The Statue of Liberty on Liberty Island in New York is an internationally renowned symbol of independence and freedom and a must-see for any visitor to New York. In addition to the historical background, it offers a spectacular view over the Manhattan skyline.
The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French people to the United States. The giant statue was created by the French sculptors Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi and Gustav Eiffel, who constructed the iron framework inside it. The 46-metre-high statue stands on a 47-metre-high foundation and, with a total height of 93 metres, is one of the tallest statues in the world.
In her right hand she holds the torch with golden flame, in her left a plaque with the date of the Declaration of Independence JULY IV MDCCLXXVI (4 July 1776), at her feet lies a broken chain. It has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1984.
The protracted history of the Statue of Liberty
The idea actually came from the French politician Édouard René de Laboulaye, who in 1865 thought that a monument in honour of American independence should be a joint project between France and the USA.
Bartholdi was inspired by this and submitted initial sketches to Laboulaye. The latter was very taken with the idea and sent the sculptor to New York with a letter of recommendation to present the project to influential Americans, including the then President Ulysses S. Grant. During this trip, his eye fell on "Bedloe's Island", an islet in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of New York...
It was decided relatively quickly that the idea should be realised, the financing was divided, France took over the statue, America the pedestal. The necessary funds were collected in several large-scale fundraising campaigns in both countries.
Fundraising proved to be more difficult in America than in France, Joseph Pulitzer, then editor of the "New York World", organised his own campaign and the then 19-year-old and later US President Theodore Roosevelt also campaigned for funding as a member of the fundraising committee. Funds were also raised by selling models even before completion.
The first appearance of the Statue of Liberty was in several parts. Her arm with the torch was already presented at the World's Fair in Philadelphia (partly not in connection with the Statue of Liberty, but classified as "Colossal Arm" or "Bartholdi's electric Light"), her head was part of the Paris World's Fair in 1878. Afterwards, they were shipped in parts to New York, and assembled there on the newly named Liberty Island.
8 years later was finally the solemn dedication by President Grover Cleveland on 28 October 1886. In 1933 the National Park Service was given responsibility for the statue and from 1937 for the entire island, which was subsequently turned into a park.
Visit the Statue of Liberty
The visit to the Statue of Liberty is free of charge, only the transport to Liberty Island by ferry requires a ticket. Ferries depart both from Battery Park in Manhattan and from New Jersey.
The ships also make a stop at Ellis Island, where documentaries about the history of immigrants are shown at the Immigration Museum. This is where the ancestors of many US citizens first set foot on American soil.
For those who are content to see the Statue of Liberty from afar, a tour with the Staten Island Ferry is recommended. It also departs from Battery Park, but only passes the Statue of Liberty through New York harbour and offers a spectacular view of the Manhattan skyline - for free, to boot.
Tip: As with all crowded sights in New York, get there as early as possible to avoid the queues. You can often expect to wait up to two hours at the ticket counter for the ferries.
Due to several renovations, the Statue of Liberty was repeatedly closed to visitors at short notice; the longest closure occurred after the terrorist attacks of 11 September 2001. Tourists were then only allowed back onto the torch's top viewing platform from 4 July 2009.
Tip: The Statue of Liberty is included in both the New York Pass and the New York City Pass.