It’s one of the sure Statue of Liberty facts that the Statue of Liberty is an icon, representing the United States all around the world. Some people may be surprised to learn that the Statue of Liberty was actually made in France, although this is also one of the well-established Statue of Liberty facts.
Many people know that the Statue of Liberty greeted immigrants as they arrived in the United States via New York City. It may be another of the surprising Statue of Liberty facts that the statue was constructed before the first wave of immigration to the United States.
The timing was perfect. While discussion of a statue began in the 1860s, planning and construction of the Statue of Liberty began in the 1870s. The torch-bearing arm and the head of the statue were completed first, in 1876 and 1877. These were put on public display in order to raise money for the completion of the statue, until the final assembly and dedication in 1886.
The Statue of Liberty was designed and built by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, with the engineering help of Gustave Eiffel. Eiffel, who is famous for the Eiffel Tower in Paris, was important in providing the structure for the large metal sculpture.
Bartholdi had initially planned to build parts of the Statue of Liberty with masonry. However, with Eiffel’s expertise, he was able to execute his design in metal. Because Bartholdi was working with metal, he decided to construct the entire statue in France and then ship it to the United States. Had he continued with his original plan and used masonry, it would have been necessary to construct the Statue of Liberty on what is now Liberty Island in New York Harbor.
The Statue of Liberty Was 1st on Display in France for 6 Months
Bartholdi and Eiffel continued to work closely together in the construction of the Statue of Liberty. They made sure that the parts of Lady Liberty’s skin and the parts of her skeleton fitted together with perfect precision.
The torch-bearing arm was the first part to be constructed, in 1876, which was the 100 year anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. There couldn’t have been a better time to begin work on a statue that would become a symbol of independence and liberty.
The arm was supposed to be included as part of the Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia in 1876. However, delays caused the arm to arrive in August, after the beginning of the exhibition. Bartholdi completed the arm so that it could serve as promotion to raise more money to complete the entire statue.
Learning that part of the Statue of Liberty was in the United States nearly ten years before the statue was completed is one of the more surprising Statue of Liberty facts. After Philadelphia, the arm traveled to New York where it was on display in Madison Square Park until 1882. After this, it was reunited with the rest of the statue in France, before being shipped back to the United States again.
The head was the next part to be completed, in 1877. As he had done with the arm, Bartholdi used the head to promote the statue project. The head was shown at the 1878 Paris World’s Fair and helped get French people excited about the project.
In 1880, fate intervened, and the original engineer on the project fell ill and died. He was replaced by Eiffel, who would go on to design an incredible truss tower support system inside of Lady Liberty.
After the statue was completed in France, it was presented to the United States ambassador on July 4, 1884. Arrangements were not made to ship the statue until January of 1885. The Statue of Liberty stood, fully assembled, in France for nearly six months!
Models of the Statue of Liberty Sold Before the Statue Was Done
Perhaps the most surprising of the Statue of Liberty facts is that there were souvenirs available before the gift shop opened on Liberty Island! In an effort to raise money for the statue project, models of the Statue of Liberty were sold.
The fundraising effort for the project was immense, and included selling models, prints of the statue, tickets to the workshop where Lady Liberty was being built, and raffles for prizes.
Fundraising took place in both France and the United States. This is one of the Statue of Liberty facts that shows that the statue is also a symbol of France’s relationship with the United States. In addition to donations from individuals, the French government contributed funds to the project, and the United States government provided the island that would become Liberty Island.
The Statue of Liberty Honors the Union Victory in the Civil War
One of the recently disputed Statue of Liberty facts regards when exactly the idea for the statue originated. According to the traditional story, René de Laboulaye, a well-known Liberal in France, proposed that a statue should be built to honor the Union after the Civil War in the United States.
At the time, France was under the rule of Napoleon III and the French people desired the independence and freedom that the Americans had in the United States. Laboulaye’s proposal paid homage to the United States, while also being a proclamation of French hopes for a democracy that had yet to be fulfilled.
