Wednesday, July 7, 2010
Statue of Liberty
Our illustrious President Barack Obama recently discussed the Statue of Liberty in his eloquent speech on immigration. He indicated that the statue is a monument to immigration from poverty. In fact, it is a monument to liberty, and the torch is to light the way to liberty from oppression in other parts of the world. It was built to celebrate the centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. There is a good reason why this monument is called the Statue of Liberty and not the Statue of Immigration. In an effort to correct numerous misstatements made by the President, I write the following post. The copper sculpture known as the Statue of Liberty stands above Liberty Island, a twelve-acre island at the entrance to New York Harbor in Upper New York Bay. The island is about a mile and a half southwest of the tip of Manhattan Island. The pedestal of the statue "rises from within the walls of a star-shaped fort built on the island from 1806 to 1811 to defend New York from naval attack." The name Liberty Island came from an act of Congress in 1956. The complete name of this famous and majestic figure of a robed woman holding a torch is Liberty Enlightening the World. It is one of the largest statues ever built. The Statue of Liberty was a gift to the people of the United States from the people of France in 1884 as an expression of friendship and a reminder that both people shared the ideal of liberty. The money to build the statue was donated by French citizens. The money to build the pedestal or base of the statue came from the people of the United States. Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, a French sculptor, chose the site and designed the statue. "The Statue of Liberty has become a symbol of the United States and an expression of freedom to people all over the world. The statue shows liberty as a proud woman draped in the graceful folds of a loose robe. In her uplifted right hand, she holds a glowing torch. She wears a crown with seven spikes that stand for the light of liberty shining on the seven seas and seven continents. With her left arm, she cradles a tablet bearing the date of the Declaration of Independence. A chain that represents tyranny (unjust rule) lies broken at her feet." Since the Statue of Liberty was erected, millions of people have passed it as they entered the United States. "For them, the statue was a strong, welcoming figure holding out the promise of freedom and opportunity." American poet Emma Lazarus wrote a poem in 1883 entitled "The New Colossus" about the statue as part of a fundraiser to pay for the pedestal. This poem was inscribed on a bronze plaque that was placed on the interior wall of the pedestal of the statue in 1903. The poem reads: Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, With conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame. "Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" The Statue of Liberty is 151 feet 1 inch high from its feet to the top of the torch and weighs 204 metric tons. It is made of 300 sheets of copper riveted together. The copper skin is 2.4 millimeters thick. Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, the French engineer who later built the Eiffel Tower in Paris, designed the structural framework for the copper covering. He designed a central tower of four vertical iron columns that are connected by horizontal and diagonal crossbeams. The raised right arm is supported by iron girders that come up and out from the tower. The design of the statue is strong but flexible and allows the copper skin to react to wind and temperature changes without stressing the statue's framework. There are two parallel, spiral stairways that wind up through the interior of the statue to the crown on the statue's head. The torch is 305 feet 1 inch above the base of the pedestal. Its gold-covered flame glows at night with reflected light from 16 powerful lamps arranged around the rim of the torch. Lights shining up from below illuminate the rest of the statue. The pedestal is a huge mass of concrete that was reinforced with steel beams and covered with granite. It was designed by Richard Morris Hunt, an American architect who became famous for designing magnificent mansions. It is about 154 feet tall. It was completed in 1886. Inside the pedestal there are stairs and a passenger elevator. There is a balcony around the top of the pedestal. The idea to build the Statue of Liberty came from Edouard-Rene Lefebvre de Laboulaye, a prominent French politician who greatly admired the United States. Construction on the statue began in 1875 in Paris, and Liberty Enlightening the World was dedicated on October 28, 1886. The statue was repaired, restored, and strengthened in the early 1980's. It was officially reopened on July 4, 1986, with an additional grand ceremony held on October 28, 1986 - one hundred years after the original dedication of the Statue of Liberty. In the good old days before terrorists attacked the United States on 9/11, visitors could tour the Statue of Liberty. In an effort to protect the statue from terrorists, tours were discontinued. I do not know if tours have been reinstated. Facts and quotes for this post came from an article by James B. Bell in World Book Encyclopedia, Vol 18, pp 874-881.