Little Bits of History

Statue of Liberty

Posted in History by patriciahysell on June 17, 2014
Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

June 17, 1885: The Statue of Liberty arrives in New York Harbor. Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was a French sculptor best known for this particular work of art. Liberty Enlightening the World was a gift from the French Third Republic created to represent the fraternal feeling between the two republics – France and the US. The actual originator of the idea is under debate, but Bartholdi claimed that a 1865 comment from Edouard Rene de Laboulaye served as inspiration which had to wait until the regime of Napoleon III ended. Also, the artist was busy with some of his other over-sized and impressive projects.

By 1875, it was announced that a combined French and American project would take place if funds could be secured. It was at that time the name Liberty Enlightening the World was chosen for work. The French would supply the statue if America would supply the pedestal. This proposal met with general approval in France, but some Frenchmen were disenchanted with the US for not coming to their aid in their war with Prussia. Plans were not even finalized before Bartholdi began to work on this creation. In 1876, he came to America as the French delegate for the Centennial Exhibition and had a huge painting of the statue shown in New York City. The statue would be built in pieces and several were displayed in various places. The arm lifting the torch came to Philadelphia in August 1876 and was displayed as part of the Exhibition, but due to its late arrival was not listed in the catalog.

In 1878, Lady Liberty’s head was displayed at the Paris World’s Fair. Fundraising continued throughout the process. Gustave Eiffel and his structural engineer, Maurice Koechlin, helped with the design. For construction, 200,000 pounds of copper was needed and over half of it was donated by French industrialist Eugene Secretan. Other copper merchants donated more of the copper. With Eiffel’s help, a framework was built to support the statue’s great weight as well as keep the skin from cracking. The statue had to survive winds and temperature shifts without falling to pieces. Galvanic corrosion between the copper skin and the iron support system was forestalled by insulating with asbestos.

Fundraising in the US was problematic as well. The Panic of 1873 led to a decrease in available funds for this project as well as the Washington Monument. Many Americans were upset that a “gift” from France was costing so much from Americans. Despite these arguments the pedestal was built using sketches from Eiffel to assure the pedestal could actually support the statue it was meant to display. On this day, the French steamer Isere, reached New York Harbor. The unloading of the crates was witnessed by 200,000 people on shore and in boats in the harbor. The pedestal was not completed until April 1886 and the assembly of the statue could then begin. After the framework was erected, the skin could be attached in sections. Instead of torchlights around the base which was disapproved by the Army Corps of Engineers, Bartholdi cut holes in the raised torch and put the lights there. The Statue of Liberty was officially dedicated in a ceremony held on October 28, 1886.

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-tossed, to me: / I lift my lamp beside the golden door. – Emma Lazarus

Its magnificence was indescribable, and its magnitude was inconceivable. She felt overwhelmed in the presence of its greatness. – Mona Rodriguez

I recommend that the Statue of Liberty be supplemented by a Statue of Responsibility on the west coast. – Viktor E. Frankl

I’ve always had a strong feeling for the Statue of Liberty, because it became the statue of my personal liberty. – David Antin

Also on this day: Indian Princess – In 1631, Arjumand Banu Begum dies while giving birth to her fourteenth child.
Nicole and Ron – In 1994, OJ Simpson was arrested.
Smoot-Hawley Act – In 1930, this tariff act was signed into law.
Breed’s Hill? – In 1775, the Battle of Bunker Hill was fought.

The Two Sisters

Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 28, 2013
Statue of Liberty and

Statue of Liberty and Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi

October 28, 1886: President Grover Cleveland holds a dedication ceremony. In the struggle for autonomy, colonial America needed an ally. She found one in France who sent arms, ships, money, and men to support the revolutionaries. France was essential to the formation of the United States of America. In the 1860s the country was embroiled in a Civil War and barely able to preserve the union. In 1865 several French noblemen met for dinner. Disenchanted with Napoleon III and in frank admiration of the democratic and now all-free nation, the gentleman referred to the long-standing ties between the two countries and called them “the two sisters.”

The men at the dinner realized America’s centennial was approaching. They thought it would be fitting for France to bestow upon the US, a monument to independence and their lasting friendship. One of the guests was Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi. The idea stayed with the sculptor who was given his first commission at the age of 18. He was impressed with large creations, like many of his time. Grand times called for a grand scale.