Bartholdi was inspired by Laboulaye’s comment, which Laboulaye had only made in passing. Although Bartholdi didn’t tell Laboulaye at the time, he intended to build the statue. Bartholdi and Laboulaye would eventually form a Franco-American union in 1875 that would raise funds for the project.
Laboulaye provided letters of introduction to Bartholdi that proved crucial in generating support for the project in the United States. Bartholdi first spotted what was to become Liberty Island, and proposed that this would be the ideal location for the statue. It was Ulysses S. Grant who told Bartholdi that the United States government would likely provide the land required for the project.
France Built the Statue of Liberty and The US Built the Pedestal
When the Franco-American union was formed to raise money for the Statue of Liberty, it was agreed that France would build the statue, and the United States would provide the land and the base for the statue. This is another of the Statue of Liberty facts that demonstrates the close relationship between the United States and France.
The United States would build a pedestal for the statue, although the size of the pedestal makes it more like a large building! The foundation for the pedestal was built inside what was Fort Wood, a star-shaped military base on the island that would become Liberty Island.
The original design for the pedestal by designer Richard Morris Hunt, was to be 114 feet, or 35 meters, tall and made from granite. Budget limitations reduced the project to 89 feet, or 27 meters, tall and the main walls were made from poured concrete. One of our first big Statue of Liberty facts is that the concrete poured for the pedestal was the largest concrete pour ever at the time it was completed in 1886.
Bedloe’s Island was the Name of What Would Become Liberty Island
Some of the less-known Statue of Liberty facts relate to Liberty Island. The island was named Liberty Island after the statue was placed there. Much earlier, in the 1600s, Liberty Island was part of a group of islands including Ellis Island. These islands were known as the Oyster Islands because of their vast beds of shellfish. Liberty island was called The Great Oyster Island
The British conquered Fort Amsterdam, in what would later become New York City, in 1664. A British captain sold the island to Isaac Bedlow in 1667. The island changed hands many times until 1753, when it was listed for sale under the name Bedloe’s Island. Somehow the w had gotten switched to an e along the way!
These are some of the least known Statue of Liberty facts. In 1758, New York City purchased the island after it had been used as a quarantine area for people suffering from smallpox. In 1800, the island changed hands for the last time, when it was provided to the federal government by the City of New York to build a fort.
The building that would become Fort Wood, with its unique star-shape construction, was built from 1806 to 1811. It was named Fort Wood in 1813, after Lt. Col Eleazar Derby Wood, who was a hero during the war of 1812.
Nice Skin Tone! The Statue of Liberty’s Skin is Made of Copper
The color of the Statue of Liberty is green. This is the result of the patina that has developed as the copper on the Statue of Liberty has oxidized over the years.
For people who are familiar with the way copper ages, it’s not one of the surprising facts that the Statue of Liberty is made of copper. The Statue of Liberty was actually copper-colored until 1902, when it started to develop a patina. By 1906, the entire Statue of Liberty was green.
The original engineer on the project, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, who was a teacher and a friend of Bartholdi, proposed the material and method for shaping the large panels that would make up the skin of Lady Liberty.
In the initial planning for the Statue of Liberty, Viollet-le-Duc proposed the skin be made of copper panels that were heated and then formed by being hit with a hammer. This was a crucial decision because the Statue of Liberty would be huge, and copper was a lightweight metal, making it suitable for constructing something on such a massive scale.
The Statue of Liberty’s Nose is Over 4 Feet Long
Get ready for some massive Statue of Liberty facts: the height, as initially intended, and executed by Bartholdi with the help of Eiffel, is over 150 feet, or over 45 meters, tall! Combined with the height of the pedestal, Lady Liberty stands over 300 feet tall, or over 90 meters tall, looking out over New York Harbor.
Many people, especially kids, love these Statue of Liberty facts about the massive scale of the statue. For instance, her prominent and dignified nose is over four feet, or nearly 1.5 meters, long!
