The Statue of Liberty: Building an Icon | The B1M
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The Statue of Liberty: Building an Icon | The B1M

November 19, 2019

In New York Harbour stands a statue that is synonymous with freedom and democracy; one of the world’s most recognisable landmarks and a symbol of hope for millions. But to truly appreciate this iconic structure you need to understand the financial and technical challenges it faced in becoming reality. This is the construction story behind one of the greatest engineering achievements of the 19th Century. Still the tallest statue in the United States – more than 130 years after its completion – the Statue of Liberty was a record breaking construction project. At the time, the giant undertaking held titles such as the tallest iron structure ever erected the largest concrete pour ever undertaken and the largest use of copper in a single structure. The Statue of Liberty was conceived to celebrate the centenary of American independence, by a French political intellectual and anti-slavery activist named Edouard de Laboulaye. He proposed the statue in 1865 to honour both the centennial and the United States’ friendship with France. Five years later – in 1870 – French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi began designing the statue; a robed female figure representing the Roman goddess Libertas. Following a visit to the US, where Bartholdi met with many prominent Americans, including President Ulysses S. Grant, the project was announced in 1875. The statue was given the name “Liberty Enlightening the World”, a title she would keep right up to 1924 when she became a National Monument
and was officially renamed “The Statue of Liberty”. While France would finance the statue, the American’s would be responsible for providing a site and constructing the huge pedestal upon which the statue would stand. To finance each element, ambitious fundraising campaigns began on both sides of the Atlantic. While overall plans for the statue remained to be finalized, Bartholdi began fabricating the right arm, bearing the torch, to help
gain public support for the project. The arm was shipped to America and displayed at the Centennial International Exhibition of 1876, the first official World’s Fair. For a fee of 50 cents, visitors could climb
a ladder to the balcony, with the money raised going directly towards funding the project. When the exhibition closed, the arm was transported to New York where it remained on display in Madison Square Park for six years before being
reunited with the rest of the statue in France. In a similar vein, the head and shoulders
were also constructed and became one of the main attractions at the 1878 Paris Universal Expo. During construction, models of the statue were put on sale, tickets to view the construction workshop were offered and the French government authorised a lottery. By the end of 1879, some 250,000 francs had been raised. To make his colossal statue a reality, Bartholdi sought out the expertise of France’s top professionals. First he hired his mentor, Eugène Viollet-le-Duc, the architect responsible for the restoration of Notre Dame in Paris. Acting as chief engineer Viollet-le-Duc, designed a brick pier within the statue, to which the skin would be anchored. For the skin itself, Viollet-le-Duc choose copper. These sheets would be shaped using a method called “repoussé”, in which the copper was heated and then struck with wooden hammers. The copper was hammered to less than a tenth of an inch (or 2.4 mm) thick, creating a statute that is considerably light given its volume. When Viollet-le-Duc died unexpectedly in 1879, the innovative Gustave Eiffel was hired to replace him. While Eiffel retained Viollet-le-Duc’s copper cladding, he abandoned the brick internal pier, instead opting to take a more modern approach. He designed a central iron pylon standing 92 feet (or 28 meters) tall that acts as the primary support for the structure; a forerunner for his famous tower in Paris. Originally assembled in France, the pylon serves as the spine of the statue supporting a secondary skeleton “or armature” that conforms to the outer contours. The armature alone contains over a mile of iron bars, each 2 inches wide. The 300 sections of copper sheet, weighing a total of 80 tonnes, were attached to the armature using 1500 U-shaped copper saddles and some 300,000 copper rivets. Eiffel’s then-innovative design makes the statue one of the earliest examples of curtain wall construction; the structure’s exterior is not load-bearing, and is instead supported by an interior framework. With his experience of bridge building and engineering to accommodate wind loads, Eiffel opted not to create a rigid structure. The flexibility of his design allows the statue to withstand the winds across New York Harbour and the Atlantic, and temperature changes, which could force stresses to accumulate in the skin, leading to cracking. In a strong wind the statue can move by as much as 3 inches, while the arm can deviate up to 5 inches. Combining Eiffel and Viollet-le-Duc’s designs, the entire statue was manufactured and then assembled in Paris between 1881 and 1884. It was then disassembled, packed into 214 crates and shipped to the United States aboard the French Navy ship, Isère. The prefabricated statue was met with great fanfare in New York Harbour on June 17, 1885 – before the pedestal’s completion. On Bartholdi’s trip to New York in 1871, he marked a small island in the harbour as an ideal location for his statue. Fortuitously, the island – home to a disused army base – was already owned by the US Federal Government. With a signed resolution from President Grant, the island was selected as the site for the statue – its 11-point star-shaped “Fort Wood” was to become pedestal’s base. While it may seem hard to believe today, securing funding for the project was actually extremely difficult. With just $150,000 USD raised the project stalled, prompting Joseph Pulitzer – publisher of New York newspaper The World – to launch a campaign to raise the remaining $100,000. Pulitzer achieved his target, with a staggering 80% of the funds being received in sums of less than one dollar. The neoclassical pedestal – standing some 89 feet, or 27m tall – was an impressive construction feat in itself. Richard Morris Hunt, a founder of the American Institute of Architects, was chosen to design the structure while General Charles P. Stone was appointed engineer-in-chief. Hunt’s original concept would have seen the pedestal constructed from solid granite, but financial concerns forced him to revise his plans and instead embark on the largest mass concrete pour undertaken to date. The final design called for poured concrete walls, up to 20 feet or 6.1 m thick, faced with granite blocks. To accommodate the anticipated wind loads, four huge reinforcing girders, formed into a square were set into the concrete 29-feet, or 9 metres, up the pedestal. A second square of girders was placed 55 feet, or 17 metres, higher, a few feet from the top of the pedestal, with the two sets connected by the iron tie beams. The statue itself was then anchored to these beams making Liberty and her concrete base one entity. When the pedestal was completed in 1886, the statue was rapidly reassembled on top of it. More than 20 years after it was first imagined, on October 28, 1886 the copper coloured statue was finally unveiled. It would take a further 30 years to fully oxidise and become the distinctive green colour we see today. Realising this icon was a significant undertaking that engaged leading professionals of the time on both sides of the Atlantic. Today the Statue of Liberty stands proud at the gateway to America; an enduring symbol of freedom and democracy, and of what human engineers are truly capable of. If you enjoyed this video and would like to get more from the definitive video channel for construction, subscribe to The B1M.

