By Laurie Lewis
The shutdown of the federal government in January closed many sites managed by the National Park Service, including the Statue of Liberty. Hearing many tourists were disappointed that they could not visit the Statue of Liberty and concerned about the loss of tourist income, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo authorized use of state funds to reopen the site on the third day of the three-day shutdown.
Interest in the statue wasn’t always so great. And funding was a sore point even before Lady Liberty graced our shores.
Back in the 1860s, the French proposed giving a monument to the United States in honor of the upcoming centennial of the founding of this land of freedom. The French would pay for the statue itself but the U.S. would foot the bill for the pedestal.
The Frenchman who created the statue, officially called “Liberty Enlightening the World,” was Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi. This sculptor liked to build on a huge scale. The Statue of Liberty is more than 150 feet tall; she has a 35-foot waist and a 4½-foot nose. Realizing that this copper colossus would need structural support, Bartholdi engaged the services of an engineer, Gustave Eiffel, to erect an interior iron skeleton. Eiffel would later create the tower in Paris that bears his name.
Such a gigantic statue requires an enormous base. Richard Morris Hunt, perhaps the foremost American architect of the day, designed the massive stone pedestal. It is 89 feet tall and sits on a foundation containing 24,000 tons of concrete. Hunt donated his fee to the fund-raising efforts, which were not moving along as well as hoped.
When the wealthiest Americans failed to offer the necessary funding, other approaches to raise money for the pedestal became necessary. The arm holding the torch was the only part of the statue that was finished by the original target date, 1876, and the 30-foot part crossed the Atlantic for display at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia, where visitors paid 50 cents to climb inside. Poets created and sold works to support the statue. One of the poets was Emma Lazarus, whose sonnet “The New Colossus” (see below) later was cast in bronze and mounted in the pedestal’s interior. But funds really started to roll in when Joseph Pulitzer promised to publish the name of every contributor, no matter how small the donation, in his newspaper the New York World. Most of the donations were very small, sometimes just pennies, but they totaled more than $100,000.
In June 1885, 214 crates carrying all the parts of the statue arrived in New York. They stayed in storage for almost a year while workers completed the pedestal. Then the statue was mounted on the base, which took another six months.
Finally, on October 28, 1886, the world met Lady Liberty. More than a million people lined the streets of New York for a parade. Workers on Wall Street threw ticker tape from the windows; this was the origin of the ticker tape parade (for more about ticker tape parades, see our March 2017 newsletter). Ships filled New York harbor, awaiting the moment when the sculptor Bartholdi, standing near the top of the statue, pulled a cord and released the French Tricolor that covered her.
Since then, New Yorkers and visitors have enjoyed the magnificent view of the Statue of Liberty. She is a welcoming sight and a visible reminder of what the United States has meant to so many people since the founding of this country.
The New Colossus
By Emma Lazarus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“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!”
Most Take a Walk New York tours cover 1 to 2 miles, last 2 to 2½ hours, and cost $25 per person. Advance registration is required. To register and to learn the meeting place, email the guide (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com). Please arrive a little before the start time. Tours are cancelled if nobody has registered or if the weather is extreme; if in doubt, call or text Laurie (917-306-2868) or Alan (917-363-4292).
Greenwich Village: In the Footsteps of Writers
Many writers and other creative people have called Greenwich Village home. On this tour, you’ll meander through charming Village streets and peek into hidden cul-de-sacs as you learn where some famous writers—including Edna St. Vincent Millay, e.e. cummings, and Edward Albee—lived. You'll also see the lovely brownstone of poet Emma Lazarus, author of “The New Colossus,” which celebrates the Statue of Liberty.
Laurie gives this tour on Sunday, February 4, at 1 PM. To reserve a place and to learn the meeting location, email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Public Art of Lower Manhattan
You don’t need to go to a museum to see great art. This interactive tour includes some of the most interesting and varied art in New York City. The artworks are as old as the doors of Trinity Church and as new as the SeaGlass Carousel. You'll even get a glimpse of the Statue of Liberty.
Alan gives this tour on Saturday, February 10, at 10 AM. Email him (email@example.com) to reserve your place and to learn the meeting location.
Mansions of Fifth Avenue
Some magnificent mansions built about a hundred years ago still stand on the Upper East Side. One of them belonged to Joseph Pulitzer, who was instrumental in funding the Statue of Liberty. These freestanding mansions are interspersed among luxury apartment buildings—mansions in the sky. Hear about these palatial homes and the people who lived in them—New York's own rich and famous.
Laurie leads the mansions tour on Sunday, February 11, at 1 PM. Please email her (firstname.lastname@example.org) to register and to learn the meeting location.
400 Years of History in Less Than a Mile
Lower Broadway is like an illustrated history textbook, with the pages out of order. This stretch of Manhattan illustrates American history from colonial times to the present. Take a walk in the footsteps of George Washington and Alexander Hamilton. Hear stories about heroes like them, as well as rogues like William “Boss” Tweed. Look at beautiful buildings, including the first department store.
Join Alan on Saturday, February 17, at 10 AM to take this walk through history. Please email him (email@example.com) to reserve a space and to learn the meeting location.