The Statue of Liberty, designed by French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, was intended to mark the American Revolution and 100 years of friendship between the United States and France. Bartholdi, with the assistance of Gustave Eiffel (who later developed the Eiffel Tower in Paris), modeled the statue after Bartholdi’s mother.
Initially, the figure was intended to be completed by 1876: 100 years after America declared independence. However, most of the planned activities took longer than expected, both in the U.S and in Europe, where the sculpture’s pedestal was to be constructed (after financing). Some of the fundraising efforts included boxing matches, auctions, and lottery.
The work of art was finally completed in Paris in the summer of 1884. It had cost the French an estimated $250,000. The statue was a female figure covered with a robe and lifted an arm that held a torch.
On June 17, 1885, the statue reached its new home on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor. The dismantled Statue of Liberty was a gift of friendship from France to the American people. It arrived in New York Harbor after being shipped across the Atlantic Ocean. The copper and iron statue had been shipped in 350 pieces and packed in 214 crates.
On October 28, 1886, President Cleveland dedicated the 450,000-pound statue after it had been reassembled (for four months). “We will not forget that Liberty has here made her home; nor shall her chosen altar be neglected,” President Cleveland remarked.
At the time, the statue was taller than any structure in New York and was dubbed “Liberty Enlightening the World” by Bartholdi. It stood 305 feet from its foundation to the top of the torch. Initially, it was copper-colored, but it underwent a natural color-change over the years to attain its current greenish-blue hue. The statue became known around the world as the symbol of democracy and freedom. Later, the statue was nicknamed Lady Liberty.
America’s chief immigration station opened in Ellis Island (near Bedloe’s Island) in 1892, and for the next 62 years, before its closure in 1943, the statue overlooked those who sailed into New York Harbor, mostly immigrants. It is reported that the Statue of Liberty “welcomed” over 12 million immigrants. A plaque inscribed with “The New Colossus” was placed on one of the interior walls of the pedestal. The words were from American poet, Emma Lazarus and had been written 20 years before. The words by the poet reflect the hope for opportunity and freedom shared by the millions who see the figure as they sail towards New York.
In 1924, President Calvin Coolidge designated the statue of liberty as a national monument, and the structure underwent a massive restoration. The restored sculpture, which included a gold-leaf-covered flame and a new torch, was later rededicated on July 4, 1986, by President Ronald Reagan.
Sadly, the statue was closed after the 9/11 terrorist attacks that sparked fear across the United States. Its pedestal, observation deck, and base were re-opened in 2004. Its crown later re-opened on July 4, 2009. It's torch has remained closed since 1916 for safety reasons.
Today, the sculpture is one of America’s iconic landmarks. Over time, it has been used for hosting protests and political rallies. The figure has also attracted numerous tourists and has been featured in some celebrated films.