Oct 28, 2011

Happy Birthday, Lady Liberty!

The Statue of Liberty, originally called Liberty Enlightening the World, turns 125 today!

You probably learned the usual things about the statue in elementary school: she was a gift from the country of France, she stands in the harbor near Manhattan, immigrants saw her as they approached Ellis Island, and she's memorized in a number of ways--on money, in movies...

You've probably also heard the poem, or at least part of it:
"Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" 
You can read my post on The New Colossus, the 1883 poem by Emma Lazarus, who was not an immigrant, by the way.

Seeing the Statue of Liberty up close was one of highlights of my trip to New York City. It was a beautiful day with clear blue skies, as you can see in these pictures. None of my ancestors, so far as I can tell, came through Ellis Island and had the experience of seeing the statue as they approached America. But many Americans with Irish roots did. Several nationalities came during the time Ellis Island processed immigrants, and an experience I hadn't anticipated was that when I was there, I too was surrounded by people from several ethnicities, speaking different languages. But we were all experiencing much the same thing, just like the ancestors who proceded us. This is a symbol of America, perhaps the greatest symbol.

From the base of the statue to the torch is 151' 11". From the base of the pedestal to the tip of the torch, it's 305' 6". It's just amazing to stand at the base and look up. What an engineering feat! The interior is constructed the way skyscrapers were so it can withstand strong winds. And that was before skyscrapers were built! The inside of the statue is hollow. The exterior copper covering of the Statue of Liberty is 3/32 of an inch thick (less than the thickness of two pennies) and the light green patina is the result of natural weathering of the copper. During the time my novels are set my characters would have seen her mostly copper-colored.

The first immigrant passing through Ellis Island was Annie Moore, an Irish teenager. She is memorized at Ellis Island with a statue. One can only guess what she must have thought when she got her first glimpse at Lady Liberty.
The Annie Moore Statue at Ellis Island

View from Battery Park

Learn more about the statue here: http://www.nps.gov/stli/index.htm

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