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Statue of Liberty History: How It Became a New York Icon

April 28, 2023 By CityPASS

The Statue of Liberty is a world-renowned national symbol. The New York City icon is a symbol of freedom and hope in America. But what is the history behind the Statue of Liberty?

It has an interesting and storied past. In fact, the meaning behind the symbol has changed over the years since the original design. Let's explore the Statue of Liberty's history more in-depth so that you'll have a more memorable experience when you visit.

What Is the History Behind the Statue of Liberty?

When you imagine a symbol representing freedom, the Statue of Liberty comes to mind. The sculpture was no easy feat and was a costly endeavor. The money to build the magnificent structure was raised in many ways in France and America. France was responsible for covering the price of the design, but America had to cover the cost of the 89-foot pedestal.

Interestingly, both countries used public donations through various events, gifts, and even public fees. More money was still needed for the construction, so a local publisher named Joseph Pulitzer raised over $100,000. Pulitzer put an ad in the "New York World" newspaper asking for donations for the pedestal. For the people who donated, he would mention their names in the paper.

After all of the money was raised a few years later, the Statue of Liberty stood tall in New York City. There's a rich history of the Statue of Liberty, so let's dive deeper.

The Statue of Liberty as a Gift of Friendship

The story of the Statue of Liberty's history begins with an alliance between two countries. The Statue of Liberty was an elaborate gift to the United States from France to mark a century since the Declaration of Independence was signed. It represented the alliance with France during the American Revolution.

A special gifting ceremony took place in Paris on July 4, 1884, when the Statue of Liberty was given to the U.S. It was originally titled "Liberty Enlightening the World." The Liberty National Monument is chock full of symbolism. She is the personification of liberty, with broken shackles around her ankles to represent the breaking away from slavery. She holds a torch high in her right hand and in the other a tablet that marks the date July 4, 1776, the date of the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

A Team Effort Between a Sculptor, an Architect, and a Civil Engineer

In 1865, the French abolitionist Édouard de Laboulaye suggested erecting a monument to honor freedom and democracy. He especially thought that the U.S. should celebrate the liberation of slaves. Édouard de Laboulaye, often referred to as the "Father of the Statue of Liberty," wanted the statue to represent American independence. He dreamed it could become an international symbol of democracy and freedom.

The French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi fully agreed with Laboulaye's vision and helped design the neoclassical sculpture. Together, the two men formed the Franco-American Union to raise money to complete the statue. Later, the engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel did the elegant metalwork. He joined their team and helped construct the 151-foot-high copper and iron statue. He was also known for designing the framework of the Eiffel Tower.

In America, architect Richard Morris Hunt designed a granite pedestal for her to stand on. The finalized Statue of Liberty weighed 225 tons. However, after the gifting ceremony, the statue had to be taken apart to ship to New York, where it would be reconstructed at Ellis Island.

The Statue of Liberty's Arrival in the United States

The Statue of Liberty was shipped in 350 pieces across the Atlantic by the French vessel Isère. The ship pulled into New York Harbor in June 1885. Unfortunately, the pedestal was still incomplete, so the statue waited on what was then Bedloe's Island at Fort Wood until 1886, when Hunt completed the pedestal.

Assembling the Statue of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty was reassembled on top of the pedestal and was dedicated by President Grover Cleveland on October 28, 1886. First, the iron framework was mounted to steel beams, then the skin sections were installed. Finally, the torch had portholes cut into it where the light was set.

The Statue of Liberty's Cultural Impact Over the Years

Six years later, the torch received an 18-inch glass sheet that replaced the portholes and a skylight with colored glass on the top of the flame. In 1931, a projection lighting system was installed in the torch. The original torch was removed during a massive repair in 1984 and was replaced. You can still find the original torch at the Statue of Liberty Museum.

In 1892, a federal immigration station was opened on Ellis Island. Over the years, millions of immigrants have arrived at this station looking for a new way of life in America. The Statue of Liberty served as a welcome icon to the immigrants at Ellis Island. The Statue of Liberty was mainly made of copper, but oxidation has taken place over the years, rendering it a pale blue-green color.

The Statue of Liberty has also been a navigational landmark for boats and ships. In 1924, the statue became a national monument. In 1933, the National Parks Service took over the iconic statue. In 1956, the island was renamed Liberty Island. After the terrible attacks of September 11, 2001, Liberty Island and the Statue of Liberty closed down. The statue reopened in 2004, and the crown was opened back to the public in 2009.

Get Tickets To Visit the Renowned Lady Liberty

Now that you know a little more about the Statue of Liberty's facts and history, you're ready for a visit. If you plan a trip to the Big Apple, you can save when you purchase CityPASS® tickets. With New York CityPASS® tickets, you can visit the Statue of Liberty and other notable attractions in New York. In addition, you can enjoy some of the top museums, visit the Empire State Building, and take a ferry to Liberty and Ellis Islands.

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