Secrets of the Statue of Liberty
In 1886, at the dedication ceremony of the Statue of Liberty, her silhouetted image stood silently against the grand New York skyline with her many hidden secrets. Let’s take the journey back into history and re-discover her many untold secrets and symbolisms. What are the undressed, hidden secrets of the Statue of Liberty?
She was termed the “New Colossus” being compared to the Colossus of Rhodes (280 B.C.) from Greek history. The sculpture gave a resounding voice to the friendship between France and America, when the statue was presented as a gift by the French government. The purpose of the gift by French school children was to celebrate America’s centennial and the end of slavery. Two great men; Frederic -Auguste Bartholdi, sculptor and the designer, Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel gave birth to the Lady of Liberty.
The message of her creators was very clear– as she stood on her pedestal with torch in hand, her lighted beacon shined of promise beckoning immigrants to embrace their new found land of liberty. Her lighted torch was symbolic for “Enlightening the World” —expressing America’s new democracy to the four corners of the earth.
Emma Lazarus wrote about the Statue of Liberty in a sonnet called, “The New Colossus” (1883). The poem was engraved on a bronze plaque and placed inside the lower level of the pedestal of the statue. She wrote, “…Give me your tired, you’re poor. Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” The famous sonnet helped to raise funds in France and in the United States to support an inspiring design and an aspiring creation called the “Enlightenment of the World.” The statue was a gift from French school children to America and her children through personal donations needed to construct, ship, and reassemble the statue.
The vision for the gift came from Eduoard de Laboulaye, a French law professor, who wanted to inspire French children to fight for their own liberation and personal freedom from oppression. At the time, his country lived under the oppressive monarchy of Napoleon III. . It was also a message of determination for the children of America to celebrate and to fight for their gift of liberty.
In brief, the sculpture was created to better illustrate the symbolism of freedom; for example, the statue held a tablet inscribed with the date of America’s Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. In addition, Lady Liberty was sculpted with a broken chain around her ankle that symbolized the nation’s constitutional end to slavery. Bartholdi, the sculptor, felt that independence and the abolishment of slavery were here most powerful narratives.
Here are fifteen hidden and fascinating things to be discovered about the Statue of Liberty:
- “Enlightening the World,” is the full name given to the Statue of Liberty.
- The robed female represents Libertas, the Roman Goddess of Freedom
- The tablet is inscribed, “July 4, 1776.”
- There are 354 steps to the crown with 25 windows to view the harbor.
- The structure is composed of an iron infrastructure and copper exterior.
- It was a gift from France to celebrated the” American Revolution and the Constitutional Abolishment of Slavery.”
- In high winds, Lady Liberty can sway by 3 inches, while her torch can sway up to 5 inches.
- She is standing with her foot displaying a broken shackle of chains symbolizing the end to slavery.
- The torch is a symbol of enlightenment- lighting the path to liberty.
- The Statue of Liberty is an invitation to all immigrants to come to the United States of America to seek freedom and opportunity.
- The French people and school children raised $400,000 in 1881 to design and build their famous gift to this country.
- The foundation for the statue was built on a former fort with a noted starred shaped base.
- Four years later in 1885, American school children raised another $270,000 to pay for the concrete pedestal on which the statue stands.
- Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, sculptor (1834-1904), created and sculpted the statue in tribute to the fraternal feeling between America and France.
- Alexander – Gustave Eiffel (1923), designed the flexible skeletal system that supported the exterior copper skin. He later built the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France.
You Are There:
Imagine being aboard an arriving vessel, having left your homeland with uncertainty and insecurity to be welcomed by opportunity and promise by the opened arms of Lady Liberty. It was love at first sight! Lady Liberty stood on Bedloe Island in New York harbor, 1886. Her magnificence was indescribable and its magnitude was inconceivable. Her voice of freedom echoed across the water trumpeting promises of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness to her arriving immigrants. She stood tall, sculpted in flowing cooper, and green ribbing, as her torch guided immigrants, with her shining beacon of promise.
A small Irish boy stood alone behind the taller crowd on the ship’s deck, miming his excited parents, as they packed the railing for the grand view. Pushing and shoving, amongst the mass of humanity; the small boy anxiously fought his way through the tangled masses. Finally, he clawed his way to the deck railing; his hands trembling, and his face dripping with sweat. Like a victorious, flag bearing soldier; he hoisted his miniature version of the stars and stripes high over his head shouting, “God bless you, Lady Liberty.” The crowd followed his cue, hearts pounding, to a chorus of “Amazing Grace.” His tiny giggles had turned the crowded deck of immigrants into a chorus of song. They sang to a refrained crescendo of jubilant cheers that celebrated a new found feeling of freedom. Then, as the ship steered closer to her; with the integrity of an honor guard, they jumped into a silent attention, saluting her in respect. These soon to be Americans had ignored the cold winds and trembling temperatures that day to witness a once in a lifetime event—the welcoming sight of the Statue of Liberty. Today, Neil Diamond’s recording, “Coming to America,” expresses many similar immigrant’s sentiments. The Statue of Liberty has a hidden story. Americans did not create her. She was created by the French, who then gave her to America.
At her dedication in 1886, President Grover Cleveland, claimed her as an emblem of political stability and social harmony. Not all Americans accepted this message. Among the many boats traversing New York harbor to celebrate the dedication was one chartered by the New York State Woman Suffrage Association, protesting women’s exclusion from “political liberty.” In other news, social protests took place in support of striking for an eight-hour work day, as peaceful protestors were killed by the Chicago police. Then a day later, an unknown person threw a dynamite bomb at police as they acted to disperse the crowd. The protest became known as the “Haymarket Riot.” It has been said, that no single event has influenced the history of labor in the U.S., and even the world more than the Chicago Haymarket Affair.
Further racial tension existed that year in Carroll County, Mississippi. Where for the first time, a black person charged a white person with a crime of attempted murder. At the time of the trial on March 17, 1886, a vigilante posse of fifty to a hundred dismounted their horses at the courthouse, and ran into the courtroom through four doors. They fired a barrage of shots at the plaintiffs and the black citizens in attendance. Many were left killed, as the renegades rode out of town without consequences. The newspapers around the country reported the attack, pleas for justice were brought to President Cleveland, asking for an investigation into the massacre. President Grover Cleveland took no action.
This period in American history was described by Mark Twain as the “Gilded Age.” Many problems faced by society, especially the poor, gave rise to attempted reforms in the subsequent Progressive Era. The “Gilded Age” was a pejorative term that described a time of materialistic excesses combined with extreme poverty. Looking in retrospect at the social and political issues briefly described in the above paragraph, there is evidence of hope that our democracy will continue to find a path for accommodating the ever changing freedoms and needs of its people. Lady Liberty is a symbolic reminder that progressive freedom can only come through our democratic process. Our images of freedom; the Liberty Bell, the American flag, and the bald eagle provide American’s with a source of inspiration for a devout patriotism and an unrelenting self- identity.
The sight of the Statute of Liberty in New York Harbor has been emotionally moving, it has struck people with a sense of power and unity. By understanding all the reasons for its creation you will better understand the deepest meaning of this monument to the world and to its citizens.
“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” Abraham Lincoln.