20 Enlightening Facts About the Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty Facts Statue of Liberty History

Stock Photos from Delpixel/Shutterstock

For centuries, the Statue of Liberty has stood as an illuminating symbol of independence. Situated in the New York Harbor, the colossal sculpture has become a fixture of the city's skyline, captivating native New Yorkers and arriving immigrants alike with its allegorical beauty.

If you want to learn more about Lady Liberty, you've landed in the right place. With these 11 enlightening facts about the Statue of Liberty, we hope to shed some light on the history of this iconic statue.

 

The Statue of Liberty's full name is “Liberty Enlightening the World.”

Statue of Liberty Real Name

“The great Bartholdi statue, liberty enlightening the world: the gift of France to the American people,” 1885 (Photo: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

While most people know the monument as the Statue of Liberty, this title is actually nothing more than a mainstream nickname. Officially, the sculpture was christened Liberty Enlightening the World (“La Liberté éclairant le monde”), a poetic name picked out by the French.

While these monikers may vary, both designate the figure as a depiction of “Liberty”—a translation of the Latin Libertas, a Roman goddess who embodied the idea of freedom.

 

France gave it to America in 1886.

Statue of Liberty Facts Statue of Liberty History

Liberty Statue, work in progress, 1884 (Photo: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Wondering why the origin of the sculpture's name can be found in France? The answer is simple: Lady Liberty is a French export!

In 1875, French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and his team—including Gustave Eiffel, the designer of the world-famous Eiffel Tower—began constructing the copper statue as a gift to America. Specifically, it was intended as a gesture of friendship following the American Civil War.

While the sculpture was still in-progress, pieces were exhibited at the World's Fair in Paris—and, even today, mementos of the monument can be found in the City of Light.

 

The statue’s face may be modeled after the sculptor’s mother.

Face of the Statue of Liberty

Photo: Stock Photos from Belikova Oksana/Shutterstock

The Statue of Liberty was inspired by a few women, including the Roman goddess Libertas and an Arab woman from Bartholdi’s earlier proposal for an Egyptian statue. The face of the statue came from inspiration a little closer to home, the sculptor’s mother Charlotte.

 

It represents Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom.

Vintage ornament of Libertas the Roman goddess on a historic building

Vintage ornament of Libertas the Roman goddess on a historic building (Photo: Stock Photos from Predrag Jankovic/Shutterstock)

Libertas stood for freedom and independence both for individuals and in society. Libertas was often depicted as a robed woman and so was used by Bartholdi as inspiration for the Statue of Liberty.

 

Small-scale copies are scattered around Paris.

Statue of Liberty Paris Statue of Liberty Replicas Statue of Liberty Facts

Photo: Stock Photos from EQRoy/Shutterstock

Throughout Paris, several replicas pay homage to Lady Liberty's French roots.

In the Musée d'Orsay, there is a 9.4-foot-tall copy cast by Bartholdi himself. This sculpture used to be in the Luxembourg Gardens. Today, a newer copy can be found in its original place.

Another bronze replica of the same height stands outside the Musée des Arts et Métiers, a museum fittingly dedicated to industrial design. Inside the museum, visitors will also find the original plaster maquette crafted by Bartholdi.  

A final copy can be found on the Île aux Cygnes, a man-made island in the Seine River. This sculpture was actually a gift from America as a way to say “thank you” for Liberty Enlightening the World.

 

The statue was brought to New York in pieces.

Statue of Liberty Construction Statue of Liberty Facts

Statue of Liberty Arm, 1876, Phildadelphis Centennial Exposition (Photo: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Given the substantial size of the New York-based sculpture, the French decided to ship it as a series of 350 parts. In 1884, once it reached Bedloe Island—known today as Liberty Island—it was pieced together and placed on a pedestal preliminarily built by the Americans.

 

Filmmakers love wrecking the Statue of Liberty.

Statue of Liberty Under Water

Photo: Stock Photos from OFC Pictures/Shutterstock

If you’re a film buff, you might have seen the destruction of the Statue of Liberty a few times. This might be the case because the statue is such an iconic symbol that seeing it destroyed leaves a lasting impression. You can find Lady Liberty in disrepair in Independence Day, The Day After Tomorrow, and Planet of the Apes.

 

It functioned as a lighthouse for 16 years.

Statue of Liberty Lamp Statue of Liberty Torch

The original torch (Photo: Stock Photos from Felix Lipov/Shutterstock)

Two years after it made its grand debut in New York Harbor, Lady Liberty adopted an illuminating role. For 16 years, it doubled as a lighthouse, with the figure's symbolic lamp serving as the beacon.

Unfortunately, this light source proved too dim for ships to see, and the statue stopped operating as a lighthouse under the order of President Theodore Roosevelt.

 

It is struck by lightning about 600 times a year.

Statue of Liberty in London

Photo: Stock Photos from Skreidzeleu/Shutterstock

It is estimated that the Statue of Liberty is struck by lightning 600 times a year, though this number is an average and depends on weather conditions.

 

The statue is filled with symbolism.

Statue of Liberty Book

Photo: Stock Photos from Chris Parypa Photography/Shutterstock

Still, even without a specific function, the Statue of Liberty continued to play an important role. Specifically, since its onset, it has been celebrated for its complex and comprehensive symbolism.

