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.

Updated
World
3 min read
The Statue of Liberty. (Photo: Reuters)

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.

Rose petals dropped by helicopters fall around the Statue of Liberty in New York June 6, 2014. The event was arranged by the organisation “The French Will Never Forget” to mark the 70th anniversary of World War Two’s D-Day landings. (Photo: Reuters) 
Rose petals dropped by helicopters fall around the Statue of Liberty in New York June 6, 2014. The event was arranged by the organisation “The French Will Never Forget” to mark the 70th anniversary of World War Two’s D-Day landings. (Photo: Reuters) 

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.

A protester carries a sign with an image of the Statue of Liberty wearing a gas mask as he takes part in the “People’s Climate March” down 6th Ave. in the Manhattan borough of New York, September, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)
A protester carries a sign with an image of the Statue of Liberty wearing a gas mask as he takes part in the “People’s Climate March” down 6th Ave. in the Manhattan borough of New York, September, 2014. (Photo: Reuters)

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.

VVAW protesters hang banners from the statue’s crown in December, 1971. (Courtesy: <a href="http://www.vvaw.org/">VVAW Inc</a>)
VVAW protesters hang banners from the statue’s crown in December, 1971. (Courtesy: VVAW Inc)

The Liberty Story: How the Statue Came into Being

The imposing neoclassical statue with the sun setting in the background. (Photo: Reuters)
The imposing neoclassical statue with the sun setting in the background. (Photo: Reuters)

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.”

A barge passes near the Statue of Liberty at sunset in New York. (Photo: Reuters)
A barge passes near the Statue of Liberty at sunset in New York. (Photo: Reuters)

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.

Published: 
Stay Updated

Subscribe To Our Daily Newsletter And Get News Delivered Straight To Your Inbox.

Join over 120,000 subscribers!