10 facts about the Statue of Liberty you may be not aware of. Some are pure curiosity. Others may really strike you!
We all know the Statue of Liberty. The image of this strong woman holding a torch has been in our heads ever since we were children. We know everything about her. How come there can be 10 facts about the Statue of Liberty we don’t know? After all, she is an important piece of history. A gift from the people of France to the United States.
What if this was only partially true… or not true at all? Here are 10 facts that will change the way you look at the Statue of Liberty.
Quick tip: if you do not feel like reading and rather want to watch my video about it, click here.
Fact # 1 – She was conceived at a dinner party!
In 1865, French jurist and anti-slave activist Édouard René de Laboulaye threw a dinner party at his summer estate in Glavigny, a small village in the North of France.
The party was thrown to celebrate the end of the Civil War, the abolition of slavery and, alas, mourn the assassination of President Lincoln.
Despite the happy occurrences, the climate that night was not happy at all. All the people attending the party knew France had played a bad role in that war. Napoleon III had sent troops for those who supported slavery.
That night, the most discussed topic turned out to be how to remind Americans that, despite that tragic decision, the French were still their best friends.
Luckily, 34-year-old Auguste Bartholdi was among the guests that night…
Fact #2 – She Is (Partly) a Recycled Idea
Auguste Bartholdi was undoubtedly a very talented artist. And, from what I understand, his ego was very well developed as well.
Somehow, during that evening, some random thought came out. That must have caused him to initiate a chain of thoughts that eventually led to the idea of the statue as the best way to remind Americans of such a deep connection.
Fantastic… but not exactly like that! Sometime before, Bartholdi had thought of something similar-building the tallest statue in the world. The occasion was the inauguration of the Suez Canal.
Long story short, Bartholdi was able to convince Laboulaye and other people the idea for the Statue of Liberty was an absolute original. And nobody was able to call his bluff!
Fact #3 – She Is Modeled After a Pagan Goddess
Of all the 10 facts about the Statue of Liberty you may not know, this is probably the less unknown one!
The Statue of Liberty, as a fact, is a representation of Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom. Her classic iconography shows a woman in a toga holding a rod or a torch. Columbia is another embodiment of Libertas.
Fact #4 – The Statue of Liberty Is Not a Gift!
This is the fact that strikes everyone! You can go around saying you know the 10 most mysterious, obscure, and dark facts about the Statue of Liberty and not being paid attention. But when you dare say that, all eyes are on you!
The point is… it’s true! The Statue of Liberty is not a gift!
When Auguste Bartholdi went to America in 1871, with the purpose of getting support from the American people for this project, he met with President Grant at his summer estate in Connecticut.
President Grant loved Bartholdi’s project so bad he submitted US Congress, and a bill was approved. This bill was an international resolution, the first of its kind in the modern world. Its content was very interesting.
It was said the Statue of Liberty was the best way France and United States could epitomize their friendship. In order to complete this project, obligations were equally split. France had to provide the finished statue, while the US had to build its pedestal. All these strings attached, along with some other ones and trading agreements, make the statue the final result of a very complex agreement.
Why then was it advertised as a gift? And why do we still call it this way? The main reason is… politics!
It wasn’t after WWI the US became the powerful country we know of today. Before that time, they were an uprising country, but their power was no match for countries like France, Germany, or the United Kingdom. Therefore, saying France had acknowledged them by giving such a gift had undoubtedly a very strong effect on the moral of Americans.
Fact #5 – She Was Supposed To Hold Broken Chains in Her Left Hand
The original design Auguste Bartholdi had planned for the Statue of Liberty showed a lady holding a torch in her right hand (the Egyptian model actually held it in her left one) and some broken chains in her left one, as a symbol of freedom from slavery.
About this, there are actually two versions. Some say Bartholdi had to change his plans because most of the French people who financed the building of the statue were not at all against slavery and threatened him to withdraw their money. Others claim the structure proved to be too difficult to be realized not only for Bartholdi but even for Gustave Eiffel (who designed the steel frame which supports the statue) and therefore he had to change his plans.
Whichever the reason, which may well be another one or something in between these two, the statue now holds a tablet in her right hand. On it, a date is engraved-the Fourth of July, 1776. Initially, the Statue of Liberty should have been part of the celebrations for the centennial of the Declaration of Independence.
But the statue features broken chains, too. They are just impossible to be spotted. She is actually stepping on them. If we could climb to the torch, we could easily see them between her feet (see the picture below.)
