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17-06-1885

The Statue of Liberty arrives in New York City harbour

On this day in 1885 the Statue of Liberty, a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of the United States, arrives in New York City's harbour on board the French frigate Isere.  Officially known as "Liberty Enlightening the World," the statue was proposed by French historian Edouard Laboulaye to commemorate the Franco-American alliance during the American Revolution and also to celebrate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence.

Designed by French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the 151-foot statue was the form of a woman with an uplifted arm holding a torch. In February 1877, Congress approved the use of a site on New York Bedloe's Island (later renamed Liberty Island), which was suggested by Bartholdi. In May 1884, the statue was completed in France, and three months later the Americans laid the cornerstone for its pedestal in New York. On 19 June 1885, the dismantled Statue of Liberty arrived in the New World, enclosed in more than 200 packing cases. Its copper sheets were reassembled, and the last rivet of the monument was fitted on 28 October 1886, during a dedication presided over by US President Grover Cleveland.

On the interior of the pedestal was inscribed "The New Colossus," a famous sonnet by American poet Emma Lazarus that welcomed immigrants to the United States with the declaration: "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-tossed to me. I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" In 1892, Ellis Island, adjacent to Bedloe's Island, opened as the chief entry station for immigrants to the United States, and for the next 62 years more than 12 million immigrants were welcomed into New York harbour by the sight of "Lady Liberty." In 1924, the Statue of Liberty was made a National Monument.