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Statue of Liberty
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The Statue of Liberty in New York was a gift from France to the United States.

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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.

Fast Facts

  • 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 with the torch measures 46 feet (14 meters); the 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.

"The New Colossus", a poem written by Emma Lazarus in 1883, is on display on the Statue's pedestal.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she
With silent lips. "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!"

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Photograph by Stuart Monk, Shutterstock

Text by Peter Winkler