THE STATUE OF LIBERTY IN NEW YORK CITY – ALSO CALLED “LADY LIBERTY”
Over 130 years old, UNESCO World Heritage Site, Historic Civil Engineering Landmark and one of the most famous ladies in the world. The Statue of Liberty, also known as the Statue of Liberty, Miss Liberty or Lady Liberty, is one of the landmarks of New York and definitely one of the most famous landmarks in the United States with enormous recognition value. Every year around four million tourists come to see the world-famous neoclassical colossal statue on Liberty Island in the port of New York City.
Liberty Enlightening the World, as the Statue of Liberty is officially called, is a symbol of freedom, justice, independence and democracy in memory of the alliance of the French and the Americans during the American Revolution. It was once a gift from the French people to the United States, even if it came ten years late due to financial problems. Because actually Miss Liberty should have been inaugurated on the 100th anniversary of American independence, 1876.
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The Statue of Liberty in numbers, data and facts
The Statue of Liberty is a real colossus. The figure alone is 46.05 meters high, with the base Miss Liberty is 92.99 meters and weighs 204.1 tons. Her index finger alone is 2.44 meters long and the board she is holding in her left hand measures a whopping 7.19 x 4.14 meters with a thickness of 0.61 meters.
The body of the Statue of Liberty consists of a copper jacket, supported by an iron frame for which none other than the builder of the Eiffel Tower, Gustave Eiffel, was responsible. Originally it was red-brown in color, but the statue’s copper shell weathered and rusted, causing the statue’s copper to turn green over time, giving Lady Liberty her characteristic color.
Important events in over 130 years of the Statue of Liberty
- The official inauguration of the Statue of Liberty took place on October 28, 1886
- Part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument since 1924
- Tallest statue in the world until 1959 (currently at number 13)
- UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984
- Historic Civil Engineering Landmark since 1985
The Statue of Liberty is struck by up to 600 lightning bolts annually and fluctuates up to 8 centimeters at wind speeds of 80 km / h. The torch even brings it to 15 centimeters.
Lady Liberty – a sign of freedom and independence
The statue, dressed in a stole and pella, is modeled on the Roman goddess of freedom, Libertas, and stands on a solid base. In her right hand she carries a golden torch as a symbol of enlightenment. Originally the statue should have acted as a lighthouse, but the torch was never bright enough.
In Miss Liberty’s left hand is a tabula ansata that reads JULY IV MDCCLXXVI, the date of the American Declaration of Independence. At her feet are broken chains as a symbol of liberation from slavery, one of the major issues in the American Civil War. The right foot is raised, which makes it clear that the statue is not standing, but is in motion.
The seven-pointed crown on her head is based on the halo of ancient Helios or Sol depictions, with the seven rays standing for the seven continents and the seven oceans.
Her creator Fréderic-Auguste Bartholdi is said to have modeled her face after his mother’s face. However, other sources give the wife of the American inventor and entrepreneur Isaac Merritt Singer as a model.
Sculptor Fréderic-Auguste Bartholdi – the man behind Miss Liberty
The fact that we can admire Lady Liberty in New York City today is more a coincidence. Because the project was born on the basis of a statement by the French lawyer and politician Édouard René de Laboulaye in 1865. He, who had been an enthusiastic supporter of the Northern States during the American Civil War, said during a festive dinner in his house: “Should a memorial one day be in the United States, which is a reminder of its independence, then I think it is only natural if it is created by united forces – a joint work of our two nations. ”
The sculptor Fréderic-Auguste Bartholdi, who was inspired by this sentence, happened to be present at that dinner. He discussed his idea of a colossal statue with Laboulaye, but initially took no further action.Instead, he presented his idea of building a lighthouse in the form of a robed ancient fellachin holding a torch to Ismali Pasha, the Ottoman khedive of Egypt. Bartholdi’s request was to erect his statue in Port Said at the northern end of the Suez Canal. The plan initially met with approval, but implementation failed.
The Franco-Prussian War followed, which delayed the planned project even further, until Bartholdi finally traveled to New York in consultation with and with a letter of recommendation from Laboulaye to present his idea. When he arrived in New York, his gaze fell on Bedloe’s Island, which he thought was the perfect location for Miss Liberty as the island had to be crossed by every arriving ship.
Talks with influential New Yorkers, President Ulysses S. Grant, and other influential men in the United States followed. However, for Laboulaye and Bartholdi, public opinion did not appear promising enough at this point in time, which is why it was decided to wait with the public presentation of the idea.
A first model was created by Fréderic-Auguste Bartholdi in 1870, after his return to France he developed his concept further and came up with the foundry Gaget, Gauthier & Cie. finally agreed to rely on cladding made of copper plates. This makes the statue relatively light considering its colossal size. The copper plates are only 2.44 mm thick.
Statue of Liberty – from concept to project
Public support began to be sought from 1875. In September of that year, Laboulaye presented the project and announced the establishment of a Franco-American Union to take care of the fundraising. It was agreed that the French would finance the statue and the Americans the base for it.
The French managed to raise money for the project very quickly from all walks of life. 181 French municipalities alone participated in the financing. The arm of the Statue of Liberty was already on display at the Centennial Exhibition in New York City in 1876 and proved to be a popular attraction that visitors liked to use to overlook the grounds from the balcony of the torch. After the exhibition ended, the torch was displayed in Madison Square Park until it was finally brought back to France to be attached to the statue.
