Designed by French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel, the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, is a colossal neoclassical sculpture located in Liberty Island in New York City in the United States. The monumental copper statue was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States for the celebration of the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence and over the years it is recognized as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy.
As suggested by a French law professor and politician, Edouard Rene de Laboulaye, it was decided that the proposed monument would ideally be a joint project of the people of French and US. France would design and build the Statue and the States would take the responsibility to complete the pedestal for the Lady Liberty. However, the fund-raising for the project proved to be tedious for both the sides. Due to the post war instability, work on the projected statue was suspended in France till the early 1870s. Finally, entertainments, exhibitions, public fees and a national lottery helped the authority to create a sizable fund. Bartholdi was so much interested and enthusiastic about the project that he completed the head and the torch-bearing arm of the Lady Liberty, even before the statue was fully designed and arranged to exhibit those pieces for publicity at international expositions.
In the United States, things were much slower, as fundraising proved difficult due to the economic depression following the panic of 1873, which persisted through much of the decade. Auctions, various forms of entertainment, and fights helped to provide some funds, but that was not near to the sufficient. By 1885, when work on the pedestal was threatened by lack of funds, publisher Joseph Pulitzer of the 'New York World' wrote an editorial in his newspaper and implored the American people to donate for the project. It worked, as the drive captured the imagination of the New Yorkers and more than 120,000 people contributed to the fund, though most of them donated less than a dollar. By August 1885 finances in the United States for the pedestal was complete and the construction was completed in April 1886.
In the mean time, the statue was completed in France in 1884, divided into 350 individual pieces and shipped in 214 crates. The shipment arrived in NY Harbor in1885 aboard the French vessel 'Isere' and assembled on the granite pedestal in the star-shaped walls of Fort Wood. Finally, ten years later than the centennial date of 1876, a ceremony of dedication was held on the afternoon of October 28, 1886, presided by Grover Cleveland, the former New York governor. However, the high spirit was damped considerably in the evening, when the torch was illuminated, as it produced only a faint gleam, barely visible from Manhattan.
The Statue of Liberty is the impressive figure of a robed woman representing 'Libertas', a Roman liberty goddess. In her right hand she holds a torch above her head and her left hand carries a tablet with handles inscribed in Roman numerals July 4, 1776, the date of the US Declaration of Independence. A broken chain lies at her feet, symbolizing the broken shackles of oppression and tyranny. From her heel to the top of her head, the statue is 111' 6" high and her face measures more than 8 feet tall. Her crown consists of seven rays, representing the seven continents of the world, each measuring up to 9 feet in length and weighing approximately 68 kgs.
As the statue virtually remained invisible at night and had proved useless as a lighthouse, President Theodore Roosevelt ordered the statue's transfer to the War Department in 1901. Later, President Woodrow Wilson inaugurated the first adequate lighting system, when fifteen 500-candle-power gas-filled electric lamps were installed in the torch. The lighting arrangements improved step by step with time and the present floodlighting system consists of ninety-six 1,000-watt incandescent lamps and sixteen 400-watt mercury vapor lamps.
The statue sustained minor damage, mostly to the torch-bearing right arm, during the World War I and was closed for ten days. During World War II, the statue was not illuminated at night and remained in darkness, due to the wartime restrictions of blackout, though it remained open to the visitors. Immediately after the barbaric attack of September 11, the statue and Liberty Island were immediately closed to the public and reopened at the end of 2001.
In 1924, the Statue of Liberty was declared a National Monument by President Calvin Coolidge. In 1933, The National Monument was placed in the care of the National Park Service and a few years later the jurisdiction of the Monument would include all of Bedloe's Island. Subsequently, in 1956, Bedloe's Island was renamed as the Liberty Island. In 1965, the Ellis Island also became a part of the Statue of Liberty Monument, when it was transferred into the National Park Service.
In 1984, the United Nations declared the Statue of Liberty as a World Heritage Site, and the completion of the restoration of the Statue was complete on July 5th, 1986, which celebrated her centennial.