The torch-bearing arm, which spent time in Philadelphia and Madison Square Park before joining the rest of the statue in France, measures 42 feet, or over 12 meters, long! It must have been quite a sight to see in Philadelphia, New York and Paris. With such a massive scale, we can better understand why Bartholdi wanted to use parts of the sculpture as promotional displays. While sketches and models say one thing, a 42-foot arm in front of you speaks a lot louder!
Now, of course, one of the Statue of Liberty facts we should be discrete about is Lady Liberty’s weight. It takes a solid foundation, and an unwavering conscience that is firmly grounded, to defend Liberty. This beautiful beacon is a svelte 450,000 pounds or over 200 tonnes! The copper sheet that was chosen for its lightweight properties, weighs over 60,000 pounds, or over 27 tons, alone. That’s one heavy toga!
The Statue of Liberty is Modeled After Libertas, a Roman Goddess
It’s another one of the surprising Statue of Liberty facts that the Statue of Liberty is based on the Roman goddess Libertas, who represents Liberty. Libertas is also the basis for Columbia, another female personification of the United States of America.
Poor Columbia – once Lady Liberty was on the scene, she was yesterday’s news! By 1920, the Statue of Liberty replaced Columbia as the female representation of the United States in most instances.
To Columbia’s credit, she enjoyed a last hoorah during World War I, often showing up in posters campaigning for support for the war. However, this was also the time when the United States government began to use the image of the Statue of Liberty for recruitment. The writing was on the wall for poor Columbia.
Another one of the surprising Statue of Liberty facts is that at the time of designing the statue, Libertas or Lady Liberty was already used as a symbol in the United States. Lady Liberty was used on coins in the United States and featured in works of art, including a statue on the top of the United States Capitol Building. Thomas Crawford designed the Statue of Freedom, which is the statue of Libertas on the dome of the Capitol Building.
It’s a credit to Bartholdi’s work that his conception of Lady Liberty became the symbol for the United States. It’s also a credit to his imagination. The sheer scale of the Statue of Liberty has contributed to its worldwide recognition. The fundraising efforts conducted in France and the United States contributed to the publicity of the Statue of Liberty before it was dedicated. When the pieces were shipped over from France, people came from all over New York City to see the ships bearing Lady Liberty sail into harbor.
The Statue of Liberty Has Had a Few Makeovers in 120 Years
For any lady over 120 years old, a little cosmetic treatment can go a long way! It’s a testament to Bartholdi and Eiffel that the Statue of Liberty has held up well enough to allow for restoration over the years.
Lady Liberty has had a few makeovers to keep her good looks intact. Thankfully, one proposed makeover never took place. At one point, Congress had committed funds to restore the Statue of Liberty, including painting the statue. In an act of good judgment, the Army Corps of Engineers determined that the patina on the statue was not causing any harm to the statue. Someone must have noticed that the beautiful green hue only enhanced the dignified nature of the work. The statue has been pictured as green in color depictions ever since.
In 1916, the Statue of Liberty was damaged by an act of German sabotage. The torch-bearing right arm took most of the minor damage that occurred. The statue was repaired and, later that same year, electric lighting was added to illuminate the monument from below.
Since then, Lady Liberty has received many repairs, including to her entire skeleton. Eiffel had designed the structure with the best materials available at the time. After many years, the iron he used was began to show signs of corrosion beneath layers of paint. Lady Liberty got a whole new stainless steel skeleton in the 1980s!
The Statue of Liberty is such an important symbol of the United States that it was closed immediately following the September 11 attacks. While the island was reopened later in 2001, it wasn’t until 2004 that people were allowed back inside the pedestal. It wouldn’t be for another five years, until 2009, that the Statue of Liberty was reopened, allowing a limited number of people to see inside the statue each day.
One of the best Statue of Liberty facts is what is written on the tablet that is held in Lady Liberty’s left hand. It is the date of the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. Thanks to the genius of Bartholdi, the engineering of Eiffel, the dedication of fundraisers, and the generosity of many contributors, the Statue of Liberty has become a symbol for the United States and for liberty around the world.