Who Created the Statue of Liberty? Art Meets Engineering


What sculpture weighs
over 204 metric ton, measures 305 feet tall,
wears the shoe size 879, and is hit by over 600
lightning bolts each year? That’s right, that’s
the Statue of Liberty. Let’s dive into a little
different perspective on this iconic work of art. NARRATOR: This episode
is funded by The Glick Fund and the Christel DeHaan
Family Foundation, who inspire philanthropy and creativity. [MUSIC PLAYING] The Statue of
Liberty now stands as a monumental
symbol for freedom and welcoming people to the US. But for one crazy passionate
artist named Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, it was his
chance to create an epic lighthouse sculpture
gilded with gold, or at least that was his plan. Just after the Civil War
came to an end in 1865, the Frenchman,
Edouard de Laboulaye was trying to find
nonviolent ways to inspire France towards democracy. He decided, let’s celebrate that
country over the pond building democracy and give
them a statue. Laboulaye commissioned
Bartholdi to help them out. Bartholdi studied architecture
at the famous Ecole des Beaux-Arts, which also
happens to be where Georges Seurat studied as well. After that, he studied painting. But once he turned his attention
to sculpture, it was all over. The huge turning
point for Bartholdi was in 1855, when
we traveled to Egypt and witnessed the Sphinx
and the pyramids of Giza. In fact, the Statue
of Liberty was inspired by the Colossus
of Rhodes, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Bartholdi got the
commission from the French to build his statue
for the US instead. But he did not get all
the cash he needed. Thankfully, Bartholdi wasn’t
just creative with sculpture, he was also pretty
crafty in marketing. The project was supposed
to be a joint effort. The French take care
of the sculpture while the Americans take
care of the pedestal. But on both sides of the pond,
funding was anything but easy. France raised the cash through
public fees, entertainment, and even a lottery. The US first tried theatrical
events, art exhibitions, and even prizefights. But these events weren’t
even coming close to raising enough cash. This is where the sculptor
got pretty creative. He teamed up with
Joseph Pulitzer and opened a page in his
newspaper, The World, where he slams both the
rich and the middle class for not forking over
the necessary funding. That’s one way to do it. They also decided to print
the names of anyone who donated to the statue
in the newspaper, even if it was just a penny. Now, that was a brilliant
marketing move, which brought in, get this, $102,000. That’s 80% of the total
have been received in sums less than like $1. Pretty amazing. Finally, construction
began in 1875. To create the Statue of
Liberty enlightening the world, Bartholdi needed the help
of Alexandre Gustave Eiffel to create the skeleton that
would hold the enormous copper sheets. Yes, you guessed correctly. That is the same guy
who designed the Eiffel Tower in Paris. To do this, they designed the
skeleton out of iron pylon and steel that allow the copper
skin to move independently since they knew there would
be strong winds and changing temperatures in the
New York Harbor. Copper would easily
expand and contract with the changing temperatures
as opposed to stone or bronze. Several models of the
statue were created. Then artists used
some sweet math in order to create the necessary
pieces on a giant scale. The sculpture
technique they used was called repousse,
which is where you would create huge molds
out of wood and plaster and then hammer sheets of
copper metal inside the mold. This technique dates
back to third century BC in the Middle East. Each piece of copper
had to be annealed, which means heating it up
until it was bright red and then cleaning it
to remove the pitch or tar-like black
substance left behind. Repousse is an incredibly
difficult art form to do, which requires skill
and tons of patience. As you can imagine, construction
was incredibly time consuming, exhausting, and probably crazy
noisy, lots of hammering. In fact, nearly 300
different types of hammers were used in the construction
of the Statue of Liberty. Before the entire
statue was completed, the head was on display at the
World’s Fair in Paris in 1878, where you could pay to
go up into the crown. Bartholdi always finding
a way to make more cash. Finally, in 1885, the
statue was completed, using nearly 31 tons of
copper and 125 tons of steel. At the time, the Statue
of Liberty’s design and construction were recognized
as one of the greatest technical achievements. It was known as the bridge
between art and engineering. The 300 copper
pieces were loaded onto the French
ship Isere, which almost sank in stormy seas. Interestingly,
Thomas Edison in 1878 had originally
told the newspapers that he would design a monster
disk for the inside, which would deliver speeches that
could be heard across New York. Thankfully, the idea of hearing
