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Who Constructed the Statue of Liberty?

The Statue of Liberty stands proudly on Liberty Island in New York Harbor. France gave the Statue of Liberty to the United States, and it was dedicated on Oct. 28, 1886. French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi designed the Statue of Liberty, and Gustave Eiffel built the metal framework. The Statue of Liberty is a beloved icon of freedom, and it was historically a welcoming sight to immigrants arriving by sea to the United States.

The Statue

Design and Construction Process

Bartholdi traveled to the United States to explore potential sites for the statue. When he saw what would later be named Liberty Island, he immediately recognized this spot as the point that vessels usually sailed past when arriving in the United States. He spoke with President Ulysses S. Grant about using the island for the monument, and Grant agreed to reserve the site for the statue. Bartholdi made the first model concept in 1870.

Who Was Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi?

Bartholdi was a sculptor and a strong Union supporter. Bartholdi worked on many projects, and he also served as a major in the Franco-Prussian War. After Bartholdi’s home of Alsace was lost in the war, he decided that the time was right to focus on the Statue of Liberty project.

Biography of Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi

Bartholdi was born in 1834 to a prosperous family. After his father died, his family moved to Paris. Bartholdi began his professional career in 1852 with a project to build a statue of Gen. Jean Rapp for his hometown of Colmar. Bartholdi traveled to Egypt and Yemen in 1855 and 1856, trips that sparked his interest in monumental sculptures. With many monuments and sculptures to his credit, his final project was completed in 1903. Bartholdi died in 1904 of tuberculosis.

Origin and Design

Édouard René de Laboulaye, the president of the French Anti-Slavery Society, proposed the idea of a monument to be given to the United States by France as a way to honor the Union’s victory in the Civil War. Sketches were made of the monument shortly thereafter.

Style and Symbolism

The idea was for the monument to express American liberty, and Bartholdi chose to create a monument that resembled Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom. Lady Liberty was designed to have a crown and a torch used to enlighten the world.

Early Work and Construction in France

The building project began in 1875. The French were going to pay for the statue, while the Americans had to pay for the pedestal. France raised funds for the statue’s construction, and Bartholdi actually began building parts of Lady Liberty’s right arm before the plans were fully finalized. Bartholdi then focused on building the head before bringing on Gustave Eiffel to work on the statue’s structure. Eiffel used a curtain-wall construction technique that made the exterior of the statue not need to be load-bearing. The strength of the statue comes from its interior framework.

Fundraising and Construction

Fundraising was necessary to raise money to pay for the construction. France sold models of the statue and tickets for people to watch the construction activity. A lottery was also created to raise money. The United States also raised funds to pay for the pedestal. Art and manuscript auctions took place, and poet Emma Lazarus donated an original work for auction. In 1885, a French steamer arrived at New York Harbor with the pieces of the statue on board. When the pedestal was finished in 1886, assembly of the statue began.


A dedication ceremony was held on Oct. 28, 1886, and President Grover Cleveland presided over the celebration. Dedication festivities included parades, public addresses, and a ceremony on Liberty Island. Poor weather forced the postponement of the planned fireworks.

Ellis Island

Pre-Colonial and Colonial Use

Initially, Native American tribes used Ellis Island for hunting and fishing, and they built small communities on the island. When Dutch settlers arrived in the area, they named this island and two others the “Oyster Islands.” Ellis Island was eventually called Little Oyster Island. At one point, this island was a site where pirates were executed. Samuel Ellis purchased the island in 1774.

Military Use and Fort Gibson

When tensions built between the United States, France, and Britain in the late 1700s, Ellis Island became part of the fortifications to keep America safe. Various fortifications were built in preparation for a war that never materialized. In 1806, Samuel Ryerson, a descendant of Samuel Ellis, sold the island to John A. Berry. In 1808, the state of New York purchased the island, which it then sold to the federal government. Col. Jonathan Williams suggested that new fortifications be built around the harbor, and these buildings later became Fort Gibson. Fort Gibson served as a barracks during the War of 1812.

First Immigration

In 1847, the state sought permission to use Ellis Island as a location for convalescence for immigrants, but its request was denied. However, Fort Gibson would be dismantled in 1865, and in 1890, Congress would authorize preparations on Ellis Island that would lead to the creation of country’s first federal immigration station. The island’s land size nearly doubled during construction, and a hospital, detention and laundry buildings, and utility plant were built. This immigration station opened on Jan. 1, 1892. But in 1897, a fire completely burned down all of the buildings.

Second Immigration

Legislation was quickly passed to build a new immigration station that would be fireproof. This new station opened on Dec. 17, 1900, and 2,251 immigrants were processed through the station on that first day.

Medical and Primary Inspections

When ships arrived at New York Harbor, they were halted at a quarantine station. People with contagious diseases were quarantined elsewhere, but most people were unloaded in Manhattan and then taken to Ellis Island to be processed. Those traveling as first- and second-class passengers often did not have to go to Ellis Island; they would be checked while they were still on the ship. At Ellis Island, inspector checked immigrants for visible physical disabilities. Doctors watched immigrants walk to look for signs of infirmity. Inspectors also checked for eye diseases like trachoma. Immigrants were marked with chalk on their clothing to indicate whether they passed or whether they needed further inspection.

Conversion to Detention Center

The Emergency Quota Act of 1921 reduced the number of immigrants allowed into the United States significantly. Later, Ellis Island became an immigrant detention center, only holding immigrants who were being detained or deported.