Published:  01:24 AM, 04 July 2017

LADY LIBERTY: 125 YEARS AS ICON OF FREEDOM

The Statue of Liberty, a gift from France,was dedicated 125 years ago.

"Over the years, the meanings of the [Statue of Liberty] have grown until she has become an international icon of freedom and liberty, the most recognizable symbol of democracy in the world," says the National Park Service, which has responsibility for both the statue and Ellis Island.

America will mark the 125th anniversary of the dedication of the Statue of Liberty on October 28 with a huge birthday party. The statue will be honored with a flotilla of ships in New York Harbor, musical performances, speeches, a cake and a massive fireworks display. There will also be a naturalization ceremony welcoming 125 people as U.S. citizens.

The 93-meter-high copper beauty was a gift from the people of France in 1886, in recognition of the friendship established during the American Revolution. Completed in France in 1884, the statue was disassembled, shipped to New York, and reassembled. On October 28, 1886, it was dedicated in front of thousands of cheering spectators.

The idea of the statue originated around 1865 with Édouard de Laboulaye, a French law professor, politician and writer who wanted to foster the bond between the United States and France with a monument dedicated to their shared ideals of freedom and independence.

Artist Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, who was known for large-scale work, was commissioned to design the sculpture. Bartholdi traveled to the United States to look for a location for the monument and decided on a small island in New York Harbor called Bedloe's Island (renamed Liberty Island in 1956).

Since the statue was a joint effort between America and France, it was agreed that the American people would build the pedestal while the French people would be responsible for the statue and assembly. In France, funds came in from city governments, sales of miniature statues, a lottery, and contributions from French schoolchildren and others. Some 2 million francs were raised (about $400,000 in U.S. dollars of the time).

But fundraising was more difficult in the United States. Publisher Joseph Pulitzer stepped in and started a drive for donations using his newspaper the New York World. He printed the names of every donor, including schoolchildren who donated pennies. The fund drive drew more than 120,000 contributions, most of them less than a dollar; thus Americans were able to contribute about $250,000 for the statue's pedestal.

Bartholdi fashioned the statue - whose full name is "Liberty Enlightening the World" - from copper hammered out until it was just 2.4 millimeters thick. French engineer Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel (designer of the Eiffel Tower) built a skeleton for the statue, designed so that the statue's copper skin moves independently yet can stand upright. This flexibility allows the statue to sway in the harbor winds.

The statue, often called Lady Liberty, is 93 meters from the base of the pedestal to the tip of the torch. From her heel to the top of her head, she is 34 meters. Over the years the copper has turned green because of a chemical reaction called patination.

The United Nations designated the Statue of Liberty as a World Heritage Site in 1984. The statue was closed for a two-year restoration project and reopened in 1986, in time for her 100th birthday. During that project, the new torch was carefully covered with thin sheets of 24k gold. Visitors are able to climb to the top of the pedestal and the crown in recent years by making a reservation. Starting October 29, the inside of the statue will be closed for a year for additional restoration, but Liberty Island will remain open to visitors and their cameras.

 The Statue of Liberty welcomed more than 12 million immigrants who entered the United States through the federal immigration station on nearby Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954. The old immigration station is now a museum. Ferries take visitors to both Ellis Island and Liberty Island, where the Statue of Liberty stands.

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