Statue of Liberty

On February 18, 1879, the French sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904) earned US Patent #11,023 for a "Design for a Statue." This statue, "Liberty Enlightening the World," would become one of the most famous monuments of world history.

At a dinner party in 1865, Bartholdi and his host, historian Edouard-René de Laboulaye, had conceived the idea of France giving the U.S. a monument for its Centennial of 1876. In 1871, Bartholdi visited America to seek inspiration and support. Before his ship docked in New York Harbor, he had finished his first sketches for a colossal statue and had chosen Bedloe's Island as its site. Although most Americans (including President Grant) did not share his enthusiasm for the project, Bartholdi returned to France undaunted.

There, he refined his designs while de Laboulaye organized a special lottery that raised $400,000. Construction began in late 1875. Bartholdi's major innovation was to build a shell of thin copper plates around a sturdy steel frame, for the 151-foot, 225-ton statue would have to be shipped and reassembled across the Atlantic. Bartholdi's team hand-worked 300 sheets of copper for the shell. The inner framework was supervised by Alexandre Gustav Eiffel, who would later build Paris' great Tower.

Only the torch-bearing arm of the statue was ready for display at the Centennial in Philadelphia, but all was finished in early 1884. The next year, the statue was dismantled and shipped in dozens of enormous crates to New York. But the statue's base was not completed until April 1886, after a campaign for contributions led by immigrant newspaperman Joseph Pulitzer.

The Statue was inaugurated by President Grover Cleveland on October 28, 1886. Emma Lazarus' verses, "Give me your tired, your poor. . .," were inscribed in 1903. In 1956, Bedloe's Island was renamed Liberty Island. From 1983 to 1986, the Statue was renovated for its own Centennial. Today, Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty is an American and universal symbol of Freedom.

Read more about the history of the Statue of Liberty here.