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The Statue of Liberty History

It is the tallest metal statue ever constructed, and, at the time it was completed, the tallest building in New York, 22 stories high. It stands 151 feet high and weighs 225 tons. Its arms are 42 long and its torch is 21 feet in length. Its index fingers are eight feet long and it has a 4-foot 6-inch nose. It als has been described by Jonathan Waldman, in his book called Rust: the Longest War, as a High Maintenance Lady.

  1. Since 1886 she has stood proudly in New York Harbor, in a naturally very corrosive marine environment. A gift from "the French people to the American people," master sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi had originally envisioned this to be a new Wonder of the World to mark Egypt's Suez Canal. After history and politics got in the way, Bartholdi looked to America and saw the perfect gift to celebrate America's Centennial.
  2. Edouard de Laboulaye, French historian and admirer of American political institutions, suggested that the French present a monument to the United States, the latter to provide pedestal and site. Bartholdi visualized a colossal statue at the entrance of New York harbor, welcoming the peoples of the world with the torch of liberty.
  3. On Washington's Birthday, Feb. 22, 1877, Congress approved the use of a site on Bedloe's Island suggested by Bartholdi. This island of 12 acres had been owned in the 17th century by a Walloon named Isaac Bedloe. It was called Bedloe's until Aug. 3, 1956, when President Eisenhower approved a resolution of Congress changing the name to Liberty Island.
  4. The statue was finished May 21, 1884, and formally presented to the U.S. minister to France, Levi Parsons Morton, July 4, 1884, by Ferdinand de Lesseps, head of the Franco-American Union, promoter of the Panama Canal, and builder of the Suez Canal.
  5. On Aug. 5, 1884, the Americans laid the cornerstone for the pedestal. This was to be built on the foundations of Fort Wood, which had been erected by the government in 1811. The American committee had raised $125,000, but this was found to be inadequate. Joseph Pulitzer, owner of the New York World, appealed on Mar. 16, 1885, for general donations. By Aug. 11, 1885, he had raised $100,000.
  6. The statue arrived dismantled, in 214 packing cases, from Rouen, France, in June 1885. The last rivet of the statue was driven Oct. 28, 1886, when Pres. Grover Cleveland dedicated the monument.
  7. The statue weighs 450,000 lbs., or 225 tons. The copper sheeting weighs 200,000 lbs. There are 167 steps from the land level to the top of the pedestal, 168 steps inside the statue to the head, and 54 rungs on the ladder leading to the arm that holds the torch.
  8. A $2.5 million building housing the American Museum of Immigration was opened by President Richard Nixon Sept. 26, 1972, at the base of the statue. It houses a permanent exhibition of photos, posters, and artifacts tracing the history of American immigration. The Statue of Liberty National Monument is administered by the National Park Service.
  9. Two years of restoration work was completed before the statue's centennial celebration on July 4, 1986. Among other repairs, the multimillion dollar project included replacing the 1,600 wrought iron bands that hold the statue's copper skin to its frame, replacing its torch, and installing an elevator.

Other Statue of Liberty topics: Auguste Bartholdi, Construction, Copper, Corrosion, History, Head, Introduction, Model, Picture, Postcard, Restoration, Symbolism

Other landmarks: Christ the Redeemer, Colossus, Delhi pillar, Eiffel tower, Golden Gate bridge, Great Buddha, Guggenheim Museum (Bilbao), Guggenheim Museum (NYC), Normandy bridge, Oresund crossing, Quebec Bridge, Statue of Liberty, Thames Barrier, Titanic, Tower of the Orologio

A High Maintenance Lady

In 1980, the statue was scaled as if it were a climbing wall by a pair of protesters angry about a Black Panther’s conviction for murder. After their stunt, the statue’s caretaker discovered that Lady Liberty’s skin was full of holes and separating at its seams. Although he first blamed the damage on climbing spikes, closer inspection revealed the punctures were the result of corrosion around the rivets that held the statue’s copper skin to her wrought-iron skeleton. (reference)

 The statue’s artistic designer, the sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, and Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, who engineered its supporting structural frame, were well aware of the fact that two dissimilar metals in contact create a system subject to “galvanic action,” which is the same principle behind a battery’s operation. The statue could deteriorate for the same reason a battery does: The electrochemical process consumes the metal that is electrically weaker.   The Frenchmen believed they could obviate the problem by inserting asbestos insulators between the dissimilar metals, and, in any case, that the exposed interior of the statue would enable any corrosion to be easily monitored. Unfortunately, in 1911, the interior of the statue was—for unexplained reasons—coated with a layer of coal tar, which covered up any developing corrosion.

 Subsequent coats of aluminum and, later, enamel paint, further concealed any developing rust at the rivet locations and exacerbated the problem by creating pockets that trapped water, thus providing a battery-like electrical connection between the copper and iron. After the problem was unintentionally exposed by the climbers, a committee chaired by Chrysler Corporation chairman Lee Iacocca raised $277 million to restore the statue, which meant replacing iron where it came in contact with copper with stainless steel.