One of the most iconic landmarks in the world, The Statue of Liberty draws around 4 million visitors every year. From Liberty Island’s strange history to a German dynamite attack, here are some incredible Statue Of Liberty trivia facts that you should know.
The Statue of Liberty Was A Gift From France To The United States
Due in part to shared conflicts with Great Britain, both the United States and France were very strong allies throughput the 1700 and 1800s. The friendship was so strong that the people of France gave The Statue of Liberty as a gift for the American Centennial. The statue is a physical reminder of the friendship between the two nations.
The Idea For The Statue Of Liberty Happened At A French Dinner Party
In 1865, Frech aristocrat Edouard-Rene Lefebvre de Laboulaye (1811-1883) hosted a dinner party at his home in Glatigny, France. His honored guest that evening was a famous French painter and sculptor named Frederic Auguste Bartholdi. While discussing the American Revolution and Civil War, Edouard de Laboulaye suggested that a monument commemorating the assistance the French people had given America in her struggle for Independence be created. The idea was proposed to members of the French government and was received with instant enthusiasm. Bartholdi was commissioned for the project and would spend the next two decades working on the first of its kind monument.
“The Statue Of Liberty” Isn’t The Official Name Of The Statue, It’s Just A Nickname
The statue’s official name is “La Liberté Éclairant le Monde.” In English, this means “Liberty Enlightening the World.”
The Statue Of Liberty And Eiffel Tower Share An Architect
When Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the main sculptor of The Statue Of Liberty, needed help with the statue’s iron framework, he turned to a famous French architect named Gustave Eiffel, the designer of the Eiffel Tower.
The Statue Of Liberty Was Pre-Built In France
Similar to IKEA furniture, the pieces of The Statue of Liberty were pre-built to make assembly easier on site. All 350 of the major parts of the statue were created in France and then shipped to the United States for final assembly.
The Statue Of Liberty Almost Sank While Crossing The Atlantic Ocean
The Statue Of Liberty was transported to America in 214 crates on the French ship Isere. The ship encountered severe storms while crossing the Atlantic Ocean and almost sank.
Lady Liberty’s Head Went On Tour Years Before The Rest Of The Statue Was Finished
The torch and the head of the Statue Of Liberty were completed years before the rest of her body. While waiting for the rest of the body to be built, the head toured several locations including the 1878 World’s Fair in Paris.
The Ownership Of Liberty Island Is Controversial Issue
Who owns Liberty Island is a complicated question to answer. New York City purchased Liberty Island from a private owner in 1758. Then in 1800, the city gave the island to the US government. However, Liberty Island is located in New Jersey. Did New York City have the legal right to purchase the island in the first place? This question has resulted in multiple lawsuits by New Jersey. The end result is a federally owned island within a piece of territory of New York State that’s inside New Jersey waters. The ownership of Ellis Island also resulted in a legal battle between New York and New Jersey.
Before Being Purchased By New York City, Liberty Island Had A Strange History Of Ownership And Uses
Over the centuries, Liberty Island had many different owners, names and uses before being purchased by New York City and becoming a national landmark.
- Oyster Islands: In the mid-1600s, Dutch settlers named the islands near the end of Manhattan the Oyster Islands because of their large oyster beds. This was a major source of food for both local Indians and colonists for many years.
- Island Home: After the defeat of Fort Amsterdam, the Dutch’s base on the southern tip on Manhattan, by the British, the island was gifted by English governor Richard Nicolls to Captain Robert Needham in 1664. He then sold it to Isaac Bedloe in 1667. Bedloe made the island his home.
- Small Pox Quarantine Station: Bedloe’s estate sold the island in 1732 for only five shillings to New York merchants Adolphe Philipse and Henry Lane. But their plans for the island were put on hold when the New York City government commandeered the land to establish a smallpox quarantine station.
