Statue of Liberty

  • Sculptor: Ferderic-Auguste Bartholdi
  • Engineer: Gustave Eiffel
  • Pedestal: Richard Morris Hunt
  • Dedicated: 1886
  • Medium and size: Hammered sheet copper over iron skeleton (151 feet), granite pedestal (155 feet)
  • Location: Liberty Island, New York Harbor
  • Subway: 1, 4, or 5 to Battery Park, then Statue of Liberty Ferry

Statue of Liberty

Bartholdi's Inspiration for Liberty

In a promotional pamphlet aimed at raising funds for Liberty’s pedestal, Bartholdi described how he decided where the sculpture should be erected.

[A]t the view of the harbor of New York the definite plan was first clear to my eyes. The picture that is presented to the view when one arrives at New York is marvelous: when, after some days of voyaging, in the pearly radiance of a beautiful morning is revealed the magnificent spectacle of those immense cities, of those rivers extending as far as the eye can reach, festooned with masts and flags; when one awakes, so to speak, in the midst of that interior sea covered with vessels, some giants in size, some dwarfs, which swarm about, puffing, whistling, swinging the great arms of their uncovered walking-beams, moving to and fro like a crowd upon a public place. It is thrilling. It is, indeed, the New World, which appears in its majestic expanse, with the ardor of its glowing life. Was it not wholly natural that the artist was inspired by this spectacle? Yes, in this very place shall be raised the Statue of Liberty, grand as the idea which it embodies, radiant upon the two worlds. -- Bartholdi, "The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World" (1885) 

Dedication of Liberty, 1886

Joseph Pulitzer, who ran the sensationalist New York World and later funded the Jefferson  sculpture, played a major role in raising funds for the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty. His effort was acknowledged with one of two gold rivets on Liberty’s toe: the other was in honor of Bartholdi. I have a hankering (which will probably never be fulfilled) to see those gold rivets.

Moran Statue 
of Liberty

Above: Edward Moran, Dedication of the Statue of Liberty, 1886. Museum of the City of New York. 

Centennial of the Statue of Liberty

When the centennial of Liberty was celebrated in 1986, Tom Wolfe wrote a brilliant satirical essay, “The Copper Goddess,” describing the sort of statue that would have been in the harbor had this project been undertaken in our day, in accordance with the decrees of contemporary critics about the nature of sculpture. Wolfe concluded that a present-day Liberty would look like Richard Serra's Tilted Arc, a rusting eyesore removed from the plaza of Manhattan’s Jacob Javits Federal Building in 1989 following a petition the building's workers, in spite of the artist's objection that it was a "site-specific" work that would lose its meaning if erected anywhere else. 


The music for the segment setting the context of Liberty’s conception is, appropriately, variations on “America the Beautiful.” 

The Progress of the Century

In 1876, for the centennial of the United States, Currier & Ives produced this dense summary of the technological marvels of the Industrial Age.

Progress of the 

Above: “Progress of the Century. The Lightning Steam Press. The Electric Telegraph. The Locomotive. The Steamboat.” On the tape from the telegraph: “Glory to God in the highest, and on Earth peace, good will toward men. Liberty and Union now and forever, one and inseparable.”

The steam-powered press helped make printed material widely affordable beginning in the 1810s, which Bennett  and Greeley  used to their advantage. The telegraph, developed by Samuel Morse in the 1840s, spread news far and fast, as Sherman  knew to his dismay. From 1807, the steamboat moved goods on the water. Beginning in the 1830s, the locomotive made possible the movement of people and goods across the American continent (Cooper, Holley, Vanderbilt, Glory of Commerce, Rea).

Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi

In his native France, Bartholdi (1834-1904) was famous for the Lion of Belfort, 1875-1880. Manhattan has Marquis de Lafayette, 1873, Statue of Liberty, 1886, and Lafayette and Washington, 1890 (114th Street and Manhattan Avenue, at Morningside Avenue).

Cross References & Further Reading

Copyright (c) 2013 Dianne L. Durante