According to the National Park Service website, "The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World" was a gift of friendship from the people of France to the United States and is recognized as a universal symbol of freedom and democracy. The Statue of Liberty was dedicated on October 28, 1886. It was designated as a National Monument in 1924. Employees of the National Park Service have been caring for the colossal copper statue since 1933. It was so amazing to finally see it in person. Read more info on their website.
The statue is of a robed female figure representing Libertas, the Roman goddess, who bears a torch and a tabula ansata (a tablet evoking the law) upon which is inscribed the date of the American Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776. A broken chain lies at her feet. The statue is an icon of freedom and of the United States, and was a welcoming sight to immigrants arriving from abroad.
The original construction of the statue was started by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, with help from Gustave Eiffel. They were focused on the statue itself, while committees here in the United States worked on obtaining funds for the construction of the pedestal. There was criticism both of Bartholdi's statue and of the fact that the gift required Americans to foot the bill for the pedestal. In the years following the Civil War, most Americans preferred realistic artworks depicting heroes and events from the nation's history, rather than allegorical works like the Liberty statue. However, fundraising events were held and work on the pedestal was eventually completed.
On June 17, 1885, the French steamer Isère, laden with the Statue of Liberty, reached the New York port safely with the crates holding the disassembled statue on board. Two hundred thousand people lined the docks and hundreds of boats put to sea to welcome the Isère. A ceremony of dedication was held on the afternoon of October 28, 1886. President Grover Cleveland, the former New York governor, presided over the event.
On the morning of the dedication, a parade was held in New York City; estimates of the number of people who watched it ranged from several hundred thousand to a million. President Cleveland headed the procession, then stood in the reviewing stand to see bands and marchers from across America.
Today the Statue of Liberty remains a very powerful symbol, embodying a wide range of meanings and adapted every day to represent new ideas. After 9/11, people in New York once again called upon the Statue to express their grief, horror, and rage. It is so much more than just a statue. It is definitely a symbol of freedom and democracy. It was such an amazing experience to go up the pedestal and look out at New Jersey on one side and New York on the other side. It is something I will not soon forget.