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June 2020

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U.S. Census Bureau History: The Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty

On June 17, 1885, crates containing parts of the Statue of Liberty arrived in New York City, NY. Sculptor
Frederic Auguste Bartholdi and engineer Gustave Eiffel packed hundreds of parts into more than 200 crates
for transport to the United States from France.

After being assembled on Bedloe's Island (renamed Liberty Island in 1956), President Grover Cleveland
and other dignitaries dedicated the Statue of Liberty on October 28, 1886.

Photo courtesy of the Library of Congress.

On June 17, 1885, a ship loaded with crates containing parts to build the statue arrived in New York City, NY's harbor. Designed by sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi with an iron skeleton built by Gustave Eiffel, the effigy—formally titled "The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World"—was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the United States. Dedicated on October 28, 1886, the sighting of the Statue of Liberty upon sailing into New York City's harbor brought relief to millions of weary immigrants. Today, the Statue of Liberty is recognized as a symbol of democracy and freedom throughout the world.

Following the Union victory that ended the American Civil War and the end to slavery in the United States, Edouard de Laboulaye, President of the French Anti-Slavery Society, proposed erecting a statue in the United States commemorating freedom, justice, and liberty. With the help of sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, Laboulaye began raising funds to construct a statue he hoped would be completed in time for the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition and celebration of the Declaration of Independence.

The French committed to funding the statue's construction through public fees and even a lottery, while the United States promised to erect a pedestal upon which the statue would be built. Fundraising and construction delays on both sides of the Atlantic slowed progress on Bartholdi's statue. Although engineering challenges delayed completion in time for America's centennial celebration, the sculptor did display the statue's arm holding the torch at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition and the completed head at the 1878 Paris World's Fair. To address the challenges of supporting such a large statue, Bartholdi enlisted the assistance of Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (Eiffel Tower designer) in 1879 to design and build Liberty's iron skeleton. In the meantime, the American effort to construct Liberty's base faced its own funding stumbling blocks. American newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer collected more than $102,000 in donations from readers who saw their name among a list of donors printed in his New York City, NY, newspaper. School children collected spare change, a poetry contest (won by "New Colossus" writer Emma Lazarus) raised funds, and architect Richard Morris Hunt (who would become famous for his design of the 1893 Chicago World's Fair and facade of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art Link to a non-federal Web site) donated the design of the statue's pedestal.

Bartholdi completed construction of the Statue of Liberty in France in July 1884. During a ceremony held in Paris, France, on July 4, 1884, the U.S. Ambassador to France, Levi P. Morton, formally received "Liberty Enlightening the World." The Statue of Liberty continued to overlook the French capital until January 1885, when workers began to carefully disassemble the statue and pack it into more than 350 crates for transport aboard the French frigate Isere leaving Ronen, France, in late May 1885. Arriving off Sandy Hook, Middletown, NJ, on June 16, a naval parade escorted the Isere into New York Harbor the next day to the cheers of thousands of spectators who gathered along the New York and New Jersey waterfront.

The Statue of Liberty remained in storage until its Bedloe's Island pedestal was ready in April 1886. Crews raced to erect the iron skeleton and copper skin, completing the project on October 19, 1886. On the morning of October 28, 1886, more than 1 million spectators stood in the rain to watch New York City's first ticker tape parade. Following an afternoon nautical parade, President Grover Cleveland formally dedicated the Statue of Liberty at a Bedloe's Island ceremony. Millions lined the shoreline for weather-postponed fireworks and the nighttime illumination of the statue on November 1.

Initially cared for by the United States Lighthouse Board, President Theodore Roosevelt transferred the statue's supervision to the War Department in 1901, which assigned the Army Signal Corps and later military police to Bedloe's Island. President Franklin D. Roosevelt transferred Liberty to the National Park Service in 1933. An Act of Congress officially changed the name of Bedloe's Island to Liberty Island on August 3, 1956.

After welcoming arrivals to New York Harbor for nearly a century, the Statue of Liberty underwent an $86 million restoration that was completed in time for the statue's centennial and "Liberty Weekend" celebration July 3–6, 1986. The Statue of Liberty continues to welcome immigrants dreaming of a better life in the United States and symbolizes America's freedom and prosperity to people around the world. The statue, Liberty Island, and nearby Ellis Island are part of the Liberty National Monument, which welcomed more than 4.5 million visitors in 2016.

