Given by France as an expression of her friendship towards the citizens of the United States, the Statue of Liberty is recognized as a universal symbol of freedom. Sculpted by Auguste Bartholdi with Gustave Eiffel as the structural engineer, this massive monument is 225 tons of copper and steel and stands 151′ 1″ in height from base to torch, excluding pedestal.
Construction was begun in France in 1875 and was completed in 1884. She was presented to the people of the U.S. by the people of France July 4, 1884. The statue was dismantled into 350 pieces and shipped to the U.S. aboard the French frigate Isere in 1885.
Entitled Liberty Enlightening the World, the Statue of Liberty holds her torch high as a beacon to immigrants seeking a better life. With chains symbolizing oppression and slavery crushed beneath her feet, a part of the inscription on her pedestal reads:
…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!
(1849-1887) JewishAmerican poet
Advocate for Russian-immigrant rights
The Commission on Immigration and Naturalization stated in 1953.
“Our growth as a nation has been achieved , in large measure, through the genius and industry of immigrants of every race and from every quarter of the world. The story of their pursuit of happiness is the saga of America. Their brains and their brawn helped to settle our land, to advance our agriculture, to build our industries, to develop commerce, to produce new inventions and, in general, to make us the leading nation that we now are.”
From the earliest colonial days, regulation and inspection of immigrants were the responsibilities of individual states where points of entry were located. The first federal immigration law wasn’t instituted until 1819. That law simply stated that statistics and records should be kept regarding immigration, and that certain rules and standards for steerage conditions on sailing vessels should be met.
In search of freedom and in the hope of bright opportunity offered in a new land, over 12 million immigrants passed through Ellis Island between 1892 and 1954. Here, a new day in the history of immigration began.
Most who passed through this gateway faced several hours of medical examination and interview. Others were held longer and faced legal hearings. Some had their names changed to simpler, Americanized pronunciations. An unfortunate few were returned to their respective homelands.
Ellis Island is now restored and houses the Immigration Museum with a library and photo archive as well as an impressive oral history collection. The Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, operated by the National Park Service, are popular spots for tourists. Information on hours and directions can be found online.
Ellis Island is located in New York Harbor. Boats leave from Battery Park, Manhattan, and from Liberty State Park, New Jersey. Facilities include restrooms, public telephones, audio-tours, gift shop, and a cafe.
Trivia 1: These immigrants passed through Ellis Island and went on to illustrious careers: Charles Atlas, Italy, 1903; Kahlil Gibran, Lebanon, 1895; Bob Hope, England, 1908; Irving Berlin, Russia, 1893; Frank Capra, Italy, 1903.
Trivia 2: Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi was the sculptor who designed the Statue. The interior iron framework was designed by Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, also designer of the Eiffel Tower. The pedestal was designed by American architect Richard Morris Hunt.