The Statue of Liberty officially celebrated her 125th birthday on October 28, 2011. The people of France gave the Statue to the people of the United States over one hundred years ago in recognition of the friendship established during the American Revolution. Over the years, the Statue of Liberty’s meaning has grown to include freedom and democracy as well as this international friendship.
Sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi was commissioned to design a sculpture with the year 1876 in mind for completion, to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. The Statue was a joint effort between America and France and it was agreed upon that the American people were to build the pedestal, and the French people were responsible for the Statue and its assembly here in the United States. However, lack of funds was a problem on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. In France, public fees, various forms of entertainment, and a lottery were among the methods used to raise funds. In the United States, benefit theatrical events, art exhibitions, auctions and prize fights assisted in providing needed funds. Meanwhile in France, Bartholdi required the assistance of an engineer to address structural issues associated with designing such a colossal copper sculpture. Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel (designer of the Eiffel Tower), was commissioned to design the massive iron pylon and secondary skeletal framework which allows the Statue’s copper skin to move independently yet stand upright. Back in America, fund raising for the pedestal was going particularly slowly, so Joseph Pulitzer (noted for the Pulitzer Prize), opened up the editorial pages of his newspaper, “The World”, to support the fund raising effort. Pulitzer used his newspaper to criticize both the rich who had failed to finance the pedestal construction and the middle class who were content to rely upon the wealthy to provide the funds. Pulitzer’s campaign of harsh criticism was successful in motivating the people of America to donate.
- Weight of copper: 62,000 lbs. (31 tons)
- Weight of steel: 250,000 lbs. (125 tons)
- Weight of concrete foundation: 54,000,000 lbs
- Thickness of copper sheeting is: 3/32 in. or the thickness of two pennies placed together.
- Wind Sway: 50 mph winds cause the Statue to sway up to 3 inches and the torch up to 6 inches.
- 1811 –Star-shaped Fort Wood built on Bedloe’s (now Liberty) Island.
- 1874 –Fundraising for Statue begins in France.
- 1877 –Congress authorizes site for Statue but appropriates no money. Private fundraising begins for pedestal construction.
- 1881 –Statue assembly begins in Paris. Completed in 1884.
- 1885 –Statue dismantled and shipped to New York. Joseph Pulitzer begins nationwide fundraising for pedestal.
- 1886 –Statue reassembled and dedicated.
- 1916 –Black Tom explosion on New Jersey waterfront damages Statue and Ellis Island Great Hall. Visitor access to torch ends.
- 1924 –Statue of Liberty declared a national monument.
- 1933 –National Park Service takes over administration of Statue from War Department.
- 1937 –Statue closed for two-year restoration.
- 1941 –Military Police stationed on Liberty Island to guard Statue throughout WWII.
- 1982 –Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation established to raise money for restoration.
- 1984 –Statue closed for two-year restoration.
- 2001 –Statue and Liberty Island closed following 9/11 terrorist attack.
- 2004 –Improvements sufficient to provide full visitor access to observation deck level finished.
- 2011 -Interior access to the Statue is limited due to long-planned improvements to the interior. Source: US Department of the Interior