Friday marked the 125th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. It’s proper name is “Liberty Enlightening the World,” signifying the freedom that it represents belongs to every person on earth. The Statue sits on Liberty Island, once known as Bedloe’s Island. The name was officially changed in 1956. Lady Liberty, as she has come to be known, was built in France, disassembled and shipped to the United States where she was reassembled.
The words on the pedestal of the statue are, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.” It comes from a sonnet, New Colossus, written by Emma Lazarus who wrote it to raise funds for the statue’s pedestal. It wasn’t until the early 1900’s, after Lazarus’ death that her efforts were recognized and memorialized on the pedestal.
The statue was given to the U.S. people for their friendship during the American Revolution. Sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi designed it with the target year of 1876 to commemorate the 100 year anniversary of the American Declaration of independence. The designer of the Eiffel Tower, Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, had to assist Bertholdi with the skeletal structure. This was prior to his building of the Eiffel Tower.
There were fights over the statue with many not wanting it and/or not wanting to spend the money. The French were to be responsible for the statue and the Americans for the pedestal. Lack of funds plagued both countries.
Pulitzer, of Pulitzer Prize fame, used his newspaper to criticize both the rich who had failed to finance the pedestal construction and the middle class who were sitting back and waiting for the wealthy to provide the funds. Pulitzer’s harsh criticism motivated the people of America to donate.
There was also a fight over whether Liberty Island was New Jersey or New York because of historical jurisdictional disputes, so the solution is to call it either, both work.
Bedloe Island was the site of a military fortification known as Fort Wood. The 11-pointed star-shaped fort was originally used to protect New York from potential foreign invaders, but its walls would later be used as the base and support of the Statue of Liberty.
Click here for a newspaper about the Statue published in 1986.
Then there is this ghost story – Captain Kidd was a Scottish sailor who would later be tried and executed, perhaps unjustly, for piracy. Having spent some time in New York City in life, after his death rumors began to circulate throughout the city that Kidd had buried some of his stolen treasure on Bedloe Island. The story goes that a couple soldiers stationed at Fort Wood became aware of the rumors and turned to a local psychic for help in tracking down the booty. The psychic drew them a map and they set out on their way, armed with shovels and dowsing rods.
When they reached the spot on the map and the dowsing rods dipped towards the ground, they immediately set to work in digging up the treasure. Much to their delight, they struck something hard and quickly went to work on uncovering their discovery. They reportedly did uncover a treasure chest, but also a skeleton as well. Suddenly a bright light flashed and either a demonic spirit or a very annoyed ghost sent them scurrying. They stumbled across guards who were coming to check on the commotion and quickly related the story. When they led the guards back to the hole they had dug, they found both the skeleton and the treasure chest were gone.
The story persists to this day that there is some hidden pirate treasure buried under a large, flat rock on the north side of the island but no further evidence of treasure or ghosts has been reported since. Click here for the story.
This is a video of the Statue of Liberty filmed in 1886, 12 years after the statue was erected.
The statue sways 3 inches in high winds and the torch sways 6 inches. The torch was once used as a lighthouse beacon that could be seen from 24 miles away. The torch was damaged by nearby German saboteurs in 1916.