Statue of Liberty History
"La Liberté Éclairant le Monde" or "Liberty Enlightening the World" is the official name given to the Statue the Liberty by sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and is a symbol of freedom to the entire world. In recognition of the friendship established during the American Revolution, French statesman and writer Edouard de Laboulaye proposed presenting a monument to America as a gift from the people of France. The statue was a joint effort between the two countries - Americans would build the pedestal and the French would build the statue - in honor of the centennial of the Declaration of Independence.
Bartholdi was commissioned to design the sculpture, which he modeled after his mother, Charlotte. Gustave Eiffel, who would later design the Eiffel Tower, designed Lady Liberty’s skeleton - four huge iron columns that support a metal framework holding the thin copper skin. Bartholdi chose copper because it was attractive, yet durable enough to withstand the long voyage, and virtually impervious to the salt-laden air of the New York Harbor. Bartholdi began by creating the statue’s right arm and torch, which were exhibited at Philadelphia’s Centennial Exposition in 1876. In 1877, the 42-foot-high sculpture was placed in Madison Square Park at Madison Avenue and 23rd Street to raise funds for the construction of the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal. The arm and torch remained in the park for seven years.
In France, the completed head and shoulders of the statue were publicly displayed to encourage donations. Various forms of entertainment and lotteries were among the many methods used to raise money. In the United States, in addition to the right arm and torch being displayed to inspire generosity, the American Committee for the statue solicited contributions, and used art and theater benefits, auctions, and prize fights to help fund the project. But it was the efforts of politician and newspaperman Joseph Pulitzer (of the Pulitzer Prize) that generated the most money; Pulitzer used his newspaper, “The World,” to criticize the wealthy, who had not stepped up to the plate to assist in financing the pedestal construction, as well as the middle class, who relied upon the wealthy. His tactic worked and Americans were moved to donate more than $100,000. The financing of the pedestal was completed in August 1885 and construction was finished in April 1886.
Meanwhile, the Statue was completed in France in July 1884 and arrived in New York in June of 1885 in over 300 pieces, packed in 214 crates. The re-assembly took four months and the Statue was placed upon a granite pedestal on Bedloe’s Island, renamed Liberty Island in 1956. On October 28th, 1886, a decade after the centennial, President Grover Cleveland unveiled and dedicated the Statue of Liberty to thousands of spectators. In 1903, Emma Lazarus’ poem “The New Colossus” - "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…" -
was inscribed on a bronze tablet laid in the statue’s pedestal.