The Statue of Liberty Arrived in New York 131 Years Ago on a Ship
The Statue of Liberty arrived in New York 130 years ago, on this day.
On this day, 131 years ago, a French Navy ship named Isère docked on the New York harbour with a rather special cargo. The Statue of Liberty had arrived in the United States of America. But it would take another year for her to reign in resplendence over Bedloe’s Island.
Challenging Notions of Liberty
October 28, 1886. Millions of ticker-tapes filled the air of New York City for the first time. A colossal brass statue, representing the Roman goddess Libertas, was unveiled, a year after it arrived, disassembled, on the cargo-hold of the Isère.
The Statue of Liberty has since then been considered as the symbol of freedom and enfranchisement. But just like the US doctrine of manifest destiny, which subsumed occupation in the name of liberty, the statue’s symbolism of independence has often been restricted to being a just titular attribute.
In her book titled Liberty’s Torch: The Great Adventure to Build the Statue of Liberty, Elizabeth Mitchell recounts how suffragettes found it hypocritical that a large and imposing female statue symbolised liberty in the United States at a time when women did not have the right to vote. During the unveiling ceremony, suffragettes circled the island on a boat yelling protest speeches.
On December 26, 1971, Members of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War (VVAW) barricaded themselves for 2 days inside the crown of the Statue of Liberty, hanging out banners and signs protesting the war.
Today,130 years after it arrived in the Big Apple, perhaps it will be a befitting gesture to re-think the very ideas of liberty and freedom, especially in an increasingly polarised world.
The Liberty Story: How the Statue Came into Being
In 1865, French intellectual and anti-slavery activist Edouard de Laboulaye proposed that a statue representing liberty be built for the United States. This monument would honour the United States’ centennial of independence and the friendship with France. French sculptor Auguste Bartholdi supported Laboulaye’s idea and in 1870 began designing the statue of “Liberty Enlightening the World.”
While Bartholdi was designing the Statue, he also took a trip to the United States in 1871. During the trip, Bartholdi selected Bedloe’s Island as the site for the Statue. Although the island was small, it was visible to every ship entering New York Harbour, which Bartholdi viewed as the “gateway to America.”
In 1876, French artisans and craftsmen began constructing the Statue in France under Bartholdi’s direction. The arm holding the torch was completed in 1876 and shown at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. The head and shoulders were completed in 1878 and displayed at the Paris Universal Exposition. The entire Statue was completed and assembled in Paris between 1881 and 1884. Also in 1884, construction on the pedestal began in the United States.
After the Statue was presented to Levi P Morton, the US minister to France, on July 4, 1884 in Paris, it was disassembled and shipped to New York.
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