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Around 1865, as the American Civil War drew to a close, the French historian
Edouard de Laboulaye proposed that France create a statue to give to the
United States in celebration of that nations success in building a viable
democracy. The sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, known for largescale
sculptures, earned the commission; the goal was to design the sculpture in
time for the centennial of theDeclaration of Independence in 1876. The project
would be a joint effort between the two countriesthe French people were
responsible for the statue and its assembly, while the Americans would build
the pedestal on which it would standand a symbol of the friendship between
their peoples.
Due to the need to raise funds for the statue, work on the sculpture did not
begin until 1875. Bartholdis massive creation, titled Statue of Liberty
Enlightening the World, depicted a woman holding a torch in her raised right
hand and a tablet in her left, upon which was engraved July 4, 1776, the
adoption date of the Declaration of Independence. Bartholdi, who was said to
have modeled the womans face after that of his mother, hammered large
copper sheets to create the statues skin (using a technique called
repousse). To create the skeleton on which the skin would be assembled, he
called on Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, designer of Paris Eiffel Tower. Along with
Eugne-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc, Eiffel built a skeleton out of iron pylon and
steel that allowed the copper skin to move independently, a necessary
condition for the strong winds it would endure in the chosen location of New
York Harbor.
While work went on in France on the actual statue, fundraising efforts
continued in the United States for the pedestal, including contests, benefits
and exhibitions. Near the end, the leading New York newspaperman Joseph
Pulitzer used his paper, the World, to raise the last necessary funds. Designed
by the American architect Richard Morris Hunt, the statues pedestal was

constructed inside the courtyard of Fort Wood, a fortress built for the War of
1812 and located on Bedloes Island, off the southern tip of Manhattan in
Upper New York Bay.
In 1885, Bartholdi completed the statue, which was disassembled, packed in
more than 200 crates, and shipped to New York, arriving that June aboard the
French frigate Isere. Over the next four months, workers reassembled the
statue and mounted it on the pedestal; its height reached 305 feet (or 93
meters), including the pedestal. On October 28, 1886, President Grover
Cleveland officially dedicated the Statue of Liberty in front of thousands of
In 1924, the federal government made the statue a national monument, and it
was transferred to the care of the National Parks Service in 1933. In 1956,
Bedloes Island was renamed Liberty Island, and in 1965, more than a decade
after its closure as a federal immigration station, Ellis Island became part of
the Statue of Liberty National Monument.
Until 1901, the U.S. Lighthouse Board operated the Statue of Liberty, as the
statues torch represented a navigational aid for sailors. After that date, it was
placed under the jurisdiction of the U.S. War Department due to Fort Woods
status as a still-operational army post. In 1924, the federal government made
the statue a national monument, and it was transferred to the care of the
National Parks Service in 1933. In 1956, Bedloes Island was renamed Liberty
Island, and in 1965, more than a decade after its closure as a federal
immigration station, Ellis Island became part of the Statue of Liberty National
By the early 20th century, the oxidation of the Statue of Libertys copper skin
through exposure to rain, wind and sun had given the statue a distinctive
green color, known as verdigris. In 1984, the statue was closed to the public
and underwent a massive restoration in time for its centennial celebration.
Even as the restoration began, the United Nations designated the Statue of

Liberty as a World Heritage Site. On July 5, 1986, the Statue of Liberty

reopened to the public in a centennial celebration. After the terrorist attacks of
September 11, 2001, Liberty Island closed for 100 days; the Statue of Liberty
itself was not reopened to visitor access until August 2004. In July 2009, the
statues crown was again reopened to the public, though visitors must make a
reservation to climb to the top of the pedestal or to the crown.


In May of 1982, President Ronald Reagan appointed Lee Iacocca,

Chairman of Chrysler Corporation, to head up a private sector effort to
restore the Statue of Liberty. Fundraising began for the $87 million
restoration under a public/private partnership between the National Park
Service and The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc., to date the
most successful public-private partnership in American history.
A team of French and American architects, engineers, and conservators
came together to determine what was needed to ensure the Statue's
preservation into the next century. In 1984, scaffolding was erected around
the exterior of the Statue and construction began on the interior. Workers
repaired holes in the copper skin and removed layers of paint from the
interior of the copper skin and internal iron structure.
They replaced the rusting iron armature bars (which joined the copper skin
to the Statue's internal skeleton) with stainless steel bars. The flame and
upper portion of the torch had been severely damaged by water and was
replaced with an exact replica of Bartholdi's original torch, which was gilded

according to Bartholdi's original plans. On July 5, 1986, the newly restored

Statue reopened to the public during Liberty Weekend, which celebrated
her centennial.

The Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. is a non-profit organization

founded in 1982 to raise funds for and oversee the historic restorations of the
Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, working in partnership with the National Park
Service/U.S. Department of the Interior. In addition to restoring the
monuments, the Foundation created a museum in the Statues base and the
world-class Ellis Island Immigration Museum, The American Immigrant Wall of
Honor and the American Family Immigration History Center. Its
endowment has funded over 200 projects at the islands.

Its current project is one of the most compelling in its history the creation
of The Peopling of America Center which will expand the Ellis Island
Immigration Museum to include the entire panorama of the American
immigration experience from this countrys earliest days, right up to the
present. The galleries that explore the Pre-Ellis Era 1550-1890 opened to the
public in October 2011. The Post-Ellis galleries, covering arrivals from 1954 to
the present, will be completed and the entire Center opened to the public in
spring 2015.
Did You Know?

The base of the Statue of Liberty's pedestal

contains exhibits on the monument's history,
including the original 1886 torch. Visitor access to
the Statue of Liberty's torch was halted for good
after German operatives set off an explosion on
the nearby Black Tom peninsula in July 1916,
during World War I.

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