the Statue of Liberty speaking didn’t catch on. In October of 1886, the
statue was unveiled. Like many works of
art, this one also had its fair share of
negative publicity. In fact, the women’s
suffrage movement despised the fact
that a woman would stand in New York Harbor
representing liberty at a time when most American
women had no liberty to vote. Only two women attended
the actual unveiling, Bartholdi’s wife and daughter. The Statue of Liberty now
represents so much more. And it most certainly stands for
one amazing work of sculpture, innovation, and
persistent passion of an artist who
desperately wanted to sculpt a colossal sculpture. While in New York,
we got the chance to meet with an artist and park
ranger out on Liberty Island to learn even more. Check this out. We are in New York City on
Liberty Island with Jim Elkin. Jim, thank you so
much for your time. And if you don’t mind letting
everybody know, I’m really fascinated that you’re
not just a park ranger but you also have experience
with are you an artist yourself? Correct. I’ve, all my life, been involved
in both art and science. And the Park Service offers the
opportunity to explore both. Isn’t it, though? Wow. I mean, so the year. So when they built this, how in
the world did they even start. And then I assume when they were
building it in France, I mean, what did that look like
and how do they do it? Well, the idea is the easy
part, coming up with an idea. Carrying the idea out
is the monumental part. The face, we believe,
is influenced by Bartholdi’s mother, who was a
very strong person in his life. And she is really a
goddess, so a female god. She’s inspired by Libertas,
who was the goddess of freedom in ancient Roman times. And Roman is the theme because
she is a Roman goddess. And she holds in her left-hand
a Roman tablet on which there are Roman numerals. Right. A lot of connections
back here, yeah. He actually made the
bottom part of it? Yes. And the very bottom part
predates everything above. It is a fort. So it is a fort that
would defend America. So it’s kind of ironic,
freedom is really embodied in this fort
right here at the bottom, a strong defense, so to speak. And we have rising out of this
fort, the American half, which nobody sees because your
eye goes right up to her. And the pedestal is
invisible, but that’s another great artist who no
one gives much credit to, Richard Morris Hunt. And Hunt created this wonderful
pedestal that’s vertical. Why is it vertical? Because it offsets the enormous
horizontal motif of the fort. So it’s vertical. And it does not
compete with but rather accentuates the beauty of the
statue that stands upon it. June 19th of 1885, she arrived
here on the steamship Isere. And there was the fort. And there was the
unfinished pedestal. Oh, no. Really? It took us eight
agonizingly slow months to finally finish our pedestal
while the crates sat mutely on the ground. When it was did it first
arrive that the torch itself, like it was on exhibit,
like maybe in Philly somewhere? Yes. So before there was a
statue, the earliest piece was the right hand and torch. And that was brought to
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in the year 1876. So if you were out
in Philly in 1876, you could go to the torch. And it was for an
enormous price of $0.50, which in Victorian
economy, was huge money. And the story just
goes on and on. Because even though it
was here, the flame, which is different
from the one up there, was a hollow copper flame
with no openings, glass, or lighting. And imagine this at
night, pitch black. Now, we have America’s busiest
harbor, shipping coming in, and not being able to navigate. So America thought of this
flame as a lighthouse beacon. Cut holes into it and
put early lighting so that at night, lighting would
help shipping navigate through. The problem was, the
artist was horrified. What are you doing to my gift? I give you my masterpiece
and you’re defiling it. By 1916, artist
Gutzon Borglum, who we know from Mount Rushmore,
put in 250 panels of amber colored glass,
improperly sealed. The rain came in. And the rain brought salt from
the nearby Atlantic Ocean. And salt and water
and copper and iron inter-reacted in a galvanic
electrolytic reaction, eating up the metal
holding her together so that by 1984, she would
have crashed to the ground had we not rescued her. She has 300,000 copper
rivets holding her 310 sheets together. She’s only two pennies thin. What does that tell
you about the fragility of this thing and
the New York Harbor, where we have the Atlantic
Ocean in our backyard and the winds are
slamming her constantly? Had it not been for the
secret of her strength, which lies within. Engineer, artist,
working together. And this is the beauty
of it, neoclassic art on the outside, ultramodern
engineering on the inside. A century ahead of its time. Jim, thank you so much for
your time and your expertise, really appreciate it. Thank you. Hey, did you know that
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