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The Statue of Liberty: Three Things to Know

The Statue of Liberty's malleable meaning currently stands as an emblem of the rich melting pot of the United States. Here are three things you should know about the Statue of Liberty.

1. Lady Liberty’s maker didn’t intend for her to be America’s symbol of immigration.

The sculptor Fredric-Auguste Bartholdi did not have immigration in mind when sculpting the Statue of Liberty. In fact, its official name was “Liberty Enlightening the World”, demonstrating more accurately the originally-intended-meaning of the statue. Building on the abolition of slavery, the 1886 statue meant to display America’s ideals of enlightenment, itsDeclaration of Independence, and the Emancipation Proclamation. It was not until the inscription of Emma Lazarus’ poem, “The New Colossus”, that the Statue of Liberty would come to symbolize the \welcoming of immigrants to the United States.

2. The Statue of Liberty has been adapted for many purposes – some of them commercial.

 Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi himself knew he had a winner in the design of his now world famous statue; indeed, even before its completion, he began to use and license the statue’s image for commercial purposes. A full nine years before the unveiling of the statue in 1877, the statue began appearing in American products and trading cards. Since then, the Statue of Liberty has been invoked on everything from stamps to IRS tax refunds documentation. It is one of the emblematic symbols of New York City.  But, the statue’s illustrations and depictions go far beyond just official use; the symbol of the Statue of Liberty can be found on the products and advertising of a wide array of goods and services.

3. Emma Lazarus’s inspiration.

Born into a Sephardic Jewish family, Emma Lazarus was deeply moved by the plight of persecuted Jews throughout Europe. In 1887, William Maxwell Evarts and author Constance Cary Harrison sought out Lazarus to write a sonnet to raise funds for the construction of the pedestal underneath the Statue of Liberty. Given her Sephardic Jewish heritage, her work with refugees on Ward’s island, and her own challenges as an immigrant, Lazarus composed “The New Colossus”. With her moving words, Lazarus made the statue more than an outward expression of American Enlightenment.  Indeed, it became a powerful inward reflection about America as protector, gatherer and catalyst of all peoples suffering economic, religious, racial and political persecution. 

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