- Vacation Rental Property: An English Earl named Archibald Kennedy purchased the island in 1746 and created a summer estate and a lighthouse. He later sold the island in 1758 to the city of New York for £1,000.
- Island For Tory Refugees: When the British started building up troops before the start of the American Revolutionary War in 1776, they planned to use the island as a safe haven for Tory refugees, Americans who stayed loyal to Britain during the War. However, strangely all of the buildings on the island were burned down and it couldn’t be used.
- Fort Wood: A fort was built on Bedloe Island to help protect New York City from future invasion.
- Home Of The Statue Of Liberty: Even though ships from France arrived with pieces of the statue in June 1885, the pedestal wasn’t completed until April 1886. Construction of The Statue of Liberty was completed seven months later in October 1886.
- Liberty Island: In 1956, 70 years after The Statue Of Liberty’s dedication, Bedloe Island was officially renamed Liberty Island.
The Base Of The Statue Of Liberty Is An Old Military Fort
In one of the more obscure Statue Of Liberty trivia facts, the 11-point star-shaped base of the statue is an old military fort. In 1800, New York State gave Bedloe Island to the federal government to build a defensive fort, in the shape of an 11-point star. The fort’s presence helped protect New York City from the British during the War of 1812. The fort was later officially named Fort Wood after the American war hero, Lt. Col Eleazer Derby Wood, after he was killed during the Siege of Fort Erie in 1814.
The Statue Of Liberty Project Was Almost Cancelled After New Yorkers Struggled To Raise Money For The Pedestal’s Construction
France offered to create and ship the statue across the Atlantic ocean, but America needed to select a building site and build a pedestal for the statue. In 1881, a committee selected famed American architect Richard Morris Hunt to build the pedestal for The Statue Of Liberty. The committee also selected Bedloe Island (later renamed Liberty Island), an underused island in New York City harbor for the location of the statue.
But after attempts to have both New York State and the federal government contribute funding for the pedestal failed, the committee turned to wealthy New Yorkers to make donations. This also failed. As a result, the project was almost moved to Boston or Philadelphia where funding wasn’t an issue. However, New York City’s poor came through where both the government and the wealthy failed. Over 80% of the donations for the pedestal’s construction were $1 or less.
The Pedestal’s Fundraising Champion Was Joseph Pulitzer
Fundraising for the pedestal wouldn’t have been possible without the help of Joseph Pulitzer (1847-1911). At the time, the Hungarian immigrant was the publisher of the legendary New York World newspaper. Articles in the World helped raise awareness for The Statue Of Liberty and encouraged readers to donate to the pedestal’s construction.
Today, Pulitzer’s name is best known for the journalism awards that share his name. Pulitzer donated money to New York’s Columbia University to establish the world’s first school of journalism. In 1917, Columbia University organized the Pulitzer Prizes in his honor. The prizes are given annually to reward excellence in American journalism, photography, writing, and arts.
The Same Man Who Rejected Funding For The Statue Of Liberty, Officially Accepted It
In 1884, New York State governor Grover Cleveland vetoed a bill for $50,000 that would have paid for almost half of the Statue Of Liberty’s pedestal construction. This put the project in considerable jeopardy and was a major insult to the French. Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and his team had been working on The Statue Of Liberty for twenty years.
The following year, Cleveland ran for President Of The United States and won. On October 28, 1886, President Grover Cleveland, the same man who rejected funding for the project, gave the acceptance speech for the Statue Of Liberty.
“We will not forget that liberty here made her home; nor shall her chosen altar be neglected”. ~ President Grover Cleveland (October 28, 1886)
The Statue Of Liberty’s Pedestal Was The Biggest 19th-Century Concrete Structure Created In The United States
The Statue of Liberty’s pedestal weighs 27,000 tons and is 13,300 cubic yards. The pedestal goes 53 feet deep and is 91 feet square at the bottom. This makes it the biggest concrete structure built in the United States during the 1800s.
