Beacon of Hope

The Statue of Liberty, a gift from from the people of France to the people of the United States in 1886 was designated a National Monument in 1926. Together with Ellis Island, it is called Liberty Park and is the symbol of hope for many who long for the freedoms we take for granted here.  Plan a visit when in New York.

The statue faces the Verazzano Straits, welcoming all who enter.

Edouard de Laboulaye first proposed the idea of a monument for the United States in 1865, following the end of the Civil War. He strongly believed in the “common law of free peoples,” an ideal in which every person was born with an inalienable, sacred right to freedom.  The recent Union victory in the Civil War, which reaffirmed the United States’ ideals of freedom and democracy, served as a platform for Laboulaye to argue that honoring the United States would strengthen the cause for democracy in France.

Born on August 2, 1834 in Colmar, Alsace, France, Auguste Bartholdi was the French sculptor who designed the Statue of Liberty. Excited by the grand scale of the Egyptian pyramids on a visit in 1865, he proposed a colossal statue of a robed woman holding a torch for a lighthouse at the end of the Suez Canal. The plan was not adopted, but the concept had been born. He selected Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor as the ideal location almost as soon as he arrived there.  When he returned to Paris in 1872, Bartholdi used his American contacts to assist  de Laboulaye in creating the Franco-American Union in Paris which raised 400,000 francs to fund the construction of the Statue.

Other people were also part of the team that participated in getting the statue in place:

  • Eugene Viollet-le-Duc was the first architect hired to design the internal structure of the Statue of Liberty.
  • When Viollet-le-Duc unexpectedly passed away in 1879 Alexandre-Auguste Eiffel was hired as his replacement.   He modified the original design supervised the Statue’s internal construction until its completion in late 1883.
  • Born on October 31, 1828 in Brattleboro, Vermont, architect Richard Morris Hunt designed the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal on commission from the American Committee for the Statue of Liberty. Two years of work preceded the final design.
  • When the American Committee for the Statue of Liberty ran out of funds for the Statue’s pedestal in 1884, newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer came to the rescue. Through urging the American public to donate money towards the pedestal in his newspaper New York World, Pulitzer raised over $100,000 in six months- more than enough money to ensure the pedestal’s completion.
  • Born on July 22, 1849 in New York City to a family of Portuguese Sephardic Jewish descent, Emma Lazarus was the poet who wrote “The New Colossus.”  Aside from writing, Lazarus worked as an aide for Jewish immigrants who had been detained by Castle Garden immigration officials.

Take a moment to read the poem and remember, unless you are fully Native American, your heritage, also, is one of the refugee, the immigrant. For a moment, put yourself back there.

The New Colossus

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “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!”

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2 Responses to Beacon of Hope

  1. Gunta says:

    Fantastic summary of the history. Thanks for that!. I don’t think I had ever read or heard the full poem (other than the last several lines)… pity that it seems the sentiment has been a bit tarnished of late.

  2. I mainly remember just the last part too

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