Interesting Facts About the Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty Interesting Facts Part 1
1. Weighing in at 225 tons, the copper sheets that comprise Lady Liberty’s skin are thin enough to be translucent.
Little is known for sure about how this statue was manufactured and assembled. The general consensus is that French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi designed the statue sitting in France with a large-scale model made of papier-mâché, then sent to America. Liberty Island was designed as the site where Lady Liberty would be mounted, but before building could begin, two other projects were put on hold at the site – one for a fort to protect New York harbor and another for an American Museum of Immigration.
2. The Statue was a gift from France and became America’s first monument upon its arrival on October 28, 1885.
The Statue was a gift from France and became America’s first monument upon its arrival on October 28, 1885. When the Statue was unveiled, it was greeted with enthusiasm and admiration by the American public, but in recent years, some have argued that the Statue of Liberty has come to symbolize not a beacon of hope for immigrants arriving in America but a monument to America’s colonial empire.
In this post we will be exploring two perspectives. One which argues that the statue should be seen as America’s first monument and one which argues that it has come to symbolize a more problematic history. We will also discuss how perceptions on the statue differ between different groups like American citizens and foreigners alike.
Perspective 1: The Statue is a symbol of America’s First Monument and the Beginning of a New Era.
Around the time when the Statue was being constructed, there was tension in America between those who wanted to welcome new immigrants and those pessimistic about immigration. In an effort to quell this tension at least temporarily, President Theodore Roosevelt traveled to France in June of 1906 to unveil the Statue. He said that there were three meanings for it:
“To serve as a sign of friendship between France and America . . . second, as a symbol of liberty enlightening the world; third, it will be a magnet to draw people from all over the globe to our shores.”
In this speech, Roosevelt tried to shift the meaning of the statue away from just symbolizing a monument “to American imperialism” to something more welcoming. He wanted to cast the Statue as an aspirational monument, a symbol of liberty and enlightenment for all people, an icon of American progress and democracy.
In contrast to Roosevelt’s positive view of the Statue, the famous writer Mark Twain had a more cynical take on it. In his book Following the Equator (1897), Twain wrote:
“The statue is Liberty enlightening the world; if you could hurl into space an electric lighthouse or two million electric lighthouses they would do better.”
Twain was expressing a common critique of the Statue at the time, that it was too grandiose and not practical. He felt that the Statue should be used for something more than just an object of national pride, it should serve some real purpose. Despite the criticism from Twain and others like him, Roosevelt’s speech worked. The statue’s meaning shifted from being a symbol of American imperialism to forming “the first link in a chain of friendship between America and France, which shall never be broken.” In this sense, the Statue has symbolized that a new era in relations had begun between France and America.
Perspective 2: The Statue is an Icon of American Imperialism and a Symbol of the Colonization of Others
Despite Roosevelt’s best effort to redefine the Statue’s meaning, the meaning of it as a symbol of America’s colonial empire continued to persist. This view was reflected in a poem written by Emma Lazarus that was engraved on a plaque inside the Statue. It reads: “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!” When Lazarus wrote this poem she was responding to the explosion of anti-immigration sentiment at the time. In response to Roosevelt’s speech that spoke of welcoming immigrants, Congress passed new laws severely limiting immigration. The poem by Lazarus was in part a response to this new legislation.
When an artist proposed a statue for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty in 1874, no one had any idea that it would become such an iconic symbol. There were many other statues proposed, but in the end there was only one real contender, a statue of “Liberty Enlightening the World”. The statue was designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. Bartholdi was not French; he was an immigrant from Germany and he did not like that his statue would be exiled to America. He came up with the idea for it after seeing a drawing of the Colossus of Rhodes, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World and a symbol of another empire at its zenith. Bartholdi complained to his friend U.S. ambassador to France, Levi P. Morton, that the statue “would be exiled to America and would never see the light of freedom in Europe”.
Despite Bartholdi’s misgivings, on October 28, 1885 the Statue was presented as a gift from France to America as part of a centennial celebration for American independence. An impressive ceremony featuring a fireworks display was staged at Bedloe’s Island and was attended by both French and American dignitaries including the then President Grover Cleveland. The statue that was presented to the United States at the ceremony consisted of the head, a simple iron framework, and Bartholdi’s original torch. It wasn’t until over two years later that America raised funds to complete the statue and add a pedestal for it to sit on.
The Statue of Liberty was completed in 1885 (with the official date being Lady Liberty Day). The seams between its copper plates were soldered shut and sealed with mortar. The result is what we see today: an enormous copper-clad monstrosity standing in New York Harbor.
3. More than 12 million people visit her yearly with an average stay time of 8 hours each (including Metro stops).
You might be wondering how the statue looks after over 100 years of constant wear and tear. We have it all figured out. Let’s go on a journey from ground level to the top of her crown, starting with our feet shall we?
