Symbol of independence a gift from France

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 07 August, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 07 August, 2002, 12:00am

There are few images in the world as famous as the Statue of Liberty. If you walked up to someone in the street and showed them a photograph of the gigantic lady who guards New York harbour, they would probably tell you straightaway who she was. But who is this massive female standing alone on a small island off the tip of Manhattan and where did she come from?

In 1783, the United States of America became an independent country, breaking away from Britain. The new American nation had received a lot of help and support from France and a strong bond of friendship had grown up between the two countries.

Eighty years after America's Declaration of Independence, a group of rich Frenchmen decided that it would be a good idea to give a special present to the United States. They asked a young sculptor, Frederic Bartholdi, to build a giant statue that would be the symbol of American independence.

Bartholdi travelled to the United States and chose a small island in New York harbour for the site of his masterpiece. The people of France raised the money to pay for the statue.

In the US itself, fund-raising efforts were organised to pay for the pedestal.

Work began in Paris in 1876. The towering statue was going to be a woman holding a torch high in her right hand. On her head, Bartholdi placed a crown with seven spikes representing the seven continents of the world.

Because the statue was so gigantic, it had to be built in sections. Full-size pieces of the statue were made of wood and then covered in plaster. Then thin sheets of copper were hammered on to the plaster sections to make the actual shape of the statue. These copper sections would be fastened to a steel skeleton built on the island where the statue was to be erected.

In 1885, all the sections of the Statue of Liberty were packed into 200 crates and shipped to the US. The statue was put together by skilled workmen and on October 28, 1886, the magnificent Statue of Liberty was officially dedicated to the people of the United States. It was a proud day for the people of the US and France and a very special day for Lady Liberty.

Graphic: 0708P4GYO