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Statue of Liberty

Updated on February 6, 2010

Statue of Liberty is a monumental sculpture that stands on Liberty Island (formerly Bedloe's Island) in New York Harbor. The statue was originally called Liberty Enlightening the World. A symbol of freedom, the statue represents a woman who has just escaped from the chains of slavery, which lie at her feet. Her right hand holds aloft the burning torch of liberty. In her left hand is a book of law, which is inscribed with the date of the Declaration of Independence. She is wearing flowing classical robes and a spiked crown.

Photo by Nicolas Hennette
Photo by Nicolas Hennette

Size and Structure

The statue is perhaps the largest ever built, with a height of nearly 152 feet (46 meters) and a weight of 225 tons. With its base and pedestal it stands more than 300 feet (90 meters) high. Some of its measurements are 42 feet (12 meters) for the right arm, 8 feet (2.4 meters) for the index finger, and 54 inches (135 cm) for the nose.

In the hollow interior of the figure are an elevator, two spiral stairways, and observation platforms for tourists. The surface of the statue consists of more than 300 hammered copper sheets, about one-tenth of an inch (2.5 mm) thick. Through the years the copper has taken on a rich green color. The statue is supported by an iron frame, which is anchored in an elaborately carved pedestal. Around the base of the pedestal is a star-shaped wall, which was part of U.S. Fort Wood, the structure that formerly occupied the area.

Symbol of Liberty

The Statue of Liberty has become known as a symbol of freedom throughout the world. Set against the New York skyline, it has greeted thousands of immigrants and visitors as they arrived in the United States by ship from Europe. In 1903 the sonnet The New Colossus by the American poet Emma Lazarus (1849-1887) was inscribed in bronze and attached to the base of the statue. It reads:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land: Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome: her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost, to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

History

In 1865 the French jurist Edouard de La-boulaye proposed the erection of a memorial to the alliance of 1778 between France and the United States. The statue was designed by the French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and was completed for presentation to the United States on July 4, 1884. Its cost of approximately one million francs was contributed by the French people through voluntary subscription.

After being exhibited in Paris, the statue was dismantled, shipped to New York, and reassembled at its present location. It was formally dedicated by President Grover Cleveland on Oct. 28, 1886. It was made a national monument in 1924. A small model, which was provided by the American community in Paris as a gesture of appreciation, stands on the Pont de Crenelle, a bridge across the Seine River in Paris.

Photo by Pablo Celsi
Photo by Pablo Celsi

Tourist Attraction

Millions of people visit the Statue of Liberty every year. Visitors may take the elevator to the observation area at the top of the pedestal and, for another view, may climb 168 steps to the statue's head. There the crown is divided into windows, from which approximately 30 people at a time can view the harbor and city of New York. The statue is reached from New York City by ferry, and it can be seen from many miles away.

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