The Statue is made up of copper that has been skinned in 5200 sheets of pure copper, for a total weight of 225 tons. Around her skirt there are the names of over 350 people that contributed to the creation of this incredible woman. The first layer of copper was planned to be removed by the US Mint for commemorative coins, but after a society of French designers persuaded President Grover Cleveland that this would destroy the integrity of the Statue, it was decided to cover her in pure copper instead. These designs were a huge part in why we see her as we do today!
It took four years from 1876 until 1881 to craft what you see today. More than 100 workers from all over Europe were brought together for this project.
4. The Statue is the symbolic gateway to the United States meaning that the Green card should always have her picture facing outward when entering or exiting the country.
The Statue is the symbolic gateway to the United States meaning that the Green card should always have her picture facing outward when entering or exiting the country. The Statue of Liberty, which is a symbol to the world of American freedom and democracy, has meant different things to America and the world at different times in its history.
The Statue, whose face bears a torch representing liberty and enlightenment that she offers to all nations, changed its name from “Liberty” to “Mother” during World War II as she stood guard against Nazi Germany.
Statue of Liberty Interesting Facts Part 2
5. Her crown originally was a solid silver (weighing more than 450 pounds), but has since been covered in 24k gold plate and now weighs only 60 pounds.
6. New York City skyline appears on both sides of her face with one profile facing north and the other facing south towards the equator (for North America and Europe).
7. The statue can be seen from six different states from over a dozen points in NY city.
8. In 1963, to celebrate American Independence Day, she appeared on a 32¢ stamp (along with Uncle Sam).
Of course, the Statue of Liberty is more than just a statue and she has been at the center of many other commemorative stamps over the years. We’ve picked some of our favorites for you to enjoy:
In 1954, Frederick Gately produced a 35¢ stamp which showed the statue in color. It was designed by Alfred Rower. The artwork is based on photographs taken by George Skidmore during his 1950 visit to the statue’s crown. While the stamp was issued in 1954, The Statue of Liberty was not added to the series until 1957.
In 1960, a 32¢ stamp was issued showing a portrait of the statue by Don Troiani. This portrait is based on photographs taken by Jack Boucher during his visit to the statue on July 1, 1956.
The Statue of Liberty was featured on two stamps in 1986 and 1987 as part of a new Definitives Series. The first stamp (1986) depicted the statue against blue skies with three wavy white lines behind her designed to evoke water. The second stamp (1987) depicted a close-up of the statue’s face designed by Franz Walther.
In 1989, the Statue of Liberty was paired with Ellis Island on a 2-ounce, 32¢ Prestige Stamp. The round stamp was based on a photograph taken by Alfred Rower in 1936 showing the two islands as they looked from New Jersey. When the stamp was issued, it became the most expensive single stamp sold by the Post Office at that time. To this day, it remains one of their most valuable stamps ever issued.
9. The Statue of Liberty’s name is often mispronounced as “Libertay” or “Liberte” when it actually has a French pronunciation of: Lez-buh-reh, (LAYS bə reh)
10. Lady Liberty was originally designed with six points on her crown representing the country’s first six states, but was modified to seven in order to show the addition of West Virginia.
The other states are New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maryland and Virginia.
11. The Statue has 229 steps from ground level to her torch and 163 steps from ground level to the top of her head
12. The Statue weighs 89,992 pounds of copper
13. The total weight of the statue and base is 450,000 pounds of copper and bronze
14. Admission is free due to a donation made by Lady Liberty’s friends at Tiffany & Co.(NYC’s famous jewelry store)
15. She is referred to by many names: Liberty Enlightening the World, The Lady of Liberty, Our Lady of Greenwich, and La Liberté Eclairant le Monde
16. The Statue has 33 windows in her crown
17. Her facial features were modeled after a Parisienne named “Gustave Eiffel” (as if you couldn’t guess)
18. The Statue represents freedom and democracy for all people who live in America according to designer Bartholdi
19. The Statue of Liberty is made of 100% post-consumer recycled copper.
20. Her birthday is October 28th (the same day she arrived in New York City in 1885)
21. The Statue’s left-hand holds a tablet with the date of American Independence Day (July 4th) inscribed on it.
22. Lady Liberty was designed based on a 13-year-old French girl named “Gustave Eiffel”
23. “Liberty Enlightening the World” is written on her tablet (the same words that are on her forehead and crown)
24. The designer of the Statue of Liberty was inspired by the Colossus of Rhodes in Greece (who also held a torch in his hand)
25. Lady Liberty took 3 months to sail across the Atlantic Ocean from France in 1885 and arrived on June 17th.