Revolutionary War walking tour? It isn’t free but I highly recommend it.

    To me, the best part of this post was your personal experience. I can not imagine what it was like sailing into your new country! Thanks for sharing this story with us all.

    • Thank you so much for your comment. I have to say I never did climb to the top but one day when I get the chance I would like to. At the young age, coming to this new country made a great impact on me that I will never forget. The walking tour company not only has free tours but also private tours can be scheduled as well. I have written about the company on here and will be adding more info on the “Free Walking Tours” I will look into the Revolutionary War tour. Thanks for the info on that also.;;:)

  5. This is such a terrific story and the personal story wrapped in the middle shows the initial warmth of the Lady Liberty was sill warm then. Nice

    Eileen

    • Thank you Eileen..yes, it is a part of my life that I shall never forget. It definitely made an impact in my life and see the Statue of Liberty that I only heard about is an awesome site!

  6. Wow! You really did your research. I should know these things!

    • Thank you for your comment. It was interesting to find. I had no idea what the beginning was for our Lady.

  7. I didn’t realize how little I knew about the Statue of Liberty until reading this, very interesting.

    • Thank you…Same here..It is amazing what you can find out. I only knew that she stands for freedom and that is what everyone else knew..this Lady has a background…:)

  8. Touching personal experience and very interesting historical background.

    • Thank you Inka..you never know what you can uncover when you start to look into the history..and I was amazed!

  9. Wow, this is impressive! Thanks for sharing your story but I had no idea all the details behind the Statue of Liberty! Love the old photos of it being assembled as well. Those are awesome!

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