Photograph by Dean Conger
On July 4, 1884 France presented the United States with an incredible birthday gift: the Statue of Liberty! Without its pedestal it’s as tall as a 15-story building. She represents the United States. But the world-famous Statue of Liberty standing in New York Harbor was built in France. The statue was presented to the U.S., taken apart, shipped across the Atlantic Ocean in crates, and rebuilt in the U.S. It was France’s gift to the American people.
It all started at dinner one night near Paris in 1865. A group of Frenchmen were discussing their dictator-like emperor and the democratic government of the U.S. They decided to build a monument to American freedom—and perhaps even strengthen French demands for democracy in their own country. At that dinner was the sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi (bar-TOLE-dee). He imagined a statue of a woman holding a torch burning with the light of freedom.
Turning Bartholdi’s idea into reality took 21 years. French supporters raised money to build the statue, and Americans paid for the pedestal it would stand on. Finally, in 1886, the statue was dedicated.
- Engineer Gustave Eiffel, who would later design the Eiffel Tower in Paris, designed Liberty’s “spine.” Inside the statue four huge iron columns support a metal framework that holds the thin copper skin.
- Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi knew he wanted to build a giant copper goddess; he used his mother as the model.
- The statue—151 feet, 1 inch (46 meters, 2.5 centimeters) tall—was the tallest structure in the U.S. at that time.
- The arm holding the torch measures 46 feet (14 meters); the index finger, 8 feet (2.4 meters); the nose, nearly 5 feet (1.5 meters).
- The statue is covered in 300 sheets of coin-thin copper. They were hammered into different shapes and riveted together.
- The statue sways 3 inches (7.62 centimeters) in the wind; the torch sways 5 inches (12.7 centimeters).
- Visitors climb 354 steps (22 stories) to look out from 25 windows in the crown.
- Seven rays in the crown represent the Earth’s seven seas.
Text by Peter Winkler