From her head (her crown consists of seven rays, referencing the seven continents and seas) to her toes (her feet are shackled in chains that have triumphantly been broken), Lady Liberty is cloaked in metaphors. In one hand, a torch represents enlightenment; in the other, a tablet of the law is inscribed with “JULY IV MDCCLXXVI,” the date of American independence.

Even her positioning is symbolic, as she faces South-East to welcome ships—namely, those carrying immigrants to the Unites States—into the harbor.

 

Its famous inscription was written to raise funds for its construction.

In addition to the symbolism of its strategic orientation, the statue is inherently associated with immigration because of The New Colossus, a poem inscribed on a plaque attached to its pedestal.

Written by American poet Emma Lazarus, this sonnet—and, specifically, the lines: “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free”—has come to represent what the statue stands for.

Lazarus penned this poem in order to raise money for the construction of the 89-foot stone pedestal, which the Americans were responsible for.

 

It cost only $500,000.

Statue of Liberty Among Money

Photo: Stock Photos from Artem Avetisyan/Shutterstock

Though this amount may seem surprisingly low, the $500,000 would amount to over $10 million today.

 

The statue wears a size 879 shoe.

Statue of Liberty Size How Tall is the Statue of Liberty Facts Statue of Liberty History Statue of Liberty Height

Lowe, Jet, Detail of right foot, December 1985 (Photo: Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Given the immense size of this pedestal, it is no surprise that Lady Liberty weighs a whopping 225 tons—and has a height to match.

From the bottom of the base to the tip of the torch, the Statue of Liberty measures 305 feet and 1 inch tall. To climb to the crown, visitors must ascend 354 stairs, or 20 stories, with Lady Liberty's size 879 shoe serving roughly as a halfway point.

 

In the 1980s, Lady Liberty received a much-needed makeover.

Statue of Liberty Facts Statue of Liberty Restoration

Photo: Stock Photos from PannaPhoto/Shutterstock

To mark its centennial, the Statue of Liberty was renovated from 1984-1986. This restoration project was a team effort made possible by scientists, engineers, government organizations, and other professionals.

It was a huge undertaking, which involved filling holes in the copper, replacing rusted iron pieces with stainless steel substitutes, and adding a dazzling gold-leaf touch to the torch.

 

The spikes on the crown symbolize liberty as a universal concept.

Statue of Liberty Closeup

Photo: Stock Photos from JoanneJean/Shutterstock

The spikes on the Statue of Liberty’s crown represent the Seven Seas and seven continents, meaning that though this is an American monument, the freedom it stands for is a universal concept.

 

There are 25 windows in the crown.

Windows of the Crown Statue of Liberty

View from the crown of the Statue of Liberty (Photo: Stock Photos from CrookshanksPhotography/Shutterstock)

Though they are difficult to see from the ground, the crown of the statue includes 25 windows that allow for unparalleled view of New York and New Jersey.

 

There are 393 steps taking visitors up to the crown.

Looking Down from Crown on the Statue of Liberty

Looking down from inside the Statue of Liberty’s Crown (Photo: Stock Photos from PatSimmons/Shutterstock)

To look through the windows in the crown, visitors will have to climb 393 steps. This distance is roughly the vertical distance of 27 levels in a normal building.

 

Its green color, however, is here to stay.

Statue of Liberty Facts Statue of Liberty History What is the Statue of Liberty Made of Why is the Statue of Liberty Green

Photo: Stock Photos from Life In Pixels/Shutterstock

While the restoration team throughly cleaned the statue's copper surface, its iconic green color remained. Known as a patina, this coating is a result of the copper's oxidation. So, while the sculpture was originally the reddish-brown color of a penny, it has gradually turned a shade of jade green—and will remain that color for years to come.

 

Laboulaye hoped it would inspire France as well.

Statue of Liberty

Photo: Stock Photos from Emily Neville Fisher/Shutterstock

Though it was a gift to the United States, Edouard de Laboulaye who gave the idea for the statue hoped the monument to freedom would push the French to fight for freedom under Napolean III.

 

Every year, 4.5 million people visit the statue.

Statue of Liberty Facts Statue of Liberty Museum

Photo: Stock Photos from Marcio Jose Bastos Silva/Shutterstock

Over 100 years later, the Statue of Liberty continues to climb in popularity. Every year, 4.5 million people flock by ferry to see the sculpture—and, in May of 2019, to visit the new Statue of Liberty Museum.

Planned to be “the most monumental addition to Liberty Island since the Statue herself,” this institution will make a trip to Lady Liberty even more meaningful, promising guests “a new way to experience history.”

 

DON’T FORGET YOUR CITYPASS!

My Modern Met Tip: CityPASS is the best way to see New York City's top attractions—they’re bundled to save you 42% on admission. Included are The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Guggenheim Museum, Ferry Access to Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, 9/11 Memorial & Museum, and Empire State Building. And better yet, when you have the pass, you'll get priority entry into some of them. It’s a win-win!

 

This article has been edited and updated.

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Kelly Richman-Abdou

Kelly Richman-Abdou is a Contributing Writer at My Modern Met. An art historian living in Paris, Kelly was born and raised in San Francisco and holds a BA in Art History from the University of San Francisco and an MA in Art and Museum Studies from Georgetown University. When she’s not writing, you can find Kelly wandering around Paris, whether she’s leading a tour (as a guide, she has been interviewed by BBC World News America and France 24) or simply taking a stroll with her husband and two tiny daughters.
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