STATUE OF LIBERTY





SYMBOL OF FREEDOM

"How many dawns, chill from his rippling rest

The seagull's wings shall dip and pivot him,

Shedding white rings of tumult, building high

Over the chained bay waters Liberty. . ." 

 --from Hart Crane's To Brooklyn Bridge


The STATUE OF LIBERTY, an international symbol of freedom, is on Liberty Island at the East River overlooking New York Harbor.  To commemorate the centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the statue was presented to the United States by France.  The statue was conceived by Frenchman Edouard Rene de Laboulaye and built in pieces.  Its right arm holding the torch was first exhibited at Philadelphia’s Centennial Exhibition in 1876 and then displayed at New York City’s Madison Square Garden in 1877.  Unveiled in October 1886, the Statue was first known as “Liberty Enlightening the World.”  Both the statue’s sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, and its engineer, Gustave Eiffel (who designed the framework and was also the designer of Paris’ Eiffel Tower) were French.  Bartholdi’s used his mother as a model for the Statue. Lady Liberty’s crown has seven rays which represent the seven continents and seven seas.  The statue’s base was designed by the American architect, Richard Morris Hunt (1828 – 1895), who is also known for his design of the façade of New York’s Metropolitan Museum of Art and George W. Vanderbilt’s country chateau, Biltmore House, in Asheville, N.C.  The Statue of Liberty was built in France and then shipped to America.  It was transported in 214 crates (containing 350 pieces).  Lady Liberty stands 300 feet high and is constructed of cooper sheets assembled on a framework of steel supports.   

The base of the Statue is inscribed with a poem written by a young New York City poem, Emma Lazarus, to raise money for the building of the Statue's pedestal.  The poem, "The New Colossus" ends with these now famous words:  "Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."

The Dutch name for Liberty Island was Great Oyster Island and their name for Ellis Island was Little Oyster Island due to the large number of oyster reefs surrounding the island.  Before Liberty Island got its current name, it was known as Bedloe's Island and was an army post, Fort Wood, which was in operation there from 1811 to the 1930s.  Service members and their families lived on the island.  Congress changed the island's name to Liberty Island in 1956.  

The Statue of Liberty has welcomed more than 12 million immigrants to this country.  Imagine the thrill of finally seeing land after a difficult crossing of the Atlantic Ocean of perhaps 40 days or so in a crowded ship with few amenities.  The island was originally named Bedloe’s Island, was also known as Great Oyster Island (when Ellis Island was called Oyster Island) and also called Love Island by Governor Francis Lovelace).

The United Nations designated the Statue of Liberty as a World Heritage Site in 1984.  Ironically, a statue that symbolizes freedom is located on an island, which was once the site of the executions of pirates during the 17th Century. 


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