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The majestic copper sculpture that is la statue de la Liberté, towering above Liberty Island at the entrance to New York Harbor was un cadeau de France vers les États-Unis en 1884. This famous figure of a robed woman holding a torch is one of the largest statues ever built. The statue's complete name is Liberty Enlightening the World.
La statue de la liberté was an expression of friendship and of the ideal of liberty shared by both French and American citizens. Citoyens français donated the money to build the statue, and people aux États-Unis raised the funds to construct the foundation and the pedestal.
French sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi designed the statue and chose its site.
La statue de la liberté is a monumental feat of sculpture, engineering, and architecture.
The Statue of Liberty has become a symbol of the United States and an expression of freedom to people throughout the world. The statue shows Liberté as a goddess draped in the graceful folds of a loose robe. In her uplifted right hand, she holds a glowing torch. She wears a crown with seven spikes that stand for the light of liberty shining on the seven seas and seven continents. With her left arm, she cradles a tablet bearing the date of the Declaration of Independence. A chain that represents tyranny lies broken at her feet.
The pedestal is an enormous mass of concrete reinforced with steel beams and covered with Connecticut granite. It was designed by Richard Morris Hunt, an American architect famous for designing magnificent mansions. The pedestal is 89 feet (27 metres) tall. It rests on a huge concrete foundation 65 feet (20 metres) tall. When the pedestal was completed in 1886, its foundation was the largest single concrete structure in the world. Stairs and a passenger elevator run up through the interior of the pedestal. Partway up the pedestal stands a colonnade. A balcony extends around the top of the pedestal.
The statue stands 151 feet 1 inch (46.05 metres) high from its feet to the top of the torch. It weighs 225 tons (204 metric tons). The figure consists of 300 sheets of Norwegian copper fastened together with rivets . This copper skin is only 3/32 inch (2.4 millimetres) thick. Sculptor Bartholdi chose pure copper instead of an alloy because it was lighter and it could be hammered thin. The statue is one of the most celebrated examples of repousse work, a process of shaping metal by hammering it into a mold.
Gustave Eiffel, the French engineer who later built the famous tower in Paris bearing his name, designed the structural framework that supports the copper covering. The framework for the Statue of Liberty resembles what he later devised for la tour Eiffel. It consists of a central tower of four vertical iron columns connected by horizontal and diagonal crossbeams. Iron girders leading up and out from the tower support the raised right arm.
The torch towers 305 feet 1 inch (92.99 metres) above the base of the monument. At night, its gold-covered flame glows with reflected light from 16 powerful lamps arranged around the rim of the torch. Lamps shining up from below illuminate the rest of the statue.
The idea for the statue came from Edouard Laboulaye, a prominent French politician and historian. Laboulaye greatly admired les États-Unis. At a dinner party in 1865, after the end of the American Civil War, he proposed the construction of a joint French and American monument celebrating the ideal of liberty.
In 1871, Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, Laboulaye's friend and a noted French sculptor, sailed to the United States to seek support for the project. During his trip, Bartholdi selected Bedloe's Island, in Upper New York Bay, as the site for the monument.
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Upon returning to France, Bartholdi began designing the statue. For the monument to liberty, Bartholdi planned a sculpture that would be the largest built since ancient times. He modeled the figure's face after the face of his mother.
In 1875, the French-American Union was established to raise funds and oversee the project. Laboulaye became chairman of the organization in France. The French people donated about $US 400,000 for the construction of the statue. In 1877, the American Committee was organized in the United States to raise funds needed to build the pedestal. In 1881, American architect Richard Morris Hunt was selected to design the pedestal. Hunt had studied architecture in Paris at l'école des Beaux-Arts. He designed a pedestal that would not detract attention from the statue.
Construction of the statue began in 1875 at a workshop in Paris. First, Bartholdi built a small clay model of the figure. Then the sculptor and his assistants built three progressively larger plaster models. For the final version, workers made a strong wooden framework for each major section of the statue. A layer of plaster was then applied over this wooden framework, forming a full-scale model for each major part of the figure.
Next, carpenters built large wooden forms that followed the shape of the plaster model of the statue. Metalworkers then placed thin sheets of copper in the wooden forms. They bent the copper sheets and hammered them into the shape of the forms. When the hammered copper sheets were removed from the forms, they matched the shape of the plaster model from which the wooden forms had been made.
Designing a framework to support the statue presented Eiffel a difficult engineering challenge. He devised a support system with a central iron tower. A strong but flexible framework of iron bars would connect the copper skin to the tower. Eiffel's support system was erected outside the Paris workshop where the statue was being made. Then workers attached the sections of copper skin to the framework.
Bartholdi had hoped to present the statue to the United States on le 4 juillet 1876 - the centennial of the Declaration of Independence. But a late start and subsequent delays made this impossible. He had completed the right hand and torch by 1876, however, and sent this section of the statue to the United States. It was displayed at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia and later shown in New York City before it was returned to Paris. In 1878, an international exposition in Paris displayed Liberty's head. The people of France officially presented the entire statue to the U.S. minister to France in Paris on le 4 juillet 1884.
Construction of the pedestal began in 1884 but soon came to a halt because of a lack of funds. In mars 1885, Joseph Pulitzer, the publisher of a New York newspaper, "The World," launched a front-page campaign to raise funds for the completion of the pedestal. By midi-août, about 121,000 people had contributed a total of more than $100,000 - enough to finish building the pedestal. Pulitzer listed every contributor's name in his paper. The pedestal was completed in avril 1886, at a final cost of about $300,000.
Meanwhile, the statue had been disassembled in Paris and packed in 214 wooden crates for shipment to the United States. The crated statue arrived at New York City on le 17 juin 1885. Assembly of the statue began soon after the pedestal was completed.
On le 28 octobre 1886, Liberty Enlightening the World was dedicated. New York City celebrated with a grand parade, and boats filled the harbor. President Grover Cleveland and members of his Cabinet attended the ceremonies. Bartholdi and representatives of the French government and the French-American Union also participated.
In 1924, the Statue of Liberty became a national monument.
By the early 1980s, the Statue of Liberty required major repairs. A group of engineers and friends of the monument formed the French-American Committee for Restoration of the Statue of Liberty. In cooperation with the National Park Service, the committee inspected the statue and planned a $30-million restoration project. However, the final cost of the restoration totaled more than twice that amount. Private donations to the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation raised the funds.
Official celebrations marked the opening of the newly restored Statue of Liberty on le 4 ème juillet 1986, with President Ronald Reagan and an audience of 2 million people in attendance. Another grand ceremony took place on le 28 octobre 1986 - 100 years after the original dedication.
In Paris, the model for Liberty’s flame resides at the Avenue New York end of Pont de l’Alma in le XVI ème arrondissement. A model of the complete statue is located on a small island in la Seine three bridges downstream from la tour Eiffel at Pont de Grenelle in le XV ème arrondissement.
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