The Statue of Liberty has towered over New York Harbor since 1886, given to the United States as a gift from the French to celebrate the end of slavery in the United States and inspire the restoration of freedom at home. The idea of the “new colossus” was repurposed from another project its designer had envisioned of a woman lighting the way.
New York’s star attraction is an engineering marvel thanks to the work of the people who designed the internal structural elements. The once tallest building in New York still stands as the tallest metal statue ever built nearly a century and a half later.
Who was Lady Liberty’s model?
The project that never materialized “Egypt brings light to Asia” was imagined by the sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi. He had designed a monumental statue to dominate the entrance to the Suez Canal at Port Said. The robed woman was to be a representation of Egypt inspired by the colossal figures guarding Nubian tombs. However, the immense cost of the proposal sent it to waste, at least for Port Said.
French historian and abolitionist Édouard de Laboulaye proposed the idea for the Statue of Liberty in 1865, the year the Confederacy surrendered and the last American slaves were freed. The statue was meant to be a symbol of friendship between nations and a celebration of freedom with complete abolition in the United States. He also hoped it would inspire his compatriots to rise up against their new oppressor, the recently self-proclaimed Emperor of France, Napoleon III, who had ended the Second Republic in 1852.
The lady in the dress has also been given a makeover to look like what many historians have said was modeled after the Roman goddess of freedom Libertas.
The most famous landmarks in New York and Paris have something in common
The original engineer to design the structure that would support the colossal statue was Eugène Viollet-le-Duc. However, he died suddenly in 1879, so the sculptor and the organization that secured the funds and carried out the project, the Franco-American Union, appealed to Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel.
The name may sound familiar due to another monument named after him, he designed the Eiffel Tower as the centerpiece of the 1889 World’s Fair in Paris. He chose to keep many elements of Viollet-le-Duc but modernized the interior decoration.
The Statue of Liberty is 151 feet 1 inch tall and weighs 225 tons supported by a 92-foot central pylon, with a side appendage to support the raised arm. The pedestal below slightly more than doubles Lady Liberty’s height at 305 feet 1 inch. The torch from the tip of the flame to the bottom of the handle alone is 29 feet.
What does the plaque at the foot of the Statue of Liberty say?
While the original version designed for Egypt was meant to bring light to Asia, the American statue is “Liberty Enlightening the World”. If you look closely, you’ll see her right foot leave the ground as she’s halfway to stepping forward toward the horizon, “always leading the way and lighting the way to freedom and freedom.”
“The New Colossus”, a sonnet written to help raise funds for the construction of the pedestal on which the statue stands which was cast in bronze and placed at the entrance, encapsulates this idea.