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Liberty, Statue of

Liberty, Statue of, statue on Liberty Island in Upper New York Bay, commanding the entrance to New York City. Liberty Island, c.10 acres (4 hectares), formerly Bedloe's Island (renamed in 1956), was the former site of a quarantine station and harbor fortifications. The statue, originally known as Liberty Enlightening the World, was proposed by the French historian Édouard Laboulaye in 1865 to commemorate the alliance of France with the American colonies during the American Revolution and, according to scholars, was originally intended as an antimonarchy and antislavery symbol. Funds were raised by the Franco-American Union (est. 1875), and the statue was designed by the French sculptor F. A. Bartholdi in the form of a woman with an uplifted arm holding a torch. The world's tallest metal statue when it was made, 151 ft (46 m) in height, it was constructed of copper sheets, using Bartholdi's 9-ft (2.7-m) model. It was shipped to New York City in 1885, assembled, and dedicated in 1886.

The base of the statue is an 11-pointed star, part of old Fort Wood; a 154-ft (47-m) pedestal, built through American funding, is made of concrete faced with granite. On it is a tablet, affixed in 1903, inscribed with "The New Colossus," the famous sonnet of Emma Lazarus, welcoming immigrants to the United States. By the early 20th cent, this greeting to the arriving stranger had become the statue's primary symbolic message. Broadening in its meaning, the statue became a symbol of America during World War I and a ubiquitous democratic symbol during World War II. An elevator runs to the top of the pedestal, and steps within the statue lead to the crown. The statue was extensively refurbished prior to its centennial celebration in 1986. The Statue of Liberty became a national monument in 1924. In 1965, Ellis Island, the entrance point of millions of immigrants to the United States, was added to the monument.

See M. Trachtenberg, The Statue of Liberty (1976); W. S. Dillon, ed., The Statue of Liberty Revisited (1994); B. Moreno, The Statue of Liberty Encyclopedia (2000); Y. S. Khan, Enlightening the World: The Creation of the Statue of Liberty (2010).

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

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