Bartholdi was also a painter and a soldier. He created many great sculptures known not only for their size, but for their beauty. He was commissioned to create the gift from France to America – Liberty Enlightening the World. The joint effort called for the US to build the base and did not meet the centennial deadline. Bartholdi needed the assistance of an engineer to build his giant statue, and so he hired Gustave Eiffel. Funding as well as scope slowed the process. The work was finally completed and dedicated, as well as revealed, on this day.

We know the work as the Statue of Liberty. She resides on a 12-acre island in New York Harbor. She holds her lamp high, lighting the way to freedom. At one time, visitors could enter the torch. It has been closed since June 30, 1916 after an act of sabotage. Both the island and statue were off limits from September 11, 2001 until 2004 when the island once again opened. The Statue of Liberty was one again opened to the public on July 4, 2009.

Lady Liberty is made of 3/32-inch thick copper – about the thickness of two pennies. The green color or patina is the natural aging of the copper and in some places is nearly as thick as the copper itself. The statue stands 305 feet tall, or about the height of a 22-story building. She was the tallest structure in New York City when she was unveiled.

“It [the Eiffel Tower] looked very different from the Statue of Liberty, but what did that matter? What was the good of having the statue without the liberty?” – Josephine Baker

“The entire population of Liberty Island is small enough to fit into one copper-skinned palm of the colossal statue that serves as its only industry.” – Georgia Dullea

“The Statue of Liberty is no longer saying, ‘Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses.’ She’s got a baseball bat and yelling, ‘You want a piece of me?'” – Robin Williams

“The crime problem in New York is getting really serious. The other day the Statue of Liberty had both hands up.” – Jay Leno

This article first appeared at in 2009. Editor’s update: There is a rich history of Liberty being represented as a woman. Early iconic representations of freedom included the personified Columbia as the US with Marianne representing France. Libertas, the goddess of freedom from ancient Rome also served as a model for Lady Liberty and some female form was on the face of many American coins of the time. Bartholdi could have depicted Liberty fighting for freedom but chose to portray her as peaceful. The crown on her head has seven rays depicting the sun and the seven seas or seven continents. The torch enlightens the world. Her dress changed style a few times before work began and her face was modeled after Charlotte Bartholdi, the sculptor’s mother. Unsure of what to place in Lady Liberty’s left hand, he eventually chose on a tabula ansata, or keystone-shaped tablet which would represent the concept of law. Inscribed on the tablet is JULY IV MDCCLXXVI.

Also on this day: Higher Education – In 1538, the first university in the New World was established.
Volstead Act – In 1919, Prohibition passed over President Wilson’s veto.
Gateway – In 1965, the Gateway Arch was completed.

Lady of the Harbor

Posted in History by patriciahysell on July 3, 2010

Lady Liberty holding the torch of freedom aloft

July 3, 1986 – The newly designed torch of the Statue of Liberty is relit after renovations to this symbol of freedom. The United States came into being with the help of the French during the Revolutionary War. Especially helpful was the Marquis de Lafayette, a friend to General Washington.

In 1865, several French intellectuals were congratulating the US on their ability to form a free country, the ending of the Civil War, and their successes in creating themselves. These people thought that with the coming of the one hundredth birthday of the new nation, they would like to present the US with a symbol of their achievement. The idea for the Statue was born. Frédéric-Aguste Bartholdi was commissioned to design the tribute.

Repoussé, the technique of hammering sheet metal inside of molds, was the chosen method of construction due to cost and weight issues with the project. The arm, with the torch attached, arrived in Philadelphia in August 1876. Lady Liberty was first constructed in France, then dismantled and shipped to America in the spring of 1885.

Back in the US, construction on the pedestal was undertaken on Bledsoe Island, later to be named Liberty Island.On October 28, 1886, the Statue of Liberty resting on her pedestal was unveiled when Bartholdi pulled a cord and Lady Liberty’s gleaming copper face was revealed. As we age, women and statues, the signs of a long life become apparent. Ninety-five years later, substantial work was needed to restore the statue to her original state. Around $87 million was spent restoring the statue as well as creating a new torch. The new Lady Liberty was ready for the birthday of the US, celebrated on the next day and reopened to the public on July 5.

“The Statue of Liberty is no longer saying, “Give me your poor, your tired, your huddled masses.” She’s got a baseball bat and yelling, ‘You want a piece of me?'” – Robin Williams

“The crime problem in New York is getting really serious. The other day the Statue of Liberty had both hands up.” – Jay Leno

“Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add ‘within the limits of the law,’ because law is often but the tyrant’s will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual.” – Thomas Jefferson

“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!”  – Emma Lazarus

Also on this day, in 1844 Great Auks became extinct.

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