One Construction Worker Died During The Pedestal’s Construction
Despite some dangerous conditions, only one construction worked died while building the Statue Of Liberty’s pedestal. A thirty-nine-year-old Italian laborer, named Francis Longo, died accidentally when a wall fell on top of him.
A Poem Titled “The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus Is Inscribed Inside The Pedestal
Inside the pedestal is a plaque inscribed with a poem called “New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus. Several iconic lines from the poem including, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” are welcoming and inspirational words to immigrants from around the world.
Residents Of New York City Spend Most Of Their Time Looking At The Statue Of Liberty’s Butt
Most New Yorkers don’t have a good view of The Statue Of Liberty. The statue faces southeast, making her backside the main view for most of New York City, except downtown. This isn’t meant to be an insult. Lady Liberty faces a southeast direction to welcome arriving ships entering New York harbor.
Lady Liberty Was Classified As A Lighthouse Before It Became A Landmark And National Park
Soon after construction was completed in 1886, the United States Lighthouse Board took over the management of The Statue of Liberty. The statue’s lit torch and position in New York harbor made it an ideal lighthouse. However, the torch’s light wasn’t bright enough to be a working lighthouse. A writer at New York World newspaper even called the dimly lit torch “more like a glowworm than a beacon.” The Lighthouse Board spent several decades trying to make the torch brighter without success.
Frustrated by the Lighthouse Board’s lack of progress to increase the illumination of the torch, President Theodore Roosevelt ordered the US War Department to take over the statue. The transfer in 1901 ended The Statue Of Liberty’s classification as a lighthouse.
The First Ticker Tape Parade In History Was For The Statue Of Liberty
New Yorkers were elated to see the newly completed Statue Of Liberty in their harbor. As the celebratory parade took place in downtown Manhattan, stockbrokers came up with an original idea on how to celebrate. In the 1880s, stock information was printed on thin strips of paper called ticker tapes. The end of each workday resulted in endless strips of these papers being discarded. So as the parade past by the New York Stock Exchange, traders started throwing the ticker tapes out of their windows in celebration. Thus the tradition of a New York City “ticker-tape parade” was born.
The Total Height Of The Statue Of Liberty Is 305 Feet
The Statue Of Liberty is a very tall lady. Her total height, including base and pedestal, from the ground to the top of the torch is 305 feet and 1 inch (92.99 meters). The statue alone stands slightly over 150 feet tall (46 meters). At the time of its construction in 1886, The Statue of Liberty was the tallest iron structure ever built.
People Have Committed Suicide At The Statue Of Liberty
Before strict safety barriers were created, several people jumped from the statue in attempts to take their own lives. Most jumpers survived, however, there have been several recorded fatalities. In 1929, a man jumped out of one of the crown’s windows, bounced off the statue’s breast, and then fatally landed on the base. In 1997, a man jumped off of the pedestal to his death.
The Statue Weighs 450,000 Pounds
The total weight of the statue, excluding the base, is 204 metric tonnes or 449,743 pounds.
Lady Liberty Was Built To Sway In High Winds
The iron frame of the statue allows for some movement in high winds. The statue can sway 3-5 inches in winds over 50 mph. While the body only typically moves around 3 inches, the torch can move up to 5 inches, as National Park Service employees observed during Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
The Statue Of Liberty Wears A 879 Shoe Size
If you had to buy a new pair of shoes for The Statue Of Liberty, you’d need to find a store that sells plus women’s shoes. She wears a size 879 shoe.
Her Waist Is 35 Feet
With a 35-foot waistline, the statue’s waist is the size of a cruiser sailboat.
The Statue Is Made Out Of Iron And Copper
The Statue Of Liberty has an iron infrastructure and frame with a copper exterior. Oxidation caused green due to oxidation.
300 Different Types Of Hammers Were Used To Shape Lady Liberty’s Copper Metal Sheets
The statue’s copper metal sheets were shaped using 300 different types of hammers. Not 300 hammers, but 300 different types of hammers. That’s a lot of hammers!