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  1. I wish there was a way to go up to the torch. I know it's been banned since 1916 which is a shame. I'd pay top dollar for that.

  2. 5:44 Information is erroneous… the statue was not manufactured in Paris. It was manufactured at a French ship manufacturing plant Martini, located in Nicolaev, what is now Ukraine.

  3. The Frogs as a people are capable of incredible things in all fields of human endeavor , to bad they are stifled with the baggage of Marxism today which is destroying them from within .

  4. I wonder if you could reverse the oxidation and give her back her golden copper sheen…….maybe a spray with pure vinegar, might do the trick!

  5. Nice job! I really enjoyed the video. Otherwise, I can surely understand why you would not want to touch on all the sociopolitical ugliness accompanying the concept of this statue. For example, how at the time the old money in America was threatened by the building of the Statue of Liberty, fearing it would cause a revolt amongst the working masses, and how for that reason France was going to bag the whole idea. I’m just saying…

  6. Nothing but Lies check out mud floods the truth will set you free #MUDFLOODS the Statue of Liberty sits Upon A star fort

  7. An ugly oxidized piece of scrap metal that represents the former US . The US is far from liberated today . PC culture reigns supreme . Should tear it down and use the capital from scrap copper to pay some of the Obamacare debt .

  8. Damaged by a terrorist attack in 1916
    ( Black Tom ) curiously no mention about this on the 100 year anniversary in 2016 …responsible for the torch and arm being closed to the public

  9. When America used to build Mega Structures like Hoover Dam/Statue of Liberty/Mount Rushmore. Now we can't even build a freaking Wall. How times have changed. Sad really.

  10. Lady Liberty was originally intended to celebrate the end of slavery, not the arrival of immigrants. Ellis Island didn't open until 1892, six years after the statue was given as a gift from France, and the famous poem written by Emma Lazarus, engraved on the base of the sculpture, that reads, "Give me your tired, your poor….," wasn't written until 1903. In June, 1865, Edouard de Laboulaye, met with a group of French abolitionists to discuss creating a commemorative gift to the US that recognized the importance of the liberation of slaves in America, and around 1870, an early model of what is now the Statue of Liberty with broken chains, was sculpted (the chains are still there beneath Lady Liberty's feet). When the"Liberty Enlightening the World," statue was unveiled to the public in New York Harbor on October 28, 1886, the final model of Lady Liberty instead holds a tablet inscribed with the Roman Numerals for July 4, 1776, but you cannot see the broken shackles beneath her feet. How easy it is to conceal true history, a truth history books refuse to teach Americans.

  11. So what does a White Woman have to do with Anti-Slavery? Wasn't it Blacks in America that suffered the most brutal attack of Enslavement, Tortured, Raped, and beaten? Same can be said of the Native Americans that were already on the land (Turtle Island) before you Colonizers renamed it America. This is A Slap in the face to Native Americans and African Americans.

  12. @6:33 mark they skip past the “ Star fort base” part without anything about something that has been kept secret completely. The starforts worldwide have not been discussed at all in mainstream. This statue is a piece of mere tinsel compared to the ancient starforts it sits on. There are 1000 s of these worldwide and are worth investigating the empire that built them,for this empire is also erased from our history! Dirty bastards!

