Representing freedom from oppression, the Statue of Liberty has been standing tall and proud in the waters of New York Harbor at Liberty Island, since 1886. Built using iron, steel, and copper, the Statue is 111 feet tall, and holds a 24k gold gilded torch. Do you know that the sculpture was a gift from France to the United States after the abolition of slavery?
France was already facing political turmoil. People wanted to enjoy Freedom of Speech which was still lacking in France, and the United States where slavery had just been abolished, was an inspiration.
The North and South of USA might have resolved their differences, but the country was still recovering from the five-year-long Civil War. Thus, the friendship between both France and USA was one significant step to aid each other’s financial needs.
A political thinker and an anti-slavery activist Edouard de Laboulaye had thus proposed the idea of gifting Americans a gigantic structure, as a symbol of friendship between the two countries, in a meeting held on April 21, 1865. Many French people were appeased by the idea. The design of the Lady Liberty was then created by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, a French sculptor, who had already been working on a structure named ‘The East Enlightening the World.’ This structure was however denied by the Khedive of Egypt. It was thus decided that a similar monument will be placed in New York instead. In 1870, the young sculptor began his sketching and visited the United States many times to propel the design.
One problem that both countries had to face for construction of Statue of Liberty was the lack of funds. The completed head and the torch-bearing arm were exhibited between 1876 to 1882 for donations. The fundraising was initiated in 1882 via numerous art exhibitions, benefit theatrical events and auctions. Emma Lazarus in 1883, wrote her famous sonnet “The New Colossus” and donated it to an auction so she could help raise funds to build the pedestal for the Statue. One of the lines from the sonnet – “Give me Your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” – has been inscribed on the base of the pedestal.
In 1885, the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York City from France and in the following year on October 28th, President Grover Cleveland dedicated a ceremony to declare its installation. Bedloe’s Island was chosen as the perfect location for the installation of the statue, because there it could face Europe, and welcome the migrants who arrive seeking a better life in the country.
The project was French genius bestowed to the world. Enlightening the world through the forever-lit torch, the Statue of Liberty has come to reflect what America is – the land of immense hope and opportunities.