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Statue of Liberty


The site originally envisioned for the monument we now call the Statue of Liberty was at the entrance to the Suez Canal. The sculptor Auguste Bartholdi had travelled in Egypt as a young man and was impressed to the point of obsession by the gigantic monuments of the ancient Egyptians.

Several years after returning home, he began a series of design studies for a lighthouse in the form of a gigantic statue of a woman holding a torch

which he called Egypt carrying the light to Asia.

For several reasons, the Egyptian project failed to progress. However, Bartholdi's design formed the basis for the monument to freedom given by the people of France to the people of America to mark the centenary of the declaration of independence.

Funds for the project were raised by the Union Franco-Americane, headed first by Edouard de Laboulaye and, after his death, by Ferdinand de Lesseps, builder of the Suez Canal.

The 46m high statue was produced in a specially built workshop in Paris. Plaster sections were modelled by skilled plasterers working under the supervision of professional sculptors. Wooden moulds were then built to make the final outline of the statue. Production of these moulds involved complicated joining techniques.

The 2.5mm thick copper sheets which make up the statue were then rammed and hammered into the moulds. The hammered copper finish, also known as repouss, was applied to both sides of the sheet. The gauge was selected as being thick enough to stand up to exposure to the open sea and wind, but thin enough to permit hammering techniques, riveting and brazing.

The copper sections were attached to a wrought iron framework. The design of this was originally undertaken by the architect and engineer Eugene Viollet-le-Duc but, after his death in 1879, the work was taken over by Gustav Eiffel and completed in his office.

Little is known about Eiffel's involvement in the project - he seems not to have been particularly proud of it. But neither he nor his office made extensive changes to Viollet-le-Duc's original concept.

The primary support structure consists of a pylon made up of four angle- iron corner posts. The copper envelope hangs from a secondary support system of truss work and flat bars. A cantilevered structure forms the core of her raised arm.

The statue was first assembled in Paris - with the exception of the arm which had already been sent to New York. It was then broken into 300 sections and packed into 214 crates ready for shipping to New York in the summer of 1885.

Bartholdi had chosen the location for his 'eldest daughter', on the site of the former Fort Wood on Bedloes Island. The massive pedestal was designed by the American architect Richard Morris Hunt. Assembly began in May 1886 and was completed by October that year. Ever since, Liberty has welcomed travellers and has become the world's most popular American icon.

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