  13. As a fact, the statue of liberty was originally intended for Egypt and however, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi was disappointed with that opinion and instead it ended up in the US.

  14. That's no lady that's The Light Bearer aka Lucifer an Inversion of The Prince Of Darkness…The Patron Saint of "Free Will" or "Liberty" 🌄☀️🌠🍎🐍😈🗽👀🇺🇲🤡🔫🐸🤫👌

  15. The full and proper title is "the Statue of Liberty and Freemasonry". Many people don’t realise it’s Masonic connections. 😉😁

  16. It's not a woman it's a man look at the face structure & arms they make a mistake but they still call it a woman

  17. As far as the us government is concerned we might as well not have this statue any more. It represents a time long gone. It represents values that most Americans see as "anti american" 🙁 this sad but who cares anyways go buy a new I-phone

  18. It was an amazing project but it was stuck with setbacks. When the project began Lady Liberty was sitting on her island in pieces. America was broke and they could not pay the crews to build her foundation. Enter Joseph Pulitzer he said quote "It will be a disgrace to New York City and the American Republic for the French to send us this splendid gift without providing so much as a landing place place for it. We are broke we don't even have one penny to pay or workers. We must raise the money BY HELL OR HIGH WATER WE MUST RAISE THE MONEY!" and they did Pulitzer placed an ad in his papers and all over the US every citizen including the Park Service donated money to the project. By 1873 construction began and Liberty's base was poured and as the cement dried worker placed their coins as the final bucket of cement was hoisted in place. Once that was done Carnage and his iron workers took over the project they had 12 million tons of steel to raise before Liberty's copper skin was applied. Once the steel was in place one by one the copper was raised until the morning on October 21, 1886 when the Torch was put in Liberty's hand and she was dedicated. Over time Liberty rusted and got sandblasted turning into the green figure we see today.


  20. I regard the structure of liberty of tremendous importance she leads the harbor & the impression i'm getting is that no matter what can happened always freedom will be saved & that this bless nation will never perished .

  21. Well this greenish color is given by the chemical reaction of copper in contact with the air actually when the coat is quite strong then it protected the structure much better from oxidation

  22. By seeing this it reminds me of some 8 wonders of the world & how difficult it could be when it was built. 🏗️

  23. Mostly people dont know about status that info fist order status ottoman empire paid money but in side politic Reason they dont want to build Suez Canal it si very screet info about history.

  24. and now, from 2016, we have trump, as prez. He is an idiot. When there was flooding in middle USA, declared a state of emergency for Iowa (it voted for him) not knowing rivers flow between Iowa & Illinois – a lower level official extended it to Illinois which did not vote for him.

  25. Its a dedication to Lucifer the light bearer. Son of the morning. The Sun rises in the East and shines on it first thing everyday.. Sad

  26. Hey Bonehead. Your ancestors were immigrants here, too. The gave up everything they had and risked their lives to come here. Just to have a descendant like you – a bigot.

  27. Sooo we just going to ignore and not speak about the original and NATIVE LOOKING statue of liberty that was rejected by the USA for her NATIVE LOOKS!?!?! C'mon now always dumbing down history.

  28. my god …. how I love this statue! illuminating America and the world … my ancestors told us this vision as they arrived …. thx you so much France, the main landmark of USA.

  29. Hello sweet heart. ….darling aaise hi koi dusro ki nazro mein hi chad jata duniya mein insan ko kai brek bhi milte hai aur kai aur nazakat ko dekhkar kabhi kabhi dabal coss karna bhi aana chahiye ye duniyadari ka herpech ko samajna har ek ke bas ki baat nahi qke jo gret hote hai unhe apne ko dekhna aata hi nahi balki aaine khud hi unki parchai ki saya kiye unke aage piche mandrata rahta hai yahi sawal hai aur yahi jawab bhi duniya mein sirf kishi ke hi ke pass future pit ke piche ka ilm hota hai har wakht ek naya kaam shikhne ke education ka apna rol hota hai lekin ye itna zaruri agar na bhi hoo lekin hameine modal ke rup dene mein jo tumne izzat bakshi hai woo wakai kabile tarif hai comon sweet heart i love you jaan i will soon there. ….

  30. Great information. So funny how each part of this thing was built and displayed and people were charged to do what the part was intended for.

  31. Clearly photography was available at the supposed time, why so many sketched images, there should be thousands of PHOTOS, yet your lame narrative is doused with cartoons. And why no available pictures of it being RAISED AND SET ON STAR FORT????

  32. I visited back in, 1995 when you still take the stairs up to the viewing windows in her crown. I think that was closed after 9/11 and never re-opened.
    When it first opened you could take the stairs up her arm and walk around the torch flame.

  33. Did you know the Statue of Liberty is not in New York? It's in New Jersey and it's the states most popular tourist attraction.

    There was a Supreme Court ruling on the case, but I've heard its still in appeals.

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