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What is the Statue of Liberty?

Mary McMahon
Updated May 17, 2024
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The Statue of Liberty is a massive statue located on an island near New York City in the United States. It is perhaps one of the most universally recognized symbols of the United States, and numerous replicas of the famous statue can also be found all over the world. People who are interested in visiting the Statue of Liberty can take a ferry to the 12 acre island that it is located on, although they may have to endure security screenings, due to concerns about terrorist threats to the statue.

Lady Liberty, as she is sometimes called, is more technically known as La liberté éclairant le monde, or “Liberty enlightening the world.” She was a gift from the French people to the United States in 1886, as a symbol of the friendship forged between the two nations during the American war for independence. The construction of the Statue of Liberty was actually a collective process, as the French built the statue and the Americans built the base. Despite sometimes tense relations between the two countries, the Statue of Liberty is an enduring symbol of the value of friendship.

Dedication for the Statue of Liberty took place on 28 October, 1886, and the site was made a National Monument in 1924. In 1965, President Lyndon Johnson added neighboring Ellis Island, which was turned into a museum of immigration and American history. The statue is built from 31 tons of copper and 125 tons of steel; it was designed by Frederic-August Bartholdi and engineered by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, the designer of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Many people are familiar with the design of the Statue of Liberty. The statue has a very classical look, as she wears Roman robes and she has very classical features. In one hand, she carries an uplifted torch to symbolize enlightenment, and in the other, she holds a tablet of law, engraved with the date of American independence in Roman numerals. The Statue of Liberty also wears a crown, with seven spikes symbolizing the seven seas and continents, and 25 windows in her crown which are meant to evoke the heaven's rays shining over the world.

At the base of the Statue of Liberty, a pile of chains symbolizes freedom from oppression. The statue stands an impressive 305 feet (92) meters from the ground to the top of her torch, which is covered in gold leaf and illuminated at night. The original torch was replaced in 1986 for the statue's centennial, and it can be found in the lobby, along with other interesting material related to the Statue of Liberty.

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Mary McMahon
By Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a America Explained researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

Discussion Comments
By Ruggercat68 — On Feb 12, 2014

The article left out one interesting fact about the statue's origins. The sculptor originally envisioned a modern "Colossus at Rhodes" installation at the northern entrance to the Suez Canal. The torch-bearing arm was already complete, but those plans fell through.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a...

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