As a worldwide symbol for freedom and hope, the Statue of Liberty forms an iconic part of New York Harbour and has done so since October 28, 1886. However, it is a little known fact that it was a gift given to the United States by France as a way of recognising their friendship since the American Independence from England in 1776. America, seen as the ‘land of the free’, was quickly growing with migrants coming to resettle and the statue was a welcome sight for many.
The statue was originally designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi in 1876 and was originally called ‘Liberty enlightening the world’. The robed female represents ‘Libertas’, the Roman goddess holding a torch and a tablet on which is inscribed the date for American Independence ‘July 4, 1776’. She was chosen due to her representation of Liberty for emancipated peoples while a figure of liberty was already used on American coins. Gustave Eiffel who lent his name to the Eiffel Tower in Paris designed the framework for the 46 metre high statue which took 10 years to construct. Over the years, the Statue of Liberty has had many renovations and even been closed to the public for security reasons including the 9/11 attacks. Although the statue will always be held as American, the French have significant ownership of what has been termed by UNESCO as a ‘masterpiece of the human spirit’.