On this day in 1885, the dismantled Statue of Liberty, a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of America for her Centennial, arrives in New York Harbor. Having been shipped across the Atlantic Ocean in 350 individual pieces packed in more than 200 crates and cases, the copper and iron statue was reassembled and dedicated the following year in a ceremony presided over by President Grover Cleveland, and became known around the world as an enduring symbol of freedom and renewal.
Going deep, the idea for the Statue of Liberty was first proposed by Édouard René de Laboulaye, president of the French Anti-Slavery Society and a prominent political thinker of his time. The project is traced to a mid-1865 conversation between de Laboulaye and Frédéric Bartholdi, a sculptor, in after-dinner chat at Laboulaye’s home near Versailles; the men wished to make a gift to our fledgling nation on her Centennial.
Bartholdi was eventually able to obtain the vital services of innovative designer and builder Gustave Eiffel (him again) for the work in progress. As a reminder to francophobes, France and her armies and navies were of vital assistance to Washington’s Continental Army and essentially won our American Revolution and our freedom for us at Yorktown, so there’s that.
Finally completed in Paris in the Summer of 1884, Liberty was carefully disassembled, crated and shipped aboard the French steamer Isère; over 200,000 well-wishers lined the docks and wharves on her arrival in New York Harbor. Once completed, standing more than 305 feet from the foundation of its pedestal to the top of its torch, and weighing in at 225 tons, the statue, dubbed “Liberty Enlightening the World” by Bartholdi, was taller than any structure in New York City at the time. Originally copper-colored, over the years it underwent a natural change process called patination that produced its current greenish-blue hue we see today.
Dedicating the monument a year later on July 4, 1876, President Cleveland presided over ceremonies in New York Harbor including a long and large parade attended by nearly one million spectators, and an enormous nautical procession of boats. In prepared remarks, Cleveland stated the statue’s “stream of light shall pierce the darkness of ignorance and man’s oppression until Liberty enlightens the world.”
On this coming Father’s Day especially, of the many memories, gifts, and lessons attentive dads and moms have bestowed upon their children, surely the freedoms Liberty represents are the most precious: the freedom of speech and expression; the freedom to worship God in one’s own way; the freedom from want and cruel deprivation; and the freedom from fear.