You can learn more about the Statue of Liberty using census data and records. For example:

  • President Grover Cleveland (a former governor of New York) dedicated the Statue of Liberty on October 28, 1886. Born in 1837, in Camden, NJ, Cleveland was the only president to serve two nonsequential presidential terms winning the elections of 1884 and 1892. Republican Benjamin Harrison defeated Cleveland during the 1888 presidential election. The Democrats chose William Jennings Bryan instead of Cleveland in 1896. Bryan lost the election to Republican William McKinley.
  • In addition to Liberty and Ellis Islands, there are a number of other small islands in New York Harbor. These include Rikers Island, home to New York City's jail; Hart Island, currently used as New York City's "potter's field" for burials of unclaimed bodies; and City Island—once was part of Pelham, NY, but now is part of New York City, NY's Bronx borough (Census Tract 516)—which had a population of 4,362 in 2010; and Coney Island in New York's Brooklyn borough, which is famous for its amusements, beach, hot dogs, and nightlife.
  • Newspaper publishers always sought novel competitions and advertising campaigns to boost readership of their newspapers. With the Statue of Liberty's pedestal in need of funding, New York City newspaper tycoon Joseph Pulitzer promised to publish the name of every person who donated any amount of money to the pedestal's construction fund in the New York World newspaper that he purchased from Jay Gould. The fundraising stunt raised more then $100,000 from approximately 125,000 donors who eagerly purchased Pulitzer's newspaper to see their names in print.
  • The Statue of Liberty was the first sight more than 12 million immigrants had of the United States prior to being processed through Ellis Island Immigration Station between 1892 and 1954. According to census data, the nation's foreign-born population grew from 9.2 million in 1890 to 13.5 million in 1910, and 14.2 million in 1930. More recently, nearly 19.8 million reported being-foreign born in 1990, and the 2018 American Community Survey estimated that approximately 44.7 million people living in the United States were foreign born.
  • Following a 4-year restoration project led by automobile industry executive Lee Iacocca, President Ronald Reagan presided over the "Liberty Weekend" festivities in honor of the Statue of Liberty's centennial, July 3–6, 1986. Dignitaries and celebrities participating in the celebration included Secretary of the Interior Donald Hodel; producer David Wolper; composer John Williams; singers Waylon Jennings, Kenny Rogers, and Frank Sinatra; film stars Gene Kelly, Gregory Peck, Charlton Heston, and Elizabeth Taylor; and Chief Justice of the U.S. Supreme Court Warren Berger, who swore in immigrants at a naturalization ceremony held on Ellis Island.
  • If the Statue of Liberty was not constructed on New York's Bedloe's Island in 1885, it could have found a home at many other locations in the United States. Fitting sites might include a location viewing the nearby Missouri River in Liberty, MO; along the banks of the Trinity River in Liberty, TX; nestled amid the Catskill Mountains in Liberty, NY; Guarding the Des Plaines River in Libertyville, IL; welcoming new residents to fast-growing Liberty Lake, WA; or overlooking the Tiber Dam in Liberty County, MT.
  • Emma Lazarus wrote the poem "The New Colossus" in 1883 to raise money to build the Statue of Liberty's pedestal. Cast in bronze and affixed to Liberty's base in 1903, the poem's lines, "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" symbolize immigrants' opportunity to follow dreams, enjoy freedom, and begin new lives in the United States.
  • The Statue of Liberty calls New York City, NY, home, but some of the most spectacular views of the landmark can been seen from Liberty Park in Jersey City, NJ. Shortly after the Statue of Liberty's dedication, the 1890 Census reported Jersey City was home to 163,003 people. Its population peaked in 1930 at 316,715, and in 2018 the city's population was estimated at 265,549, making it New Jersey's second largest city after Newark, NJ (population 282,090). Jersey City created Liberty Park in 1976 on more than 1,200 acres of land reclaimed from transportation and manufacturing industries. In addition to offering views of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the park is also home to the Liberty Science Center Link to a non-federal Web site and memorials to victims of the World War I-era Black Tom Island Explosion, the Holocaust, and the September 11 terrorist attacks.
  • The Statue of Liberty's pedestal was built on the remains of Fort Wood—a star-shaped "bastion" fortification built on Bedloe's Island between 1806 and 1811 to defend New York City, NY. Similar fortifications continue to stand vigil over the nation's coastline, including Fort Jay on nearby Governor's Island; Fort Mifflin Link to a non-federal Web site in Philadelphia, PA; Fort Morgan Link to a non-federal Web site south of Mobile, AL; Fort Ticonderoga Link to a non-federal Web site near Burlington, VT; Fort McHenry in Baltimore, MD, which survived British "bombs bursting in air" and inspired Francis Scott Key to write the Star Spangled Banner in 1814; and the oldest masonry fort in the continental United States—Castillo de San Marcos—completed by the Spanish in 1695 to protect St. Augustine, FL.
  • Can't make it to New York City, NY, to see Frederic Auguste Bartholdi's Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor? There are numerous replicas of the statue throughout the United States, including a half-sized Statue of Liberty at the New York-New York Hotel and Casino in Las Vegas, NV; Bartholdi's descendants presented a smaller version of the Statue of Liberty to the citizens of Duluth, MN; a 30-foot Statue of Liberty stands atop the Liberty National Bank Building in Buffalo, NY; a 1956 replica stands on a granite pedestal near Interstate 459 in the Birmingham, AL, suburb of Vestavia Hills; and a 20-foot statue made of Lego building bricks can be found at Legoland near Lake Wales, FL. Between 1949 and 1952, the Boy Scouts of America purchased and installed more than 200 Statue of Liberty replicas throughout the United States, including still standing examples near Haldimand Bay, Mackinac County, MI, Seattle, WA, and Tahlequah, OK. International "Liberty enthusiasts" can find replicas in Paris, France; County Donegal, Ireland; Pristina, Kosovo; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Manila, Philippines; and Adelaide, Australia.

