The statue is a figure of Libertas, the Roman Goddess of Liberty. She holds a torch above her head with her right hand, and in her left hand carries a tabula ansata inscribed JULY IV MDCCLXXVI (July 4, 1776 in Roman numerals), the date of the U.S. Declaration of Independence. A broken chain and shackle lie at her feet as she walks forward, commemorating the national abolition of slavery following the American Civil War. After its dedication, the statue became an icon of freedom and of the United States, seen as a symbol of welcome to immigrants arriving by sea.
Bartholdi was inspired by a French law professor and politician, Édouard René de Laboulaye, who is said to have commented in 1865 that any monument raised to U.S. independence would properly be a joint project of the French and American peoples. The Franco-Prussian War delayed progress until 1875, when Laboulaye proposed that the French finance the statue and the United States provide the site and build the pedestal. Bartholdi completed the head and the torch-bearing arm before the statue was fully designed, and these pieces were exhibited for publicity at international expositions.
The torch-bearing arm was displayed at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876, and in Madison Square Park in Manhattan from 1876 to 1882. Fundraising proved difficult, especially for the Americans, and by 1885 work on the pedestal was threatened by lack of funds. Publisher Joseph Pulitzer, of the New York World, started a drive for donations to finish the project and attracted more than 120,000 contributors, most of whom gave less than a dollar (equivalent to $30 in 2021). The statue was built in France, shipped overseas in crates, and assembled on the completed pedestal on what was then called Bedloe's Island. The statue's completion was marked by New York's first ticker-tape parade and a dedication ceremony presided over by President Grover Cleveland.
VISITING The STATUE of LIBERTY
And ELLIS ISLAND TOUR
Discover the famous Statue of Liberty on a guided tour and ferry ride. Enjoy early access to Liberty Island, see clear views of the iconic New York skyline, and explore Ellis Island.
Begin your day at The Battery (formerly known as Battery Park), the historical gateway to Lady Liberty. Board the earliest ferry of the day (if you choose the earliest tour time) to avoid the crowds of tourists and sail away from Manhattan to greet the Statue of Liberty. Disembark at Liberty Island and join your guide on a walking tour of the island to learn the origins of the iconic Statue of Liberty. As you walk, take in views of the famed New York skyline and the Brooklyn Bridge. Wander through the Statue of Liberty Museum and see Lady Liberty’s original torch. Next, board the short ferry to Ellis Island. Hear a brief introduction about the Island's historical significance and get recommendations on what to do on the island from your guide. Then, explore this special place at your own pace.
Wander the site, enjoy the official audio guide, search the passenger records for family names, or pause for a quick bite to eat at the popular cafeteria. Either return to Manhattan with your guide on the ferry or stay to explore the island as long as you wish.
- Go back in time and hear history come alive with your licensed NYC tour guide
- Explore Liberty Island without distraction as the first tour group of the day
- Enter the Ellis Island Museum and search for fascinating facts about your family
- See the famed NYC skyline with beautiful views of the harbor and Lady Liberty
- Visit Ellis Island and enjoy personal time to explore this living piece history
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