Statue of Liberty (1886)
Gift to United States from the People of France
The Statue of Liberty, designed by Frenchman Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, was given as a gift to the USA on October 28th, 1886. The statue represents Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom. She bears a torch, a tablet with the date of the American Declaration of Independence, while a broken chain lies at her feet. The statue has been a tourist destination, a backdrop for political addresses and constitutional amendments, and served a multitude of other cultural functions in its 128-year stay on Liberty Island. The timing of the gift was also of great significance, falling on the centennial anniversary of American independence, and as such the statue came to serve as a monument to many different things: political cooperation between France and America; the end of slavery in America; American national unity; immigration and economic opportunity; political liberty and freedom around the globe. The gift also came at an important time for inter-cultural relations on a global scale – many World Fairs and International Exhibitions were held in the late 19th century to promote international trade and cultural exchange, a time at which the potential of international cooperation and mutual understanding were becoming increasingly apparent. However, the statue has not only come to represent political cooperation between France and America, but also – by virtue of its setting in New York harbor – served as a beacon for immigrants seeking economic opportunity and freedom from persecution in the United States. This meaning intensified in the aftermath of the Second World War, with the creation of the National Museum of Immigration at the base of the statue in 1972.