The Statue of Liberty is instantly recognizable as one of America’s most iconic landmarks. Standing 305-feet in height, including her pedestal, the Green Goddess has stood watch over New York Harbor for more than 130 years..
Built as a token of French and American friendship, the statue, whose official name is Liberty Enlightening the World, is the work of renowned sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi. The metal framework was constructed by Gustave Eiffel, the creator of yet another iconic landmark ― the Eiffel Tower.
The idea of erecting a huge monument dedicated to liberty came in the aftermath of the American Civil War, in 1865, from Édouard René de Laboulaye, president of the French Anti-Slavery Society. De Laboulaye was a zealous supporter of the abolition of slavery and the Union cause.
However, France itself was plunged into war with the Prussians in 1870 and was therefore unable to provide the financial support desperately needed by the Americans to begin the construction.
In order to raise funds, Bartholdi first built the torch-holding right arm as well as the head, although only the arm was displayed during the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, and in Madison Square Park in Manhattan from 1876 to 1882.
Even though the fundraising didn’t bear fruit in the early days, it got a surge of interest in 1885, after Joseph Pulitzer of the New York World started a crowdfunding-campaign which soon attracted more than 120,000 donations, most of which were small sums.
This came just in time to push the construction of the pedestal on what was then known as the Bedloe’s Island and today bears the name Liberty Island.
In the meantime, the statue was already built and disassembled for transport across the Atlantic Ocean on the French steamer Isère. The steamer arrived in New York on June 17, 1885 and was welcomed by a crowd of 200,000 people.
Although the response to fundraising calls attracted more and more money, the massive pedestal was finished only in April 1886, after numerous delays. The assembly of the statue, on the other hand, went relatively smoothly ― given how complicated it was to actually erect her.
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Since scaffolding was out of the question due to the width of the pedestal, Bartholdi asked Eiffel for help, who came to his aid by constructing a massive iron framework from which the statue was assembled.
Although it was a high-risk project, miraculously no worker was harmed during the construction. On October 26, 1886, Liberty Enlightening the World was dedicated by President Grover Cleveland in front of a stunning crowd which by some estimates numbered between several hundred thousand to up to one million people.