The Statue of Liberty is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the United States. Located on Liberty Island between New York and New Jersey, “Lady Liberty,” as she’s known, has greeted visitors for more than 100 years.
Our friend France
You might have heard that the statue was a gift from France to the United States, but that’s not completely true. The statue was built as a joint effort of France and the United States in commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Declaration of Independence. The two countries agreed that France would build the statue and put it up if the United States built the pedestal. Both countries had trouble raising money, but Lady Liberty arrived in New York in 1885, and by the next year, she was ready to be dedicated.
At 151 feet, 1 inch, Lady Liberty is the tallest statue in the United States (although there’s one in Puerto Rico that is more than twice her height!). Her nose alone is 4 feet, 6 inches. That’s about how tall an average kid might be at age 8 or 9.
One surprising thing about the statue is that it doesn’t look like it did new. When the statue was built, it was brown, like the copper that was used to make the outer layer — about the same color as a penny. (Pennies used to be made out of copper, too, but that’s another story.) But because the statue was outside, the exposure to air and moisture made the color change.
Lady Liberty carries a different torch than she did in the early days. In the 1980s, the statue went through renovations, and in 1984, her torch was replaced with a new one that reflects the sun’s rays and lights up at night.
Another change from the original — or at least the idea — is that Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, who came up with the idea for the statue, wanted it to not only look nice but to function as a lighthouse. But the design didn’t allow for such a use, and the statue’s placement is too close to land to make it practical.
If you haven’t been to New York to see the original statue, perhaps you’ve seen one of the replicas. There’s one in Las Vegas that’s about half the size of the real one. And Duluth, Minnesota; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Birmingham, Alabama; and other cities have smaller versions of the statue. There are also a few that look out on water, just as the real statue does. One version is in the middle of the Susquehanna River just north of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Another stands on the shores of Lake Chaubunagungamaug in Massachusetts. One notable replica outside of the United States is in Visnes, Norway. That was the town where the copper used to construct the original statue was mined.
Activity: Draw a monument
The Statue of Liberty has many symbols in her design. The seven spikes on her crown represent the seven continents of the world. A broken ax and broken shackles lie at her feet, symbolizing the freedoms enjoyed in the United States.
If you were going to design a monument to life in this country, what would it look like? Draw a picture.