The Statue of Liberty has long been a symbol of freedom and hope to people all over the world, but have you ever wondered where she came from? France has often been called “America’s oldest ally.” France helped America during the Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. American troops helped defend France during World War I and II. The French built “Lady Liberty” as a gift to America.
Poet Emma Lazarus wrote the poem, “The New Colossus,” about America and the Statue of Liberty:
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!
In 1865, at a dinner party in France, French leaders were talking about the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln’s death. They wanted to make a monument to honor America’s fight for liberty. The sculptor, Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, attended the dinner party. He began working on a small clay model of a woman to represent freedom. He presented it to French and American leaders.
Although the French had hoped to present the statue to America on the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, the Statue of Liberty took 10 years to build.
Bartholdi began working on the statue in 1876, in a studio in Paris. He modeled the statue’s face after his mother’s. Jeanne-Emilie Baheux de Puysieux, who later became his wife, also served as a model.
The statue was 111 feet tall – as tall as a fourteen-story building. It needed to be light, yet strong. Engineer, Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, who engineered the Eiffel Tower, designed an iron framework for the statue. Thin sheets of copper were laid over the framework.
The statue was built outdoors, disassembled, and packed in 214 boxes before it was shipped to America.
The French agreed to pay for the statue; Americans would pay for the land and granite pedestal that the statue stands on. Both countries asked for donations from their people.
On October 28, 1886, President Grover Cleveland prepared to dedicate the statue. Thousands of people gathered in New York City for a huge parade. On Liberty Island, a smaller crowd gathered for the dedication. A French flag lay over the statue’s eyes and face. Inside the crown, stood Bartholdi, ready to pull the flag off at the right time, unveiling the statue.
William M. Evarts, President of the American Committee, began his speech. He paused briefly, and Bartholdi was given the sign to unveil the statue. The crowd cheered when the statue was revealed; Evarts didn’t get the chance to finish his speech!
Frequently Asked Questions
Question: Did women attend the dedication?
Answer: At this time, women weren’t always allowed at public gatherings. Only two or three women were invited to the dedication. But a group of angry women rented a boat and sailed to the island. They said that the statue was a woman, yet if she was alive, she wouldn’t be allowed to vote or have many other liberties.