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Amerika Freiheitsstatue
The statue has been dedicated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, a National Monument and a New York City landmarkImage: dapd

13 facts about the Statue of Liberty

October 27, 2016

On the top of any New York tourists' to-do list is a visit to the Statue of Liberty. Lady Liberty was inaugurated in New York's harbor 130 years ago. To mark her birthday, here are 13 curious facts.


1. Color: Actually the green lady with a torch in her hand wasn't green at all. Scientists think that she was dark brown. The statue is made of an iron frame with a copper exterior, which was originally brown. The scientists said the color only lasted for about 20 years, as weather caused the statue's exterior to rust - gradually turning it more and more green.

2. Origin: the statue, whose proper name is "Liberty Enlightening the World," was a gift from France to the United States. France contributed the statue, but the US had to foot the bill for the site and the pedestal. Fund raising on both sides of the Atlantic proved difficult so the gift arrived 10 years later than planned. It was originally intended to be inaugurated on the 100th anniversary of American Independence in 1876.

3. Transport: 1878 the head of the statue was displayed at the World Fair in Paris. Afterwards, 350 parts of the statue were packed into 214 crates and transported across the Atlantic in stormy weather by the freighter "Isere." Once the parts arrived, the statue was reconstructed in four months. Then-US President Grover Cleveland in front of thousands of spectators in New York's harbor inaugurated the statue on October 28th, 1886..

Porträt Freiheitsstatue New York Lady Liberty
A gift of friendship from FranceImage: Bryan Busovicki/Fotolia

Four million tourists annually

4. Island: The statue has its own island, aptly called Liberty Island, some 2.5 kilometers off the coast of Manhattan's southern tip. Despite the waters surrounding the island actually falling into the jurisdiction of New Jersey, New York is responsible for Liberty Island.  There was once a fortress on the island, which was called Bedloe Island. In 1956, it was eventually officially renamed Liberty Island. 

5. Inhabitants: for over 200 years people lived on the island - though admittedly not in large numbers. But since early 2014, Lady Liberty is the only inhabitant on the island after her last neighbor, David Luchsinger, superintendant of the Statue of Liberty National Monument retired. The statue's caretakers now no longer live on Liberty Island. However the statue is far from lonely as she receives some 4 million annual visitors.

6. Storms: the slight damage caused to the Statue of Liberty by hurricane Sandy in 2012 has long since been repaired and all areas reopened to visitors. In strong winds the statue can sway back and forth up to eight centimeters, the torch up to 12 centimeters..

USA Shutdown Tourismus Freiheitsstatue
After being damaged by Sandy in 2012 the Statue was closed for more than a yearImage: Reuters

Symbol for freedom and independence

7. Designer: the Statue of Liberty was designed by Frenchman Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi. The female figure represents Libertas, the Roman goddess freedom. The face the sculptor Bartholdi modeled after that of his mother.

8. Appearance: the statue, without its base, measures 46 meters, the nose is 1.37 meters long. Lady Liberty wears a robe and in her left hand she holds a tablet which has the date of American independence on it, and in her right hand she holds a torch aloft. On her head she wears a crown with seven spikes - each representing a continent.

9. Walk: Lady Liberty does not stand but rather she walks. Her right foot is lifted. Around her feet are broken chains, symbolizing liberation.  

10. Torch: the torch was originally intended to serve as a light house. Scientists spend years working on it but never succeeded in making it bright enough. As a result the torch has no practical function. One hundred years ago, the right arm bearing the torch was damaged in an explosion set by German saboteurs. Since then only the caretaker has been allowed to climb up the long, wobbly ladder to the torch.

Segelschiff USCGC Eagle
The statue arrived in New York harbor in more than 300 piecesImage: Getty Images

Inspiration for art and Hollywood

11. Museum: visitors are allowed into the statue - and after prior registration even up into the crown. In the base of the statue there is a small museum. Recently the US National Park Service announced the construction of a new museum on Liberty Island.  

12. Sisters: the statue has many twin sisters in other cities, including one in Colmar in the Alsace region of France. This one is only 12 meters tall and it's a replica made of synthetic resin. You might ask why Colmar of all places? Well because designer Bartholdi was born in this Alsace town in 1834. But while Bartholdi spent years working on the original statue, this replica was made 100 years later within nine months.

13. Icon: artists have painted the Statue of Liberty and she has played a part in many films. However these often involve her destruction like in "Independence Day" or "The Day after Tomorrow." More inspirationally, the statue's pedestal also contains an inscription of the moving sonnet "The New Colossus" by American poet Emma Lazarus - at least part of which is known to nearly everyone in the USA:

"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!"

Christina Horsten (dpa)

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