The State of Liberty was gifted to the American people on October 28, 1886, for creating a viable democracy. It was given to the United States from the French people as a symbol of liberty and perseverance after the Union winning the American Civil War. Frederic Auguste Bartholdi designed the Statue of Liberty and added the finishing touches, while the frame (or skeleton) of the Statue of Liberty was built by Gustave Eiffel, who’s most well-known creation is the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.
The idea of the Statue of Liberty was inspired by Édouard René de Laboulaye, president of the French Anti-Slavery Society around 1865. Laboulaye was a prominent political thinker and abolitionist in his time and a supporter of the Union on the American Civil War. He discussed the idea with Frédéric Bartholdi and explained that if the statue were to be built for American liberty, there should be a combined effort between France and the United States. Laboulaye hoped that this statue would call attention to the efforts of liberty of the American people and inspire the French people to do the same under Napolean III’s repressive reign.
In 1871, after the Franco-Prussian War, Bartholdi sailed to the United States with letters signed by Laboulaye. He arrived at New York Harbor and focused on Bedloe’s Island, now known as Liberty Island, as a site for the statue. Bartholdi was impressed that vessels arrived in New York had to sail past the island. He met with President Ulysses. S. Grant, who assured him that he could obtain the island for the site of the statute since it was owned by the United States’ government.
The statue was to be designed and built in time for the centennial of the Declaration of Independence in 1875, but there wasn’t enough funding to build it. In September of 1875, Bartholdi announced the project and the statue was given the name of Liberty Enlightening the World. Since he wanted the creation of the statue to be a combined effort between France and America, France was to finance and build the statue, and the United States was to finance and build the pedestal on which Lady Liberty was to stand.
To collect the funds in both America and France, fundraising efforts were used. There were contests, benefits, and exhibitions to collect funds, but Joseph Pulitzer used his paper, The World, to raise the last of the funds in America. In France, the government authorized a lottery and raffle to raise the funds needed.
In 1877, Bartholdi along with Eiffel started to construct the statue. Eiffel’s design made the interior or skeleton of the statue load-bearing with iron trusses. Bartholdi, who designed and constructed the exterior of the statue, built the statue in France. He hammered large copper sheets to create the “skin.” Overtime and through rain and now, the copper tarnished and turned the green color it is today.
The statue was completed in 1885 and was disassembled into more than 200 crates and shipped to New York. Two hundred thousand people lined the docks to welcome the ship. The pedestal was not completed until April 1886, when the reassembly of the statue began. It took four months for workers to complete the reassembly. Bartholdi cut portholes in the torch, covered it in gold leaf, and placed lights inside of them to illuminate the fire of the torch.
Dedication of the Statue
On Oct 28, 1886, President Grover Cleveland held a ceremony in front of thousands.to officially dedicate the Statue of Liberty. President Cleveland stated that the statue's "stream of light shall pierce the darkness of ignorance and man's oppression until Liberty enlightens the world." Earlier that morning, a parade was held in New York City. The route began at Madison Square and made its way past the New York Stock Exchange, where traders threw ticker tape from the windows, beginning the New York tradition of the ticker-tape parade.
1933, the Statue of Liberty was transferred to the National Park Service (NPS). NPS was in charge of keeping the statue in pristine condition and presided over any renovations to both the statue and the island. Since then, there have been many renovations to the Statue of Liberty as well as regulations regarding visiting the statue and the island being open to the public. Today, you can take a ferry to Liberty Island and take a tour provided by Park Rangers that is an estimated 30-45 minutes. There is limited pedestal access and tickets are required before boarding the ferry. Crown access is limited and advanced reservations are required to gain access.