This Week in 1885: The world-famous Statue of Liberty arrives in New York with a French warship and in 350 pieces | Abroad

The Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island in New York Bay has become an integral part of the Big Apple today. On Friday, exactly 137 years ago, the world-famous gift from the French to the Americans arrived in New York Harbor. With the French battleship “Lesir”, 350 pcs. It would not officially open until about a year and a half later, on October 28, 1886.

The Statue of Liberty is 93 meters high with its base and 46 meters without it. It weighs 225 tons. Americans call the statue the Statue of Liberty, but its official name is “Liberty Enlightening the World” or – in French – “La Liberté éclairant le monde”. In our language: “The freedom that lights the world.” A torch in the right hand of the woman depicted, Lady Liberty, indicates that lighting. It not only symbolizes freedom, but also welcomes returning Americans, tourists, and immigrants.

The idea that the French would present a statue to the Americans as a gift had already been proposed by the French legal scholar and poet Édouard René de Laboulaye in 1865 during a dinner at Versailles, where Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, a French sculptor from Alsace, was also present. Bartholdi became fascinated with colossal statues from antiquity after a trip to Egypt.

Initially, Bartholdi was working on an impressive statuary lighthouse to be built at the northern entrance to the Suez Canal. This fell out of favor for financial reasons, but the statue was recovered as a planned gift from the French to the Americans. Bartholdi sailed for America in the summer of 1871. During this transit, he reformed his drawings of the Suez Statue and transformed the original Arab peasant into a classic Greco-Roman woman.

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In New York he does not receive any money for his project, but the artist does not give up. When he returned, he asked to donate the money to the French. The final image is essentially a gift of friendship from the French to the American people. Neither government has contributed to its realization.

Americans’ interest in the project grew after an article by journalist Joseph Pulitzer – who received the journalism prize of the same name – in which he defended the photo. The Americans began to raise funds for the substrate that was manufactured in their country. Bartholdi escalated pressure by shipping the Statue of Liberty from Rouen to New York, where he arrived on June 17, 1885, before the base was ready. Pulitzer also continued to campaign in his own newspaper to fund the pedestal. Successfully, the 28,000-ton pedestal was completed in August. The statue was shipped in 350 pieces, and reconstructed. The opening took place on October 28, with financial intervention from the US government, which paid for the construction of the sidewalks and the ceremonial platform. An estimated one million New Yorkers were on their feet.

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The Statue of Liberty is often mentioned at the same time as Gustave Eiffel – the statue of the Eiffel Tower – but is thus a design by Bartholdi, whose mother, Marie Bartholdi, had modeled the woman depicted. The skeleton to which the statue is attached was designed by Gustave Eiffel.

France donated the Statue of Liberty to the United States in honor of the centenary of the Declaration of Independence and as a sign of friendship. In her left hand, the carved woman holds a plaque bearing in Roman numerals the date of signature of the Declaration of Independence: July IV MDCCLXXVI (July 4, 1776). But on the centenary in 1876, only the hand and torch were completed. The Statue of Liberty was not completed, shipped to New York, and placed on its pedestal until nine years later.

The statue has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1984. The name of the island where the Statue of Liberty was placed was not changed to Liberty Island until 1956. Until then it was called Bedloe Island, after the original owner Isaac Bedloe.


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Denton Watson

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