Lady Liberty’s Head Was Installed Wrong in 1886
During the national monument’s renovations in the 1980s, engineers discovered that her head was originally installed wrong. It was two feet off-center. Oops!
There’s An Elevator Inside The Statue Of Liberty
There’s a total of 354 steps from the base to the crown. Most people can’t comfortably navigate that many stairs. Good thing there’s an elevator. Before the September 11th attacks, some of the statue’s more athletic visitors preferred to ride the elevator up to the crown and take the stairs back down to the base. However, crown balcony access is now very limited.
There’s More Than One Statue Of Liberty
Although The Statue Of Liberty in New York City’s harbor is the most famous, there are three total official versions of the statue.
The other two statues can both be found in Paris, France. One is at the Garden of Luxembourg about 2 miles east of the Eiffel Tower. The third statue is on Swan Island just southwest of the Eiffel Tower. This statute provided a major clue in the 2007 Nicolas Cage movie National Treasure. In the film, they used a helicopter drone to read a transcription written on the torch.
- Liberty Island: New York City, USA
- Luxembourg Garden: Paris, France
- Swan Island: Paris, France
In addition to these three official versions, there are countless other replicas located around the world. One of the more famous of these replicas is the Statue Of Liberty on the top of the New York New York Hotel And Casino in Las Vegas, NV.
Lady Liberty Has A 24k Gold Covered Torch
As part of the statue’s restorations in 1984, The Statue Of Liberty’s original torch was covered with a thin layer of 24k gold leaf. The new gold coating reflects both the sun’s rays during the daytime and the torch’s floodlights at night.
The Statue Was Named A UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984
In 1984, The Statue Of Liberty was named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To be considered for the World Heritage List, sites must have an “outstanding universal value” and meet at least one out of ten selection criteria. Lady Liberty met two:
- to represent a masterpiece of human creative genius
- to be directly or tangibly associated with events or living traditions, with ideas, or with beliefs, with artistic and literary works of outstanding universal significance
The Statue Of Liberty’s Torch Is On The $10 Bill
On March 2, 2006, a design change to the American $10 bill introduced a red icon of The Statue of Liberty’s torch.
The Torch Was Damaged By German Sabatours During World War I
On July 30, 1916, a year before the United States entered World War I, a team of German military operatives exploded several carloads of dynamite near The Statue Of Liberty killing five people. The attack is officially known as The Black Tom Wharf Explosion. The blast damaged the statue’s torch arm resulting in the closure of the torch balcony to the public. It has remained closed ever since.
The Crown Lights Helped Signal Victory During World War II
After victory was declared in Europe in 1944, the lights in The Statue Of Liberty’s crown flashed “V” for Victory in Morse code (dot-dot-dot-dash).
The Seven Points Of The Statue Of Liberty’s Crown Are Symbolic
The seven points on The Statue Of Liberty’s crown represent the seven seas and the seven continents of the world.
The Statue Of Liberty’s Crown Has 25 Windows
Lady Liberty’s crown is so large that it contains 25 windows. First Lady Nancy Regan famously waved from one of the crown windows for a photo after the Statue Of Liberty reopened to the public on July 4, 1986. The statue was closed from 1984-1986 for renovations.
Very Limited Crown Access After September 11th Attacks
Access to The Statue Of Liberty was closed immediately following the September 11th attacks in 2001. The pedestal area was later reopened in 2004. Crown access wasn’t opened back up tot he public until 2009. However, only a small and very limited group can visit the crown per day. Reservations need to be made many months, or even years, in advance.
There’s Something Written On The Statue Of Liberty’s Tablet
The Statue Of Liberty is holding a torch in one hand and a traditional tabula ansata tablet in the other. Written on the tablet is July IV MDCCLXXVI (July 4th, 1776), the date of the American Declaration Of Independence from Britain.
