Dedicated to the one we love

Study Break

On Oct. 28, 1886, workers fitted the last rivet of the Statue of Liberty during a dedication presided over by President Grover Cleveland and attended by numerous French and American dignitaries.

As described by The New York Times, “All day yesterday people came to the city in droves to participate in today’s celebration. Extra heavily loaded trains, much behind schedule time, were the rule on every railroad entering the city. Every hotel was crowded to its utmost capacity last night, and there was hardly one of the better known hotels which did not have to turn away hundreds of would be guests.”

After numerous speeches, the grand finale included the statue’s designer, Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi—perched in the statue’s torch—who pulled a rope removing a large French flag from the front of the statue, revealing Lady Liberty’s face to the crowd.

But why was the 151-foot copper statue sent to the United States from France in the first place?  Some highlights of the statue’s history include:

  • The statue was created to commemorate the friendship between the two countries during the American Revolution. It wasn’t about immigration at all—the only immigrants mentioned at the dedication were the “illustrious descendants of the French nobility” who fought on behalf of the American rebels.
  • Joseph Pulitzer published an editorial to pressure the rich and middle class to make donations to help fund the statue.
  • The original name of the statue is Liberty Enlightening the World.
  • In order to ship the statue to the United States, it had to be broken down into 350 individual pieces and packed in 214 crates.
  • Emma Lazarus’s poem, “The New Colossus,” which includes the famous line ‘give us your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” wasn’t added to the statue’s pedestal until 1903.

What does the Statue of Liberty mean to you? Has its meaning changed from 1886 to today? Ask your students what they think.