After Bartholdi returned to Paris in 1877, he set about finishing the head, which was presented during the 1878 World’s Fair in Paris. Unfortunately, Viollet-le-Duc, who had planned the brick pillar on which the statue should originally have been anchored, died in September 1879.
Bartholdi then turned to the innovative engineer Gustave Eiffel, who, together with his chief designer Maurice Koechlin, decided to rely on an iron framework. Miss Liberty is therefore one of the first examples of a curtain wall in which the structure only bears its own weight and is supported by an iron facade inside. He also added two spiral staircases to the statue to give visitors access to the crown and a ladder that allows access to the viewpoint in the torch.
In 1881 the first copper plate was riveted by the then American ambassador to France, Levi P. Morton. In 1882 the Statue of Liberty was waisted and finally completed in 1884. When the work on the base in the USA had progressed sufficiently, the statue was dismantled into 350 individual parts, packed into 214 boxes and transported across the Atlantic with the freighter “Isere” in stormy weather. She reached the port of New York on June 17, 1885. The official inauguration followed on October 28, 1886 by then US President Grover Cleveland, after Lady Liberty had been reassembled within four months.
Liberty Enlightening the World – celebrated and criticized by Americans
While fundraising was quite successful in France and with the help of campaigns such as tickets for the Gaget, Gauthier & Cie workshop, a lottery and the sale of models of the statue, 250,000 francs were collected by the end of 1879, the fundraising for the plinth took place in the USA rather sluggish.
In addition to the founders’ crash of 1873, there was also criticism of the statue itself and the fact that the Americans had to finance the base for the gift. In addition, at that time more realistic works of art were preferred, depicting American heroes and events, and the opinion was that works of art in public spaces should also be designed by Americans.
The American committee, in which the then 19-year-old Theodore Roosevelt was represented, therefore began collecting donations only in 1882 and focused on various events. For example, an original work by the poet Emma Lazarus that had been written by her especially for this purpose was auctioned. Nonetheless, the donations received fell short of expectations.
It was not until August 11, 1885, that Joseph Pullitzer, the editor of “New York World”, managed to raise $ 102,000 with his fundraising campaign. These were mainly small donations from a total of 120,000 donors.
The foundation on which the Statue of Liberty is built
Construction of the foundation began on October 9, 1883, after Bedloe’s Island had been selected as the location for the Statue of Liberty and finally the disused Fort Wood military base as the location for the event. This also explains the star-shaped alignment of the foundation.
The architect Richard Morris was entrusted with the implementation of the base. He decided to orient his work to the southeast in order to make the statue clearly visible to ships approaching New York harbor from the Atlantic.
He chose a cut-off pyramid with elements of classical architecture as the shape. All four sides of the base are constructed identically and ten golden discs are mounted above the doors on each side, on which the coats of arms of the 40 states at the time should have been placed, but this was ultimately omitted. In addition, a balcony framed by columns rises above each side.
Originally the base should have been made of solid granite, but due to lack of money, they ultimately relied on cement walls up to six meters thick, clad with granite blocks, which required the largest amount of concrete produced up to that time.
It was also a lack of money that ensured that the base could not be completed until April 1886, despite the laying of the foundation stone on August 5, 1884.
Inauguration of the Statue of Liberty on October 28, 1886
The inauguration of the Franco-American joint project was finally celebrated on October 28th. The day began with a parade through New York, which was attended by between several 100,000 and up to a million spectators. A nautical parade was followed by the ceremony on Bedloe’s Island, which was reserved exclusively for invited guests. Ferdinand de Lesseps gave the first speech on behalf of the French committee.
Women were not allowed to attend the official ceremony with the exception of Bartholdi’s wife and Lessep’s granddaughter. This in turn called women’s rights activists on the scene, who rented a boat, celebrated the embodiment of freedom through a woman and demanded women’s suffrage.
The torch of the Statue of Liberty – more fireflies than beacons
Even if Liberty Enlightening the World was originally intended as a lighthouse, it was never really suitable for it. The light from the torch just wasn’t bright enough. In order to make the statue visible anyway, Ralph Pulitzer (son of Joseph Pulitzer) started another fundraising campaign in 1916 to raise money for a lighting system. But this campaign also missed its target and the difference had to be made up in secret by a wealthy patron. So it was possible to connect the island to the electricity grid, to place floodlights, to redesign the torch and to bathe the statue in brilliant light. The American sculptor Gutzon Borglum was responsible for the new design of the torch, who was responsible for his main work, the Mount Rushmore National Memorial is known.
Maintenance and Administration of Liberty Island and Miss Liberty
After the Federal Agency for Lighthouses was initially responsible for the maintenance and administration of Lady Liberty, the Ministry of War took over this task from 1901. The National Park Service has been responsible since 1933.
The National Park Service began converting the island into a park in 1937, tearing down most of the old army buildings. In addition, the eastern end of the island was flattened and replanted.
The Statue of Liberty also had to be restored again and again over the years. In 1984, for example, the entire anchorage of the statue was replaced and an elevator and an emergency elevator were installed. From October 2011 a new stair system was installed.
The name of the island was changed to Liberty Island in 1956.
David Luchsinger – the last neighbor of the Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty has its own caretaker who lived on Liberty Island until early 2014. Lady Liberty’s last neighbor was inspector David Luchsinger, who lived with his wife Debbie in a small building on the island for four years. But the couple’s house was destroyed during Hurricane Sandy and the Luchsingers had to be temporarily relocated. Since David Luchsinger took his well-deserved retirement in early 2014, there have been no more people living on the island.