Souvenir from the Statue of Liberty, New York, United States
The Statue of Liberty in New York is one of most recognizable iconic images ever to be associated to the United States of America. Located at the mouth of the Hudson River near the strategic harbor of New York, the statue has always seemed to welcome visitors (be it tourists or immigrants in search of a better life) as a suggestive reminder of the promising 'American Dream'. Today the monument is a representative part of the New York City skyline, such as the Big Apple's Empire State Building or the Brooklyn Bridge and one of the most popular souvenir images around the world. It was also a record-breaking technical masterpiece of its time as the monument was the tallest statue ever to be erected when it was assembled in 1886 on one of the small islands of New York.
American Freedom with a French Twist
The iconic statue was the creation of the French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi who had been commissioned to design an everlasting symbol of the American-French friendship throughout the American Revolution and also to commemorate 100 years of the American Declaration of Independence. Modeled after the sculptor's mother's face and -so goes the legend- the body of a prostitute, Lady Liberty (as the Americans affectionately call her) has a seven spike tiara which is a symbol of the seven continents' unity. It also holds a tablet with the Declaration of Independence in her left hand and the famous Enlightenment torch in her right hand. The Statue of Liberty Monument was officially celebrated on October 28, 1986 and throughout the years its symbolism has extended to include democracy, freedom and world-wide friendship.
Lady Liberty and the Construction of a New York Symbol
The construction of the statue itself was an unprecedented team work: the steel framework was built ingeniously by Gustave Eiffel, the famous creator of the Parisian Eiffel Tower whereas the pedestal was the responsibility of the American people with the main body of the statue commissioned to the French Bartholdi. Due to his brilliant creativity, numerous copper plates were connected to the metal framework with huge iron bars linking the heavy framework to a central pylon thus making the construction flexible enough to survive storms. The joint effort on both sides is the main reason it took more than 9 years, creative fund raising techniques and a huge logistical effort to finally complete the masterpiece in 1884. Miss Liberty arrived in New York in 350 pieces and 214 crates only to find its permanent home on a tiny island in the New York harbor, nowadays known as Liberty Island. To get the needed funds, the American officials chose to exhibit the statue's torch in the famous Madison Square Park for six years but it was Joseph Pulitzer's pushy efforts which eventually speeded the donations. In France public fees, entertainment shows and even a lottery campaign were used to raise funds for the statue. In the United States, charity events from theatre plays to art exhibitions and auctions eventually supported the fund raising process.
A National Monument Restoration and Celebration
The monument was initially placed inside the Fort Wood building which was declared a National Monument in 1924 together with the Statue. The administration of Lady Liberty was later passed on to the National Park Service and in 1956 the island was finally re-named Liberty Island. Nine years later, Ellis Island became part of the National Park Service and was included in the Statue of Liberty National Monument. It was not until the public-private partnership between the National Park Service and the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation was successfully established that the monument managed to raise massive funds for its restoration. In 1984 the United Nations declared it a World Heritage Site, one year before the Statue celebrated its 100 years.
A New York Masterpiece from Pedestal till Torch
The Statue and its pedestal reach an impressive 93 meters high and offer a splendid overview over the New York City once the visitors climb up the 354 steps to the Crown. For security reasons, access to the top has been restricted and following the 9/11 attacks in New York City the monument was closed to the public. Even if the Liberty Island was reopened three months later, the Promenade and Observatory have only been opened starting with August 2004 and the Crown could be visited again on USA National Day of 2009. During complex restoration works throughout 1986, a new torch replaced the old one and gave the monument a new shine with its thin sheets of 24k gold. The green patina of the Statue is not the original color but the result of a natural copper oxidation process. The pedestal is still the original piece which was finished in April 1886 before the completion of the monument body in France and its shipping to the USA. Funny enough, for 16 years (from its 'birth' and up until 1902) the Statue functioned as a lighthouse after USA President Cleveland ordered its electric lit up to light the way from a 24 mile distance.
Statue of Liberty Tour
For the million of immigrants who travelled to United States in the last century, the Upper Bay impressive statue was the first image of the new home country they noticed and so the monument came to represent the American nation's idea of political and economic freedom. It can even be seen from as far as the Battery Park, the New Jersey side of the bay or from a ferry ride during the Staten Island tour. Surprisingly a unique way to experience the Statue of Liberty from Manhattan as well as admire some of the Big Apple famous trademarks is from the distance of a boat trip into the New York Harbor. Crowds of tourists choose to be entertained by street performers as they are waiting patiently for their turn in the 15-minute ferry trip to the Liberty Island.
The Statue of Liberty Exhibit and the American History
For those curious to get closer to the Statue and find out the historical background of the monument, the Statue of Liberty Exhibit on the second floor in the pedestal tries to capture the stories and symbolism behind the Monument from the technologically innovative beginning to its difficult fundraising and role in popular culture. Tourists have the chance to admire the original torch exhibit and read the world renowned poem written by Emma Lazarus and dedicated to the Statue in 1883 when its pedestal was completed. The venue also hosts the American Museum of Immigration which was inaugurated in 1972 two years before strong anti-Nixon protestors locked themselves inside the statue for 14 hours. Before the completion of the statue, scale models were made throughout the world: today tourists can admire one replica in the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris or in the city of Maceio in Brazil. However the real strength of the Statue stands in its power to inspire dreams of freedom and opportunity. Her many symbolic elements go beyond the historical context of the American Revolution and Independence Day to commemorate universal values such as freedom from the colonial rule, prosperity and friendship. For those still in the search, Miss Liberty's golden torch is forever there to light up the way.