Plans have a way of evolving, don’t they? Can you visualize the Statue of Liberty majestically welcoming those about to enter…the Suez Canal? Well, it actually would have been a slightly different statue. The Statue of Liberty, as it lights the entrance of the New York Harbor, was very similar to another plan proposed by Frederic Bartholdi. As Bartholdi toured the Sphynx and the Great Pyramid in the 1860’s he developed a passion for creating large structures. In 1869, he proposed a statue that would serve as a lighthouse for the entrance to the Suez Canal. The statue was of a torch-holding woman who wore a robe. He named the statue: “Egypt Brings Light to Asia.” The Egyptian government was interested but ultimately decided not to proceed with the project. Bartholdi was dejected, but the thought of creating such a statue remained in the back of his mind.
What luck! Edouard de Laboulaye had an idea for a large, or rather colossal, monument, and he shared his vision with his friend Frederic Bartholdi. Motivated by the Union victory in the Civil War, and hoping that democracy would spread to France, Laboulaye wanted to give the United States a monument which was dedicated to the country’s core value of freedom. As with his idea for “Egypt Brings Light to Asia,” Bartholdi envisioned a statue along the lines of the Colossus of Rhodes. One of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, The Colossus of Rhodes was the statue of the Greek god, Helios, which towered almost 100 feet over the city of Rhodes.
Bartholdi modified the statue he had envisioned to emulate Libertas who is the Roman goddess of freedom. He added details which celebrated the history of our country including a broken chain at Liberty’s feet which represented America’s freedom from tyranny, and a tablet that Liberty carries which is inscribed with the date most commonly associated with America’s declaration of independence from Britain: July 4, 1776. It is thought that Liberty’s face is actually that of Bartholdi’s mother.
In 1871, Bartholdi traveled to the United States carrying letters of introduction from his friend Laboulaye. He immediately seized upon Bedloe’s Island as the site for the statue. Once known for the multitude of oyster beds that surrounded it, Bedloe’s Island was almost fifteen acres in size and was one of a small chain of islands in New York Harbor that did not submerge at high tide.
The cornerstone for the pedestal was laid on August 5, 1884. The statue, itself, arrived in the United States aboard the “Isere” on June 17, 1885. The statue was sent to us in pieces, but it was put into place quickly. The pedestal was completed on April 22, 1886. Many of the workers who assembled the statue were immigrants themselves. The statue was dedicated on October 28, 1886. Although Governor Grover Cleveland was unwilling to sign a bill to fund the statue’s pedestal, President Grover Cleveland was willing to take part in the opening ceremonies. More than one million people attended parades and ceremonies on the day of the statue’s dedication. Bartholdi himself uncovered Liberty’s face that had been covered with the French Tricolor.
The Statue of Liberty, atop of its pedestal, proudly raises its torch more than 300 feet above The New York Harbor. It greets millions of visitors each year, and is maintained by the U.S. National Park Service. There are a host of webcams placed on and around the statue. These include the TorchCam, the CrownCam, and the LibertyCam which provides a streaming view of the statue from the harbor. As I write this post, I am watching the streaming LibertyCam and can see sailboats passing in front of the statue, as well as waves brushing up against the island. You can view these webcams at:http://www.earthcam.com/usa/newyork/statueofliberty/?cam=liberty_crown
Please support in the continued restoration and maintenance of the Statue of Liberty by supporting the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation at: http://www.ellisisland.org/default.asp
Please take a moment to consider the grandeur of one of our most well-known national symbols. Her creator was able to transform his idea for a lighthouse into the embodiment of a principle that underlies What IS Right With America!
Susan C. Rempel, Ph.D.