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The Statue of Liberty Next
Digital History ID 3287

 

It is the tallest metal statue ever constructed, and, at the time it was completed, the tallest building in New York, 22 stories high. It stands 151 feet high and weighs 225 tons. Its arms are 42 feet long and its torch is 21 feet in length. Its index fingers are eight feet long and it has a 4-foot 6-inch nose. For people all around the world, the statue symbolizes American freedom, hope, and opportunity.

There may be grander monuments, but this statute was not like the Egyptian pyramids or the Colossus of Rhodes, "the brazen statue of Greek fame."

The statue was originally proposed by a now obscure French historian, Edouard de Laboulaye, a prominent French abolitionist, and designed by the French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. The statue has severed chains on one of her feet.

The Statue of Liberty was a gift from French Republicans who wanted to advance their political cause: the replacement of the monarchy of Napoleon III with a republican system of government. It was modeled, in part, on the Roman goddess Libertas, the personification of liberty and freedom in classical Rome, which led some critics to object to a heathen goddess standing in New York harbor. Others derided the statue as a "useless gift," "Neither an object of Art or of Beauty," and it seemed possible that the statue would be placed in Boston or Philadelphia.

The final $100,000 for the statue's pedestal were raised by the Hungarian-born publisher Joseph Pulitzer, who asked New York's poor for contributions. In exchange, he printed their names in his newspaper. One wrote a letter to his paper, The World: "I am a young girl alone in the world, and earning my own living. Enclosed please find 60 cents, the result of self-denial. I wish I could make it 60 thousand dollars, instead of cents, but drops make the ocean."

Over time, the statue's symbolic meaning has been transformed. It was originally intended to express opposition and slavery. After the America's emergence as a world power after its defeat of Spain in the Spanish-American War of 1898, the statue became a symbol of American might. It was not until the 20th century and massive immigration from eastern and southern Europe that the statue became "a lady of hope" for immigrants and refugees.

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