20 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About the Statue of Liberty
On June 17, 1885, 200,000 people lined the docks of lower Manhattan to watch the French steamer Isère carry the Statue of Liberty into New York Harbor. More than 130 years later, join us in celebrating the coming of a national icon with this colossal roundup of trivia.
Consider yourself enlightened
The “Statue of Liberty” is flattered that you recognize her face, but wishes you’d get her name right. According to designer Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, the sculpture’s true title is “Liberty Enlightening the World.” These are the history questions people always get wrong.
She has a face a mother could love…
…specifically, Bartholdi’s mother, Charlotte, who is rumored to be the model for Liberty’s massive copper visage. (Not to be neglected, Bartholdi’s wife posed for the arms and torso.)
She had to be pieced together
Like many other first-time New Yorkers, Liberty was a mess when she got here. She arrived from France in 350 pieces, packed into 214 crates aboard an ocean liner.
She was a trendsetter from day one
Before her dedication ceremony on October 28, 1886, Lady Liberty was inaugurated with a massive parade through Manhattan. As it passed by the Stock Exchange, jubilant day traders rained down torn up ticker tape from the upper windows. Thus began a New York tradition: the ticker tape parade.
She was a beacon of feminism
When women were banned from attending the dedication on Bedloe’s Island that evening, suffragists chartered a boat and held their own ceremony in the nearby harbor, loudly proclaiming the hypocrisy of men “erecting a Statue of Liberty embodied as a woman in a land where no woman has political liberty.”
And, of course, she was a tourist trap
As many as one million people attended the inaugural celebration, where souvenir boys sold doctored photographs of the statue, badges and medals, miniature bronze reproductions, and specialty sandwiches that “tasted as though they had been made from slices of the pedestal,” the New York Times reported. She may be a popular tourist attraction, but as you can tell from these Statue of Liberty facts, Lady Liberty is still one of the must-see spots around America everyone should visit.
She’s a Jersey girl (kind of)
Though the waters surrounding her are technically part of New Jersey, Lady Liberty is the official property of Manhattan, and a proud New York taxpayer (at least, her gift shops are).
She’s been in the neighborhood so long, they renamed it after her
The island where she stands was called Bedloe’s Island (after an early Dutch settler) until 1956, when it was renamed Liberty Island by an act of Congress. If these Statue of Liberty tidbits have you hooked, check out some more fascinating facts you never knew about America.
She doesn’t stand alone
Besides its famous gargantuan tenant, Liberty/Bedloe’s Island has also housed: Oyster beds, a smallpox quarantine station, a Scottish Earl’s summer estate, a recruitment center, and now a National Park and museum. Learn which iconic American landmarks have surprising secret features.
Her wardrobe is massive
Despite easy access to Manhattan shopping, the Lady is a picky dresser. She wears a size 879 shoe and has a 35-foot waistline. How do those crazy stats stack up against the rest of these Statue of Liberty facts?
Her looks are deceiving
She weighs 204 metric tons, but don’t call her fat. The Lady’s copper skin is extremely thin—barely 1/16th of an inch thick, to be exact.
Green is not her natural color
At first Liberty was a dull, copper brown—however, as copper oxidizes over time, it develops a patina (or “healthy green glow”) to protect from further deterioration. By 1906, she was green from head to toe. Learn more Statue of Liberty facts about her unusual color change.
She carries a lot on her noggin
There are seven rays on the Lady’s crown, one for each of the world’s seven continents. Together, they give her a hat that weighs more than 1000 pounds.
Luckily, she gets a stretch in now and then
Another surprising Statue of Liberty fact: In winds of 50 mph or more, the statue can sway up to three inches, and the torch arm up to six.
She may appear solemn, but Lady Liberty knows how to celebrate
In 1944, the lights in her crown flashed “dot-dot-dot-dash,” indicating a Morse code V, for Victory in Europe. If these Statue of Liberty facts have you feeling patriotic, wait till you read these facts you never knew about the American flag.
She’s made a lot of friends
From 1892 to 1943, Lady Liberty greeted more than 12 million immigrants arriving by boat to Ellis Island.
She has her own “fort”
The Lady stands on a pedestal, and the pedestal stands on a disused granite fort in the shape of an 11-pointed star. Fort Wood, completed in 1811, once held 77 mounted guns and a garrison of 350 U.S. Army troops to protect New York harbor. (Today it holds a museum.)
Freedom isn’t free, and liberty ain’t cheap either
The cost of building the statue and pedestal amounted to more than $500,000—or more than $10 million in today’s money.
France and the USA split the cost
Liberty’s French benefactors bankrolled the statue but left it to America to build and fund the pedestal. When early New York fundraisers failed, Boston and Philadelphia offered to pay the full cost…in return for relocating the statue. (They didn’t.)
Her “half-sister” is as famous as she is
Liberty’s inner framework was engineered by Gustave Eiffel in 1880. He used the same design to construct Paris’ iconic Eiffel Tower seven years later. Now that you’ve got your Statute of Liberty facts down, check out some fascinating facts about that iconic French structure as well.