It’s fascinating to me that one of the most iconic symbols of America is only a little over 135 years-old. That Lady Liberty has so quickly come to exemplify the United States shows how integral her message is to the core of our nation. With her torch lighting the harbor, this New Colossus welcomes from “ancient lands…your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free. The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.” (Emma Lazarus, New Colossus) What a magnificent sight the Statue of Liberty must have been for weary immigrants having just crossed the Atlantic Ocean looking to enjoy the blessings of liberty the US boasted. What they would find wouldn’t always be rosy…hard work, long hours, low pay, and poverty often marked the life of an immigrant, but opportunity existed.
When I see the Statue of Liberty, I feel a swell of hope rise up inside me that I’m sure must have been shared with the millions who gazed upon her before me. A gift from the French, Lady Liberty is now recognized globally as a symbol of freedom and democracy.
Statue of Liberty Facts
994—Native Americans began to inhabit Liberty Island, which was one of 3 Oyster Islands.
1609—Henry Hudson begins colonization of area and forces Native Americans out.
1667—Isaac Bedloe, a Dutch colonist, gets a land grant for Oyster Island.
1738—After going through several changes of ownership, New York City takes possession of the island and uses it as a quarantine station. It is used in this capacity off and on for the rest of the century.
1807—Fort Wood, a star-shaped defense harbor defense system is constructed on the island.
1865—Edouard de Laboulaye proposed the gift to reaffirm the United States’ ideals of freedom and democracy.
1870—Auguste Bartholdi was chosen as sculptor for the statue.
1877—Bedloe’s Island (as it was then called) was designated as the site for the Statue of Liberty.
1879—The Statue’s original engineer, Viollet-le-Duc dies and Bartholdi hires Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel to complete the project.
1883—Emma Lazarus composes a poem, The New Colossus, to raise funds for the statue’s pedestal designed by Richard Morris Hunt.
July 4, 1884—The Statue of Liberty is presented in Paris to our US Minister to France.
1885—When funds for the pedestal run short, newspaper magnate Joseph Pulitzer raises over $100,000 so it can be completed. He did this by calling on common people to donate. As he stated, “It is not a gift from the millionaires of France to the millionaires of America, but a gift of the whole people of France to the whole people of America.” Roughly 125,000 people contributed the money…most giving $1 or less. https://www.nps.gov/stli/learn/historyculture/joseph-pulitzer.htm
October 23, 1886—Statue of Liberty is completed.
October 28, 1886—New York City held its first “Ticker-Tape Parade” with over 1 million people in attendance in honor of the dedication of the Statue of Liberty.
Oyster Island History: https://www.nps.gov/stli/learn/historyculture/places_oyster_island.htm
Colonial and Early American New York: https://www.nps.gov/stli/learn/historyculture/places_colonial_early_american.htm
Creating the Statue of Liberty: https://www.nps.gov/stli/learn/historyculture/places_creating_statue.htm
The Immigrant’s Statue: https://www.nps.gov/stli/learn/historyculture/the-immigrants-statue.htm
After you take the Statue of Liberty ferry, you can visit its museum to learn about the history, climb 224 steps to the top of the pedestal for a view from the observation deck, roam around Liberty Island, or take one of the Statue of Liberty tours. To easily get Statue of Liberty tickets, we recommend taking a tour with our friends at the Tour Guy: https://thetourguy.com/tours/new-york/statue-of-liberty-ellis-island-tour?partner=2
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