5 Facts About Lady Liberty You Forgot You Knew

For most of us, school was a long time ago. Now, you might be helping with homework or even homeschooling, which means you are probably stumbling across long-lost facts and tidbits you totally forgot from your own education. With July being American Pride month, we wanted to revisit an old friend from our school days: Lady Liberty. A great symbol of our nation, Lady Liberty (a.k.a the Statue of Liberty) was not always in our harbor but is now an iconic representation of American ideals. To refresh your memory about this amazing piece of art that stands tall on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, we wanted to share 5 facts about Lady Liberty you forgot you knew.

The statue of liberty against a clear blue sky

A Gift From France But A Collaborative Effort

From initial idea to final construction and dedication the Statue of Liberty required the minds of 10 people and hundreds of workers. A gift from the people of France as a gesture of good-will, camaraderie, and mutual love of freedom, the Statue of Liberty was designed by Frenchman Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi. The architectural logistics were worked out by Eugène Viollet-le-Duc and Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel (of Eiffel Tower fame), while the pedestal was designed by American Richard Morris Hunt, and engineered by Charles P. Stone.

According to Lady Liberty’s website, Edouard de Laboulaye “proposed that a monument be built as a gift from France to the United States in order to commemorate the perseverance of freedom and democracy in the United States and to honor the work of the late president Abraham Lincoln.”

Leboulaye worked with sculptor Auguste Bartholdi to construct the statue and decided to use this opportunity to inspire the idea of liberty through a “lighting the way” point of view as opposed to the common feeling of uprising and revolution that the word liberty often brought to mind. The two worked on the design, money was raised, and the Statue was shipped in pieces (350, to be exact) to be assembled on American soil between 1885 and 1886.

The Symbolism of the Torch and Crown

There are so many aspects of the Statue of Liberty that can be explored. Because she was designed as a symbol through and through, there was specific reasoning behind each piece of her. 

The torch is meant as a guiding light. The original title of the statue was “Liberty Enlightening the World” so a torch was an obvious choice for her right hand. Though it cannot be lit with real flame, it is illuminated with floodlights and helps the statue reach its impressive 151 feet in height. Through the torch the designer commemorated America’s example of the pursuit of freedom and liberty for all. America, along with nations like France, is proud of lighting the way the world.

Perched on Lady Liberty’s head is a crown. But it’s not your normal crown. This one is meant to be more of a halo, with seven rays of metal shooting out like a starburst to represent the seven continents and seven seas—once again illustrating her ability to guide all to freedom. 

In addition to her torch and crown, Lady Liberty also holds a keystone-shaped table which is inscribed with the date July 4, 1776 to commemorate America’s iconic step to declaring independence from Britain.

the face of the statue of liberty held in scaffolding before being constructed

There Are Broken Chains

At the time of the statue’s conception, the Civil War had just been fought and the 19th Amendment signed into law. This momentous advancement in America was not only noted by the French designers and financiers behind the statue, but they wanted to celebrate it in the statue’s design. As a result, under Lady Liberty’s feet are a series of broken chains. 

Not only do these chains act as a not toward abolition, but they represent Lady Liberty’s own freedom—her people are no longer shackled, but free to rule themselves. The chains represent liberty from oppression and servitude for all people. 

While you are looking at her feet, it is also interesting to note that Lady Liberty was built to be in motion. One of her feet is lifted from the ground, suggesting that she is moving forward, walking over the chains, and focusing on progress in the liberation of mankind.

She Wasn’t Always Green

The Statue of Liberty was built almost completely from copper. This sturdy material is expertly crafted into the facial features, flowing robes, hands, and other details of Lady Liberty. It has one fault: as it ages and faces weather conditions, it patinas into a green color. While this isn’t a problem, it certainly means the statue we look at today is different from the one originally built.

Can you imagine looking out into the harbor in 1886 to see the imposing, dark figure of Lady Liberty on her pedestal? It would have created a whole different visual. But we love her green hue today and easily recognize it.

The New Colossus

One of the people involved in raising funds for The Statue of Liberty is Emma Lazarus. In November 2, 1883 Emma joined the fundraising efforts through her poem entitled The New Colossus. Her inspiring poem was auctioned off, though we do not know how much money it raised. After the auction, the poem was published in both the New York World as well as The New York Times. Emma’s inspiration came from her work with refugees, specifically Jewish immigrants from Russia. She worked as an aid at Ward’s Island, where she regularly helped many families find refuge, learning their heartbreaking stories.

Today, a plaque of the poem can be seen at the Statue of Liberty, but we have also written here for you all to read today. 

The New Colossus

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!”

Emma Lazarus

November 2, 1883


Visit the Statue of Liberty!

These 5 facts are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the Statue of Liberty. If you are able, take a day trip to New York City to enjoy her splendor, take the tour, peruse the museum and exhibits, and enjoy a fantastic day in New York Harbor. As a visitor, you can climb the 354 steps to look out over the water and city skyline from the 25 windows in Lady Liberty’s crown!