At the entrance to New York Harbor, in the United States of America, stands one of the world’s greatest and best-loved monuments. It is a statue, 151 feet tall, representing a woman with a crown on her head. High in her right hand she is holding a huge torch which sends a light far out into the Atlantic. In her left hand is a tablet with a date on it – July 4, 1776. That is the date of the Declaration of Independence, which was made when the Americans formed their own republic.
The full name of the monument is “The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World”, but nowadays it is simply known as the Statue of Liberty. The people of France gave the Statue to the Americans in 1886.
At the end of the 19th Century all the countries of Europe were very unsettled. There had been wars and revolutions everywhere. Thousands of people were left homeless and penniless. America, on the other hand, had become very settled and prosperous. To the oppressed people of Europe it seemed to offer new hope and new opportunity. Millions decided to go and live there. The people of France, which is also a republic, had always felt friendly towards the people of America. The French also realized that the United States would be a greater power in the world in times to come. They thought they would rather have a powerful friend than a powerful enemy! So a man called Edouard de Laboulayer proposed a memorial to Liberty and Franco-American friendship, and this seemed a very good idea.
In 1874 they sent a young sculptor named Auguste Bartholdi to talk over the scheme in the United States. Bartholdi told the Americans about his dream of a great Statue in New York Harbor which would hold up the torch of Liberty to welcome all the world. The Americans were delighted, and accepted his plans at once. Bartholdi decided to make the figure in copper, because that was a metal which could not be spoiled by the sea air. The framework inside the figure was to be of iron and steel. When the French people learned that their gift to America was going to cost more than 80.000, they immediately began to collect money through fetes, concerts, collections, shows and lottery. By 1884, there was the great statue, towering over the rooftops of Paris. But the French did not have much time to admire it. In January 1885, the statue was taken to pieces and sipped off in 214 numbered cases to America. By 1886 it had been fitted together again in New York and firmly put to the pedestal which the Americans had prepared. A staircase was built inside, so that anyone who liked to could climb to the top and look out through the windows which form the jewels in Liberty’s crown. On October 28th, 1886, for the first time that night the lamp in her torch was lit.