Fact # 6 – She Was the Tallest Building in Paris
25 Rue de Chazelles, in the 17th arrondissement, Paris, was the address of Gaget, Gauthier & Co, the workshop where the Statue of Liberty was assembled between 1881 and 1884.
When completed, ironically on July 4th, 1884, she was the tallest construction in the whole town. The whole city wanted to see it.
Bartholdi, who was well aware of how expensive the whole thing was meant to be, had the brilliant idea to charge an admission fee. That allowed him to collect all the money he needed to disassemble the statue in early January 1885, put it in more than 200 wooden boxes, take them to La Havre, rent a boat (Isère) and finally ship it to New York.
The number of boxes has never been clear to me. I know them to be about 230, though somewhere we read of 214. In any case, as I said before, they were more than 200.
Fact # 7 – She Almost Sank in the Ocean
Yep, that’s true! And what’s more ironic is that, of all the times she could have, she almost sank right outside of the Narrows, that is, right before entering the New York Harbor.
Officially, the Statue arrived in New York on June 19th, 1885 (though someone says June 17.) The disassembled monument, though, had been taxing around the Narrows for a few days. The sea was very rocky and storms followed. During one of this, the Isère was almost overthrown.
Fact # 8 – Liberty Island Is Her 4th Designated Location
Of one thing I was sure: when writing about the 10 facts about the Statue of Liberty you may not know, this was surely going to be among the top ones!
Here’s the story. When Auguste Bartholdi arrived in the United States for the first time, on June 21, 1871, the boat he was traveling on had reached New York in the evening, too late to dock. He spent his first American night in the middle of New York Harbor. It was a starry one, so he could take a look around.
When it was time to choose the perfect spot, the first idea was Battery Park, something that was soon turned down because, they said, the Statue of Liberty was so high it overshadowed all the buildings around her. Well, think about Battery Park today. The Statue would have really been overwhelmed by the tall buildings along State Street, as well as many others.
The second location was Governor Island. With its ideal location at the mouth of the East River, as well as the ideal route to reach Manhattan, that was surely the best possible place for her. Manhattan residents ferociously opposed to that. They really didn’t appreciate they would have seen… her butt!
Third idea was Central Park… no comment!
Then, after Auguste Bartholdi’s suggestion, it was finally decided to go for Fort Wood, a granite fort built on Bedloe Island in 1811 when foreseeing the 1812 war. The island was actually noticed by Bartholdi himself on his very first night in New York.
As a further note, Bedloe Island (which in 1956 officially changed its name into Liberty Island) is the only island that can be seen all around the New York Bay.
Fact # 9 – We Don’t Know Who the Model Was!
You read it right! I don’t care what people think, what they believe, what scholars such as Elizabeth Mitchell may say. The point is one-Auguste Bartholdi did not leave any account or reference to this! Therefore, we don’t know who the model was. Or if there was a model at all!
Many people believe the statue is actually a synthesis between two (or three) very important women in Bartholdi’s life-his mother (they say she served as the model for the face,) and his wife (the body.) Some push forward, saying her body is actually Auguste Bartholdi’s mistress.
Even if she was, don’t you think a man creating his ideal woman as a combination of both his mother and his wife may indeed be a little disturbed?
The truth is that, as in the fashion of the times she was crafted, her face is androgynous, therefore she could really be a work of the artist’s fantasy. Some other people think she is a reproduction of Lisa Gherardini, more commonly known as Mona Lisa, Da Vinci’s famous painting.
Fact # 10 – For a While, She Also Served as a Lighthouse
This may actually be a very intuitive fact. With her torch showing those coming from the sea the way, even without a light, the Statue of Liberty may really be a lighthouse.
As a matter of facts, part of the money used for the building of the pedestal came from the US Congress. The only condition was the Statue to become a lighthouse. The man who made all the necessary changes to the torch (which ended up holding up to 12 incandescent lamps inside the flame) is the same now who designed Mount Rushmore.
Indeed, while for that mountain his work was remarkable, for the statue it was really bad, to say the least! There were huge gaps between the amber glass and copper, which led to rain to end up inside the torch. That, along with the high temperatures caused by the lights, turned the torch into a gigantic piece of rust. Its life as a lighthouse was indeed very short!
This is also the reason why in the 1980s, as the Statue of Liberty was undergoing a major restoration, the original torch (which can be seen inside the museum on Liberty Island) was replaced by a new one whose design was a perfect copy of Bartholdi’s one!
Statue of Liberty Facts – Which One Is Your Favorite?
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