NYC: The Colossal Arm
NYC Week cont.:
The first part of the Statue of Liberty constructed back in 1876 was the torch, which now sits in the lobby of the monument. Access has been closed to the original torch since 1916, but the idea that the brightest part of the monument was made first is endearing. The current torch was constructed in 1984 and is copper covered in 24K gold leaf. The head was constructed just after the torch and both were to be used as publicity tools to garner donations that would be used to complete the rest of the project. The torch was displayed in the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876 and then in New York’s Madison Square Park from 1876 until 1882 while the statue’s head, completed in 1878, was exhibited at the Paris World’s Fair that same year. The pieces were to be titled “Liberty Enlightening the World “, or “La Liberte eclairant le monde” in French, but the arm did not arrive in Philadelphia until August and as such the title wasn’t printed in the exhibition catalogue. Because of this, some flyers and information incorrectly labeled the piece the “Colossal Arm” or the “Bartholdi Electric Light”. Both parts of the statue did as they were intended though and managed to raise funds and support for the French and American joint effort to raise the statue. The French would fund the building of the statue while the Americans were expected to finance the pedestal she would stand on.
A gift from the French in 1886 designed by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi based on the ideas of Edouard de Laboulaye, it didn’t become a National Monument until 1924. The pieces of the monument were all constructed in France and arrived in the states via ships where each piece was carried in crates.
A sonnet by the poet Emma Lazarus titled “The New Colossus” that was written in 1883 to raise funds was ultimately engraved on the pedestal of the statue on a bronze plaque and truly expresses what the Statue of Liberty has come to represent:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “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!”
The statue was made to represent Libertas the Roman goddess of freedom and as most American students know, the tablet that she holds bears the date of the American Declaration of Independence on July 4, 1776 (JULY IV MDCCLXXVI). The crown, or diadem, that sits atop her head with seven rays shooting out from a halo represents the sun and the seven seas and the seven continents.
Though we couldn’t stop on the island or on Ellis Island due to the recent storms that had hit the area, the views from the boat were beautiful and the skies gave us clear views of the surroundings. We were thrilled to be where we were. The Statue of Liberty is one of those monuments you just have to see when you visit New York City. She is strong, she is beautiful and she was worth the cold gusts of wind that slapped us in the face as we stared at her on the top deck of the boat unable to take our eyes off of her.
The views of Ellis Island and the Statue of Liberty were truly breath taking and thought provoking and the boat we were on seemed to be quieter on the return to the docks than when we’d left. Maybe everyone was considering what the Statue of Liberty meant to them or their families or the immigrants that once came on ships through these waters or maybe everyone was just too cold to hold a conversation. Either way, the silence and seeming time of contemplation was welcome for that brief moment. As we disembarked the boat at the docks, people not so silent and adding to the contemplation dressed up as the Statue clamored toward us, clearly for those tourists hoping for photo-ops if they were willing to spend some dough. We weren’t interested, but I found the scene of them setting up humorous and it managed to return everyone to the happy go lucky spirit that we’d stepped on the boat with.