Statue of Liberty and New York City Skyline

Prior to being renamed Liberty Island in 1956, the land on which the Statue of Liberty stands was known as Bedloe's Island. Named for Isaac Bedloe who owned
the island from 1667 to 1732, the land was subsequently a private summer residence and later quarantine site for people suffering from small pox, tuberculosis,
typhus, yellow fever, and cholera.

New York ceded the island to the federal government in 1800, for the construction of the 11-pointed, star-shaped Fort Wood to protect New York City, NY.
The granite ramparts of Fort Wood serve as the base of the Statue of Liberty's pedestal.

An Act of Congress changed the name of Bedloe's Island to Liberty Island on August 3, 1956, and today Liberty and nearby Ellis Islands are part of the
Liberty National Monument.

Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

Did you know?

The Korean War began on June 25, 1950. In the decades since the 1953 armistice ended hostilities on the Korean Peninsula, thousands of Koreans have immigrated to the United States. The 2010 Census reported that more than 1.7 million people identified as Korean.

The cities of Los Angeles, CA, and New York, NY, have the largest Korean populations with 110,679 and 91,729 respectively, while Palisades Park, NJ is home to the largest concentration of Koreans who make up 46 percent of the city's population.

Immigrants view the Statue of Liberty
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Ellis Island

From 1892 to 1954, the Statue of Liberty welcomed approximately 12 million immigrants to the United States as they entered New York Harbor enroute to the Ellis Island Immigration Station.

Ellis Island opened on January 1, 1892, and 18-year-old Irish immigrant Annie Moore became the first person processed through the station.

The Ellis Island Immigration Station closed in 1954. On May 11, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson added the site to the Statue of Liberty National Monument. After extensive fundraising and restoration, the first of several historic buildings reopened as part of the Ellis Island National Museum of Immigration in 1990.

Copper Sheets
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The Statue of Liberty is constructed of an iron frame sheathed in sheets of copper. The weight of these sheets is approximately 62,000 pounds.

In 2019, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) reported that the largest producers of copper ore were Chile (5.6 million tons) and Peru (2.4 million tons). The United States produced approximately 1.3 million tons that year.

Data from the 2016 County Business Patterns Survey indicates that there were 47 copper mining establishments in the United States. The USGS reports that most of the nation's copper ore came from deposits Link to a non-federal Web site in Greenlee, Graham, and Yavapai Counties, AZ; Grant County, NM; and Salt Lake County, UT.

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Source: U.S. Census Bureau | Census History Staff | Last Revised: December 08, 2021