The History of The Statue of Liberty

Dedicated to the United States by the people of France on October 28th, 1886, the Statue of Liberty has come to embody the ideals of freedom, justice and new beginnings. Built in France and shipped to the U.S. by boat, it was decades after the initial idea was sparked that Lady Liberty finally crossed the ocean. Despite criticism and lack of funds, this statue was finally built and has now served as a beacon for immigrating masses and as a witness to over a century of history. In this video, learns more about the history of this iconic American symbol, The Statue of Liberty.

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A Symbol of Freedom

Located in New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty is a depiction of the Roman goddess of freedom. Dedicated in a large ceremony on October 28th, 1886, the statue’s official name is “Liberty Enlightening the World.” Originally a gift from the citizens of France, she was designed by French sculptor Frédéric Bartholdi. Law professor Édouard René de Laboulaye is credited with the idea of a shared statue between the French and the Americans.

A Gift From France

The statue was meant to commemorate the U.S. Centennial, and the ideals that both France and the United States shared of freedom and democracy. However only her right hand and torch were finished by 1876, and both were displayed at the American Centennial Exhibition.

A Torchbearer

Lady Liberty, as she is often called, is represented wrapped in robes. In her right hand, she carries a torch meant to symbolize the light of reason. Her left hand is carrying a book of laws that is marked with the date the Declaration of Independence was signed. At her feet is a broken set of chains, meant to signify her journey from captivity and into freedom. From the base of the statue to the top of the torch, she measures 151 feet in height. That height is doubled by the pedestal on which she stands.

Made of Copper

Built on an iron support structure, the Statue of Liberty’s skin is made of copper. Originally the color of copper, by 1900 the statue’s exterior had begun to change color. Eventually, the decision was made to leave this patina on the statue, and today she is the pale green color we know and love.

Built in France

The statue’s armature was designed by the same man who designed France’s Eiffel Tower, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel. A joint effort of the French, Americans and countless hard workers, the statue was to be built in France and shipped by boat to America.


In the years before the statue was built, criticism was raised that she should be designed by an American artist. That, and the fact that it took many years to raise sufficient American funds to build Lady Liberty’s pedestal, stalled the project’s progress for many years. However, she was presented to the Americans on Independence Day in 1884, was finally shipped early the next year, and was ultimately opened in New York Harbor in 1886.

A Welcome Sight to New Americans

Many new Americans, immigrating to the country by boat, were welcomed by the Statue of Liberty upon their arrival. This helped lead to her status as a symbol for the country. A poem inscribed on her base bears the famous lines: “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” and welcomes settlers to the New World.

Climb to the Top

Tourists were originally open to travel up to Lady Liberty’s crown to view the harbor below, as well as making a narrow climb up to the torch. However, the torch has been closed to visitors since the First World War.


In preparation for the Statue’s centennial in 1986, a series of restorations took place. Lady Liberty’s armature was completely replaced, making her more sturdy, and several pieces of her skin were also changed.


After 2001’s terrorist attacks in New York City, the Statue of Liberty and Liberty Island were closed to tourists because of safety concerns. Gradually, the island, the pedestal, and finally in 2009 the Statue herself were reopened to the public.

An American Icon

Because of Lady Liberty’s status as an American icon, she is often featured in pop culture, and on tourist souvenirs. She is not threatening and not a symbol of power, and considered a beacon of hope.

A Witness to History

Lady Liberty has witnessed well over a century’s worth of history, and has come to embody the American ideal of freedom.

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