Located on Liberty Island in Upper New York Bay, is an artefact that is known worldwide as a symbol of freedom, The Statue of Liberty. It was a gift to the United States from France, and was dedicated to the country on October 28, 1886, at a ceremony on Bedloe’s Island which was attended by a crowd of more than one million Americans, in spite of the rainy weather. In 1956, Bedloe’s Island was renamed Liberty Island in honour of the statue, which had become a national monument in 1924.
The idea to honour the United States with a gift, in the form of The Statue of Liberty, came in 1865 after the Civil War. French politician and authority on the US Constitution, Edouard de Laboulaye, believed that this gift, which would become a symbol of freedom and democracy, would help to strengthen the democratic movement in France. It was designed by French sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, and built by Gustave Eiffel. France then shipped the statue to the United States in 1885, where it was placed in storage for a year while the pedestal was completed.
The statue is made of copper and its signature green colour is a result of the metal’s natural weathering. The imposing figure weighs approximately 450,000 lbs and its height, from the base of the pedestal to the tip of the torch, is 305ft 6in. The face of the statue, which represents the Roman goddess, Libertas, is more than 8ft tall and has a crown of seven rays. Each of these is 9ft in length, weight 150lbs, and represents a continent.
Lady Liberty has a torch held high above her head, which was restored in 1986 and covered in a thin layer of 24k gold. She also holds a tablet in her left hand, which is inscribed with the United States Independence Day, July 4, 1776, in Roman numerals. The broken chain at her feet symbolises the country’s breaking away from oppression. Shortly after its erection, the statue became a symbol of hope and freedom for immigrants arriving into the country seeking their own freedom, and continues to inspire those that live in the city.
While the statue has been closed to the public at various times, due to the possibility of a terrorist attack, it is still one of the most popular attractions in the world. The Statue of Liberty Exhibit opened on the second floor of the pedestal in July 1986, and tourists can use this to trace the statue’s history and symbolism. The exhibition includes museum objects, prints, photographs, videos and oral descriptions. There is also a bronze plaque which is dedicated in memory of Emma Lazarus’ contribution to the pedestal and affixed to its inner wall since 1900.