10 Things You Didn't Know About the Statue of Liberty
July 4th is a big day for the U.S.—not only is it Independence Day, but the Statue of Liberty reopens for essentially the first time since 2011. After her 125th birthday party in 2011, the statue was closed for an interior facelift, including new elevators, staircases and restrooms. She was literally open for a single day—October 28, 2012—before closing again due to Hurricane Sandy. Though the statue survived the storm unscathed, the island itself suffered a lot of damage, and so Lady Liberty has remained closed. To celebrate the reopening—and Independence Day, of course—let's revisit a few little-known Liberty facts.
1. The Statue’s dedication inspired another uniquely New York institution: the ticker-tape parade. New York office workers got the idea to unfurl financial ribbons from windows on October 29, 1886, the day President Grover Cleveland presided over the dedication ceremony. The dedication is pictured above—though it was indeed a foggy day, the haze you see is the smoke from the military salute.
2. Up until Hurricane Sandy hit last year, David Luchsinger and his wife were residents of a very, very exclusive neighborhood: Liberty Island. As the superintendent of the Statue of Liberty, Luchsinger is one of a select few who have ever called the island home. The National Park Ranger selected to be the seer of the statue is provided with free housing—a small brick house, located on the other side of the island. The Luchsingers’ famous neighbor is hidden by trees, believe it or not. Unfortunately, the cozy little house sustained a lot of damage during Sandy. There’s been some speculation that Luchsinger may be the last non-colossus Liberty Island resident ever.
3. The star-shaped Fort Wood, which now serves as part of the statue’s pedestal, was home to military families from 1818 until the mid-1930s. These military families often included young children like Pete Bluhm (who was 83 when this article ran in the New York Times last year), who remembered a Fourth of July where G.I.s bounced bottle rockets off of Lady Liberty’s posterior. Another man, James Hill, recalled that he and his younger sister would drop baseballs from Liberty’s crown to see how high they would bounce. Other Liberty Island kids said they climbed to the torch tower and made it rock back and forth.
4. Once upon a time, it wasn’t just island kids who could climb to the tip of the torch. Tourists were able to climb up to the precarious perch until 1916, when those privileges were revoked in response to the Black Tom incident. Around 2 a.m. on July 30, Black Tom, once an island in the New York Harbor, was rocked by the explosion of two million tons of war materials such as TNT, black powder, shrapnel and dynamite. The blast was the equivalent of a 5.5-on-the-Richter Scale earthquake; shrapnel flew across the night sky and embedded itself in the Statue of Liberty. Windows shattered as far as 25 miles away.
It was later determined that German agents intent on stopping the munitions from getting to their English enemies had ignited the supply. The Statue of Liberty’s torch was closed, partially due to infrastructure damage from the blast and partially just out of concern for terrorism. It’s been closed ever since—but you can still appreciate the view from the top with this TorchCam, installed in 2011.
5. The seven spikes radiating from the Lady’s crown aren’t actually part of the crown. They’re meant to be a halo, also known as an aureole. The rays were temporarily removed from her crown in 1938 so their rusted supports could be replaced.
6. The Statue of Liberty was supposed to have a sister statue and lighthouse in Egypt. Sculptor Frederic Bartholdi offered to make Egypt a large piece for the entrance to the Suez Canal called “Egypt Carrying Light to Asia,” which would have featured a veiled Egyptian peasant woman holding a lantern. The Egyptian khedive declined.
7. When the statue first arrived from France, she was the color of a shiny new penny. It took roughly 20 years for Liberty to patina to the greenish-blue hue she is today.
8. Frederic Bartholdi has trumped any Mother’s Day gift you could ever come up with: He used his mother, Charlotte, as the model for the most recognized statue in the world. This was first discovered in 1876, when Bartholdi invited French Senator Jules Bozerian to his box at the opera. When Bozerian pulled back the curtain to step into the box, he was shocked to find a real-life version of the Statue of Liberty sitting there in the box. When he said so to Bartholdi, the sculptor smiled: “But do you know who this lady is? She’s my mother,” he told the senator.
9. According to The Statue of Liberty Encyclopedia, these are common nicknames for “Everybody’s Gal”: America’s Freedom, America’s Great Lady, Aunt Liberty, Bartholdi’s Daughter, Giant Goddess, Grande Dame, Green Goddess, The Lady Higher Up, Lady of the Harbor, Lady on a Pedestal, Lady with a Torch, Mother of Exiles, Mother of Freedom, Saint Liberty, and the Spirit of American Independence.
10. "The Statue of Liberty,” is, in fact, a nickname. Bartholdi’s name for his gift was “Liberty Enlightening the World.”