The Statue of Liberty is one of the most iconic structures in the United States.
The statue features Roman goddess Libertas robed and holding a torch high. It signifies the ideals of liberty and freedom which are embodied in the American nation.
During the American Revolutionary War, France significantly aided the revolutionaries by providing troops, officers and weapons. For this reason, United States enjoyed a close relationship with France right after it gained independence and in later years the special relationship continued.
Especially after the American Civil War, once slavery was abolished in the United States, French intellectuals expressed high praise for the country.
It was around this time that Edouard Rene de Laboulaye, a French professor and politician, came up with the idea of a monument to the United States. Laboulaye stated that such a monument should really be a joint project of the two nations. Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, a French sculptor, was inspired by this idea and decided to pursue it.
Bartholdi decided to discuss the prospects of such a monument with people of France and the United States. With the help of Laboulaye, he arrived in the US in 1871 and met with several notable individuals, including President Ulysses S. Grant. Bartholdi also saw the Liberty Island and believed that it would be the perfect site for the statue.
Laboulaye and Bartholdi worked together to determine the type, size and shape of the statue. They agreed that the statue should embody Libertas, the Roman goddess of liberty. The duo then decided that the goddess should be shown as wearing a robe and holding high a torch that signified liberty. The design also included a crown for the statue’s head with seven rays, signifying the seven seas and the seven continents.
Construction on the statue began in the late 1870s. It was timed to coincide with the Centennial celebrations of the American independence in 1876. At the same time, fund-raising efforts were launched in both US and France to finance the project.
By 1878, Bartholdi had completed the head and exhibited it at the Paris World’s Fair. Sheet copper was the main material used in the construction of the skin and exterior of the statue. A metal structure was used as the frame and base for the copper. By 1885, the statue had started arriving from France to United States in disassembled pieces.
Once the completed statue had arrived in the United States, there were not sufficient funds to have it erected. So another fundraising drive was launched in the US. By August 1885, funds had been raised. The next year, the pedestal was erected and the statue was finally assembled and brought into its erect position by late 1886.
On October 28, 1886, a ceremony of dedication for the statue took place. In this ceremony, many hundreds of thousands Americans participated. Some estimate that nearly a million people were present at the ceremony.