The Statue of Liberty is one of the most recognizable landmarks in the world, a symbol of freedom and democracy that has come to represent the United States itself. But the history of the statue is a complex and fascinating one, with many twists and turns that have shaped its meaning and significance over the years. From its origins as a gift from the people of France to its place as a beacon of hope and inspiration for millions of people around the world, the Statue of Liberty has a story that is as rich and diverse as the people who have been inspired by it. In this article, we will explore the history of the Statue of Liberty, from its inception to the present day, and examine the various cultural, political, and social factors that have made it such an enduring symbol of freedom and democracy.


Why did France give the United States the Statue of Liberty?


The Statue of Liberty was the brainchild of Eduoard de Laboulaye. Edouard de Laboulaye, a well-known French historian and political activist, was a passionate abolitionist and a vocal opponent of slavery. As a historian, he was acutely aware of the atrocities of the transatlantic slave trade and the horrors of slavery in the United States. Laboulaye was a prominent member of the French abolitionist movement, which fought tirelessly to end the practice of slavery throughout the world. In his writings and speeches, Laboulaye advocated for the universal values of freedom and human dignity, which he believed should be extended to all people, regardless of race or nationality. His views on abolition were deeply influential in shaping the political and cultural landscapes of France, and his advocacy for the abolitionist cause helped to inspire generations of activists who continued to fight for social justice and equality.


Following the Civil War, Laboulaye proposed the idea of giving the United States a gift in the late 19th century. Laboulaye was an ardent supporter of democracy and equality, and he admired the United States for embodying these values. He was disillusioned by the rule of Napoleon III and inspired by the U.S.’s ability to hold on to a democracy even through a Civil War. He was also inspired by the U.S.’s abolition of slavery. Laboulaye proposed a gift as a symbol of the strong bond between the U.S. and France and a testament to the enduring values of freedom and democracy that they both shared.


There was one issue. When Laboulaye originally proposed the gift, he didn’t know what to give the United States. As a result, he took a very French action and threw a dinner party just outside of Paris in 1865. Among the attendees were others equally disillusioned by Napoleon III. Among them was Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. 




Frederic Auguste Bartholdi was a sculptor obsessed with the giant statues of antiquity. He believed these giant statues could help express giant ideas. He was constantly designing large-scale statues for different cities, hoping that one would commission him to build one. 


He lacked any takers on his giant sculptures until attending Laboulaye’s dinner party in 1865. Laboulaye proposed his idea of giving the United States a gift, and Bartholdi volunteered to build a giant sculpture. Laboulaye loved the idea, and thus the partnership that would create the Statue of Liberty began.




When Bartholdi first set out designing the Statue of Liberty, he didn’t even know it would be “The Statue of Liberty.” In fact, he didn’t know what he would sculpt at all. He embarked on a journey through the United States for inspiration. He met with people across the country, including the president himself! His conclusion was that America was extremely diverse, and the thread that tied everyone together was the idea of “liberty.”


Liberty is a relatively abstract concept to sculpt. To sculpt “liberty” Bartholdi once again looked to antiquity. Ancient Rome had a goddess named Libertas. She was seen as the personification of “liberty,” and used on coins as early as 68 AD. She was revered in France during the rule of Napoleon III, and appears in much artwork of the time, including Delacroix’s “Liberty Leading the People.” Bartholdi chose a confident, calm, and clothed version of Libertas for his sculpture, which would officially be titled “Liberty Enlightening the World.”




The construction of the Statue of Liberty was a massive undertaking that involved many different people and resources. The statue was designed by French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, who oversaw its construction in France. The statue itself was made of copper sheets that were hammered into shape and then assembled around an iron framework. This technique is known as “repousse.” The statue was built in pieces, a lot like a 3-D puzzle, or even Ikea furniture. The statue shipped across the Atlantic Ocean in 350 pieces to New York Harbor, where it was reassembled on its pedestal. Fun fact: the copper that makes up the Statue of Liberty is only as thick as two pennies stacked on top of one another, so naturally she needed some “bones” to hold her up. For that, Bartholdi would turn to a soon-to-be-famous French engineer.




It was a young Alexandre Gustave Eiffel who built the inside infrastructure that holds the Statue of Liberty up. Eiffel is of course well known today for the Eiffel Tower in Paris, France. However, the Eiffel Tower wouldn’t be completed until 6 years after the Statue of Liberty. Eiffel had yet to rise to world fame when he came up with the idea of creating an iron latticework structure modeled after a dressmaker’s mannequin to hold the Statue of Liberty up. If you looked under Lady Liberty’s copper skin, you might be surprised to see she looks extremely similar to the Eiffel Tower! 


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