Building the Statue of Liberty: See the landmark like you’ve never seen her before

Construction of the Statue of Liberty and renovations

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See how our famous Statue of Liberty was originally built, from the 6-story head to the gigantic torch

It took years to complete the Statue of Liberty construction — the enormous piece of artwork also known as Liberty Enlightening the World — and it wasn’t easy!

How was the Statue of Liberty Built? Here are some peeks behind the scenes into how it was done, as well as close-up color photos from later repairs and renovations.

Give me your tired, your poor The history of the Statue of Liberty poem
Photo by dibrova/Envato

1. Workshop in Paris, showing construction materials, the head of the Statue of Liberty

Workshop in Paris, showing construction materials, the head of the Statue of Liberty

2. Construction of the skeleton and plaster surface of the left arm and hand of the Statue of Liberty

Construction of the skeleton and plaster surface of the left arm and hand - Statue of Liberty construction

3. Statue of Liberty construction in Paris

Workmen constructing the Statue of Liberty in Bartholdi’s Parisian warehouse workshop; first model; left hand; and quarter-size head (Winter 1882)

Workmen constructing the Statue of Liberty in Bartholdi's Parisian warehouse workshop

4. Head of Statue of Liberty on display in a park in Paris (1883)

From an album of the construction works of the colossal statue of Liberty, intended for the port of New York / Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi.

The Statue of LIbertys head before installationHead of Statue of Liberty on display in park in Paris” width=”750″ height=”975″>

5. Colossal hand and torch “Liberty”

The torch and part of the arm of the Statue of Liberty, on display at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Information booth at the base of the arm, and two people are seen at railing below flame of the torch.

Colossal hand and torch Liberty

6. Liberty Enlightening the World: The Statue of Liberty construction project

Lady Liberty’s face is seen here on Liberty Island, waiting to be installed:

Lady Liberty's face is seen here on Liberty Island, waiting to be installed

7. Statue of Liberty construction time: Going up!

Below is the pedestal for the Statue of Liberty, as it looked when the monument was first under construction:

The pedestal for the Statue of Liberty

8. Newspaper sketches from the time of the initial construction

Statue of Liberty construction - island

Construction of the statue of Liberty

9. Newspaper illustration of the construction scaffolding

Statue of Liberty construction - scaffolding

Restoration images from the ’80s

10. Statue of Liberty’s torch fire in new copper

Statue of Liberty's torch in restored copper

11. Liberty with scaffolding during repairs in the eighties

Statue of Liberty with scaffording during repairs in the eighties

DON’T MISS: See 30 photos of daredevil skyscraper construction workers hanging out at dizzying heights over New York City

12. Thumb holding Liberty’s torch

Statue of Liberty holding her torch

13. Fingers holding the torch

Statue of Liberty - Fingers holding the torch

14. Liberty’s arm, seen from near torch level

Statue of Liberty construction - One arm at torch level

15. Side view of the statue’s head and sunburst headpiece

Statue of Liberty - Side view of head - 1985

16. Looking down, as seen from torch arm

Statue of Liberty - seen from torch arm

ALSO SEE: Give me your tired, your poor: The history of the Statue of Liberty poem

17. “The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World”

Liberty statue face

18. Head & hair from the side/back

Statue of Liberty's head from the side back

19. Lights inside of the head

The lines on the walls are from the shape of her hair

Inside the Statue of Liberty's head

20. Liberty’s face mask

Statue of Liberty construction: The face mask

21. Close up of the face: Nose and lips

Close up of the Statue of Liberty's face - Lips and nose

22. The inside of the face: Nose and lips

The inside of the Statue of Liberty's face

23. Close-up of her date tablet

July IV MDCCLXXVI = July 4, 1776

Statue of Liberty - Date book

24. A staircase inside the statue

Statue of Liberty's staircase inside

MORE: New Amsterdam to now: Images of New York in the Colonial days

25. Lady Liberty’s feet and toes

Statue of Liberty's feet and toes

26. Inside the Statue of Liberty

Inside Statue of Liberty

27. Liberty with scaffolding in the 1980s

Statue of Liberty with scaffolding in the 1980s

28. Liberty Island, New York in the ’80s

Liberty Island, New York

The history of the Statue of Liberty, aka Liberty Enlightening the World (1884)

When the Statue of Liberty was unveiled in 1886, 20,000 men in uniform marched down New York City’s Fifth Avenue and Broadway, and a million people came out to see the sight.

