On This Day:

Liberty Arrives
in NY Harbor

A Statue & Two Nations

On June 17, 1885, Lady Liberty arrived at her home in New York Harbor.

In 1865, two Frenchmen, sculptor Fréderic-Auguste Bartholdi and political thinker Édouard Laboulaye, were dining at Laboulaye’s home near Versailles. A staunch abolitionist and admirer of Abraham Lincoln, Laboulaye organized the gathering shortly after the U.S. president’s assassination.

Bartholdi later claimed that it was that night, after Laboulaye suggested the idea of a commemoration for the 100-year anniversary of the United States’ independence, when the inspiration for the Statue of Liberty struck.

If a monument was ever erected in America in memory of its independence, it would seem natural to me that it be erected through a communal effort by the two nations. (France and the United States)   Édouard de Laboulaye

Flash forward two decades, after years of fundraising and thousands of manhours designing and constructing the statue, a disassembled Lady Liberty finally arrived at Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor on June 17, 1885.

The monument’s journey overseas was made possible only by many works of collaboration between the peoples of France and the United States. Bartholdi and engineer Alexandre Gustave Eiffel worked together to create the structure and design of Lady Liberty, while New York architect Richard Morris Hunt constructed the pedestal base. The Franco-American Union, founded by Laboulaye, set off to raise funds for the monument, with the U.S. fundraising for the pedestal’s construction while the French supported the creation and migration of the statue herself.

Broken into 350 pieces and packed into more than 200 crates, Lady Liberty traveled aboard the Isere, a French navy ship. Scientific American published a piece titled, ‘Arrival of the Statue of Liberty’ documenting the celebratory day the Isere ported in the United States of America. According to the article, the official transfer document of the statue was adorned with pictures of the sculpture and pedestal, as well as the heads of Washington and Lafayette, pivotal figures of the American Revolution.

Centuries of Celebration

It would take nearly a year for the pedestal to be completed and for Liberty Enlightening the World to stand upright on Bedloe’s Island (now Liberty Island). In an era of New York City that pre-dated the skyscraper, the Statue of Liberty would become the tallest statue of its time.

The two nations continue to honor the now iconic colossus. In 1986, to mark the statue’s centennial and the conclusion of a historic restoration, President Ronald Reagan was joined by French President Francois Mitterrand to lead a four-day “Liberty Weekend” celebration.

More recently, in July 2021, a nine-foot replica cast from Bartholdi’s original mold retraced the Isere’s 1885 journey from Normandy, France, to New York Harbor. Dubbed the statue’s “Little Sister,” the half-ton sculpture was on temporary display on Ellis Island in the shadow of the original.

As we mark this historic day in Lady Liberty’s history and prepare to celebrate her unofficial birthday on July 4th, the Foundation thanks you for your continued support of our mission to care for this beloved monument and its neighbor to the north, Ellis Island.

The Monumental Dream
Scientific America