[Carol M. Highsmith, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons]

June 17, 1865: Lady Liberty Arrives Home

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On June 17, 1885, Lady Liberty arrived in the United States. Aboard the French frigate Isère and stuffed in 214 crates that held the disassembled statue, nearly a quarter-of-a-million onlookers crowded in Battery Park in New York City, along with nearly a hundred boats in the harbor, to welcome the Statue of Liberty. 

The Statue of Liberty was conceived to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the American Revolution in 1876. It faces East, greeting incoming ships while also looking back toward her birthplace in France. President Grover Cleveland, a former New York governor, dedicated the statue on October 28, 1886, before tens of thousands of spectators, writes Politico.

The statue is constructed of hand-shaped copper sheets, assembled on a framework of steel supports. Its construction was supervised by engineers Eugene-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel. To be transported across the Atlantic, the 151-foot iconic figure was broken into 350 pieces. The pedestal on which it sits was built using funds raised in the United States.

Originally known as Liberty Enlightening the World, the statue was designed by Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, a French sculptor, in the form of a robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess of liberty. Her uplifted arm holds a torch.

Bartholdi was inspired by Édouard René de Laboulaye, a French law professor and politician, who asserted in 1865 that any monument raised to U.S. independence should properly be a French-U.S. project.

Reassembly of the Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island took four months. The pedestal on which the she stands was designed by American architect Richard Morris Hunt, one of America’s most eminent architects of the nineteenth century. The construction of the statue and pedestal was a monumental engineering feat and a testament to the friendship between France and the United States. 

Today, nearly everyone associates the Statue of Liberty with its iconic greenish-blue appearance, but it wasn’t always that color. When it first was constructed, it looked more like the Eiffel Tower and was shiny in appearance. 

The Daily Mail explained, “Lady Liberty is made of copper 3/32 inches thick, which is the same as putting two pennies together, but it has naturally oxidized over time to form the green ‘patina’ coating.

This coating actually protects the copper behind it from naturally wearing away. But the copper, along with the statue’s height, also makes her a welcoming target for lightning strikes.”

Following the attacks of September 11, 2001, the statue was closed and renovated. Its base reopened in 2004 with a $20 million security upgrade. Her crown was reopened to the public in 2009. and the observation deck at the top of the crown reopened in 2009.

Over three million visitors came to the statue in 2022, according to the National Parks Service.

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