Liberty Unveiled
America Accepts the Gift of the French People

statue liberty unveiling

A city afloat hid in fog

And a Million or So of People Ashore Making Holiday in the Wet

The giant statue shrouded in mists like a mountaintop — No seeing her from shore and no hearing the great guns — A fine parade reviewed by President Cleveland — The naval procession invisible even from ship to ship — The phantom fleet makes itself heard, though

Orations under the Statue by Evaris, de Pew and de Lesseps, and a speech of acceptance from President Cleveland — The bronze lady got ahead of Senator Evaris and dropped her veil before her invited her to — The great crowds in the streets — The torch not yet alight — No fireworks

Statue of Liberty new construction lithograph from the 1800s

From the New York Sun (New York, NY) October 29, 1886

Much like Paris, as tourists say New York is, the resemblance can never have been more striking than it was at 8 o’clock yesterday morning, when the streets were filled with the military, uniformed civilians and police; the strains of the “Marseillaise” sounded everywhere and the tricolor of the French republic floated from rooftop windows and balconies, together with our own glorious Stars and Stripes.

Twenty thousand men in uniforms were to march down Fifth Avenue and Broadway to the Battery with flags and bands of music, and a million people more or less came out to see the sight.

They moved from the east and west through the side streets and blocked the walks along the line of march, many of them in gay attire, all of them in gay holiday spirits.

A painting of the dedication by Edward Moran 1886

But it was not an auspicious day for a celebration. The gayety of the early morning which withstood the dismal aspect of the clouds gave way in an hour.

What was at first but a moist atmosphere became a mist and presently a drizzle, and long before the procession had reached the Battery, the colossal statue of Liberty out on Bedloe’s Island, which all this noise and music and demonstration generally were to do honor to, was muffled up invisible in a regular London fog, and the tremendous firing of cannon down the bay from unseen warships was either totally inaudible ashore or sounded as if somebody were slamming doors.

Unveiling the Statue of Liberty - The Boston Globe - October 29, 1886
Unveiling the Statue of Liberty – The Boston Globe – October 29, 1886

Everyone cordially hoped on Wednesday night that a patriotic weather bureau would see to it that the storm should blow over and leave the day unclouded, if possible, but at any rate dry.

But the rain continued all night long and pretty much all day yesterday, and on that account, the decorations of buildings along the line of march were not as general as they might have been, nor as elaborate.

Statue of Liberty 1923 artwork
Statue of Liberty artwork from 1923
Give me your tired, your poor: The history of the Statue of Liberty poem

The City Hall was the only public building in town which was notable by reason of the display of bunting. Flags and banners, arranged with taste, set off its beautiful front splendidly, and long streamers of small flags festooned from the dome heightened the effect. The Post Office building was also tastefully draped with American and French flags.

Up about the starting point in Fifth Avenue, just south of the park, there were many small flags, as there were indeed from windows and balconies all the way down to the Battery. French flags floated over the Brunswick and the Hoffman House, where the French guests are quartered, was gay with streamers of red, white and blue.

The Hotel Bartholdi, too, was covered with bunting, and from the Albemarle and Fifth Avenue Hotels fluttered colored streamers. Across Park row, between the World office and the Post Office building, was an arch of evergreens.

Statue of Liberty construction completion and unveiling

Antique art print of the famous New York landmark

In this antique art print by Currier & Ives, the Statue of Liberty — then termed “Liberty Enlightening the World” or The great Bartholdi statue — is seen with the city of New York in the background. This work was first published in April 1884 as a chromolithograph.


As with all things iconic, great and wonderful, the image was immediately used in an advertisement — this one for Star Lamps, who replaced Liberty’s torch with one of their products.

Statue of Liberty, aka The great Bartholdi statue 1884 - Star Lamps

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