The Statue Of Liberty Has A Symbolic Connection To Roman Mythology
In Roman Mythology, a female figure dressed in robes typically represents Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom.
The Statue’s Face Was Modeled After The Sculptuer’s Mother
When creating the face of The Statue Of Liberty, French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi got inspiration from his mother, Charlotte. He used her image to model Lady Liberty’s face.
The Statue Of Liberty Has A Symbolic Reference To The End Of American Slavery
In 1863, American President Abraham Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation ending slavery. This recent event inspired Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the architect of The Statue Of Liberty. Bartholdi added a broken shackle and chain at the statue’s feet. He also raised the statue’s right foot symbolizing America moving away from slavery and oppression.
The Statue Of Liberty Is An Internationally Recognized Symbol Of Immigration
After the statue was completed, millions of immigrants migrated into the United States in the decades before War War II. With most of then arriving by boat, The Statue of Liberty became the first thing that they saw making it a powerful symbol of immigration.
The Statue Of Liberty Has Dozens Of 24/7 Webcams
The Statue Of Liberty literally has dozens of cameras pointed at it at all times. You can virtually tour the statue 24/7 from all angles including the torch, crown, base, and harbor from multiple angles. Many cameras also have audio! Depending on the weather, nighttime views are just as beautiful as daytime. One obvious highlight, seeing the lit torch up close at night from the torch balcony camera.
The Statue Of Liberty Is A Giant Lighting Rod
One of the side effects of being a giant metal statue is attracting lighting. On average, The Statue Of Liberty attracts ~600 lighting strikes every year. A New York City photographer named Jay Fine spent 40 years trying to capture one of these bolts striking the statue. On September 22, 2010, he was finally successful and became the first photographer ever to capture The Statue Of Liberty being struck by lightning on film.
Lightning strikes have also been captured on video including this clip from July 22, 2020, by Twitter user @_Mikey_Cee.
Lady Liberty Is A Hollywood Movie Star
The Statue Of Liberty has been featured in countless films and TV shows. Here’s a brief collection of moments featuring The Statue Of Liberty:
- Saboteur: The statue’s torch is the setting for the climax of this 1942 Alfred Hitchcock movie starring Robert Cummings and Priscilla Lane.
- Planet Of The Apes: At the end of the 1968 film, Charlton Heston’s character sees The Statue Of Liberty half-buried in the sand and realizes that he’s still on Earth.
- Independence Day: The statue gets knocked over during an alien invasion in this 1996 Roland Emmerich film starring Bill Pullman Will Smith Jeff Goldblum.
- Cloverfield: In the 2008 film, the statue’s head is ripped off when a monster attacks Manhattan. A headless image of the statue is also in the cover photo and movie poster for the film.
- The Day After Tomorrow: The polar ice caps are melting and a climatologist must battle his way through a flooded New York City to save his sone. In this 2004 film starring Dennis QuaidJake Gyllenhaalfllod water rise up to the crown of The Statue Of Liberty.
- Ghostbusters II: The statue comes to life after being positively charged with Psychomagnotheric Slime in the 1989 movie sequel.
- X-Men: In the 2000 film starring Ian McKellen Patrick Stewart Famke Janssen, Halle Berry, and Hugh Jackman, Magneto creates a weapon at the top of the Statue Of Liberty to turn a gathering of world leaders on Ellis Island into mutants.
Andy Warhol’s 3D Print Of The Statue Of Liberty Sold For $43M
More Statue Of Liberty Trivia Facts!?
Do you know any more interesting or fun Statue Of Liberty trivia that we might have missed? Please share it in the comments and we’ll give you credit. Thanks for reading!
Frank Wilson is a retired teacher with over 30 years of combined experience in the education, small business technology, and real estate business. He now blogs as a hobby and spends most days tinkering with old computers. Wilson is passionate about tech, enjoys fishing, and loves drinking beer.