The Statue of Liberty was dedicated in New York harbor on 28 October 1886.
“La Liberté éclairant le monde” (“Liberty Enlightening the World”), is the Statue’s formal name. Since its creation, the monument has greeted every liner arriving in New York harbor, providing a thrilling, defining moment at the end of a long westbound transatlantic crossing. For many outbound travelers, particularly American troops headed into combat overseas, the Statue offered a poignant last glimpse of home.
Auguste Bartholdi, a French sculptor, designed the Statue of Liberty. Born on 2 August 1834 in Colmar, Alsace, France, Bartholdi extensively studied art and architecture before becoming a commercial sculptor.
The Statue was built in Paris and presented by the Franco American Union to the United States Ambassador in 1884. In 1886, Bartholdi oversaw the Statue’s assembly in New York and participated in its inauguration. At the ceremony, Bartholdi was presented with the key to the City of New York and later climbed the Statue to release the tricolor French flag that veiled Liberty’s face.
In 1883, poet Emma Lazarus was asked to compose a sonnet for the “Art Loan Fund Exhibition in Aid of the Bartholdi Pedestal Fund for the Statue of Liberty.” Born on 22 July 1849 in New York City, Lazarus—inspired by her Sephardic Jewish heritage and experiences working with refugees and immigrants—wrote “The New Colossus” on 2 November 1883. After the auction, the sonnet appeared in The New York World and The New York Times.
When the American Committee for the Statue of Liberty ran out of funds for the Statue’s pedestal in 1884, newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer was asked to help. By urging the American public to donate money toward the pedestal in his newspaper, The New York World, Pulitzer raised over US$100,000 in six months—more than enough money to ensure the pedestal’s completion.
Here’s hoping that liberty’s beacon is enlightening your part of the world today.
The New Colossus
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”