Magnificent Metal Monday – Celebrating America

Photo courtesy of History.com.

Among the 15 tallest metal and non-metal statues in the world (Source: The Atlantic), “Lady Liberty” was dedicated in 1886 and quickly became an icon of freedom for the United States. With its metal framework built by Gustave Eiffel, the Statue of Liberty is a colossal copper statue designed in a neoclassical style by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. Sitting on Liberty Island in the New York Harbor within New York City, she has been a beacon of light and hope and seen as a symbol of welcome to immigrants arriving by sea. Regardless of political beliefs, last week’s election was historic and undeniably a celebration of America and our freedom to vote. According to the Washington Post, voter turnout is on pace to break century-old records, projected to surpass the 65.7% turnout in the 1908 election.

Origins of the Statue of Liberty 

According to History.com, as the American Civil War drew to a close around 1865, the French historian Edouard de Laboulaye proposed that France create a statue to give to the United States in celebration of that nation’s success in building a viable democracy. The sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, known for largescale sculptures, earned the commission; the goal was to design the sculpture in time for the centennial of the Declaration of Independence in 1876. The project would be a joint effort between the two countries – the French people were responsible for the statue and its assembly, while the Americans would build the pedestal on which it would stand – and a symbol of the friendship between their peoples.

The statue is a figure of Libertas, a robed Roman liberty goddess. Holding the torch above her head with her right hand, her left hand carries a tabula ansata inscribed JULY IV MDCCLXXVI (July 4, 1776 in Roman numerals), the date of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. A broken shackle and chain lie at her feet as she walks forward, commemorating the recent national abolition of slavery (Source: wikipedia). 

History.com goes on to explain that Bartholdi, who was said to have modeled the woman’s face after that of his mother, hammered large copper sheets to create the statue’s “skin.” To create the skeleton on which the skin would be assembled, Gustave Eiffel (designer of Paris’ Eiffel Tower), built a skeleton out of iron pylon and steel that allowed the copper skin to move independently, a necessary condition for the strong winds it would endure New York Harbor.

The statue was completed in 1885, then disassembled, packed and shipped to New York in more than 200 crates. It took four months for workers to reassemble the statue and mount it on the pedestal to reach its height of 305 feet (or 93 meters), including the pedestal. On October 28, 1886, President Grover Cleveland officially dedicated the Statue of Liberty in front of thousands of spectators.

As quoted by the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg — “America is known as a country that welcomes people to its shores. All kinds of people. The image of the Statue of Liberty with Emma Lazarus’ famous poem. She lifts her lamp and welcomes people to the golden shore, where they will not experience prejudice because of the color of their skin, the religious faith that they follow.”

“Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

The Statue of Liberty is among the tallest statues in the world; photo credit: Reddit.com.

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