This Day in History: Statue of Liberty

Profile view of the left side of the Statue of Liberty’s head. Photo by Jet Lowe for the Historic American Engineering Record.

The Statue of Liberty arrived at its permanent home on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor at 1 p.m. on June 19, 1885, “snugly packed in the hold of the French transport Isère,” according to a New York Times report the following day. Multiple delegations of dignitaries, 20,000 citizens, and “every species of craft known to the sea” was out on the water to greet the Isère, so that the “water was gay with color for miles around.”

It would take another 16 months to erect the 151-foot-tall copper and iron statue, a gift from the people of France to the people of America—it had to be broken down into 350 separate pieces and packed into 214 crates for transport across the Atlantic.

A photo of Bartholdi’s final study model, which he submitted with his application for copyright registration in 1876.

But as reflected in the collections of the Library, its fame preceded its completion—President Grover Cleveland formally accepted the finished statue on October 28, 1886—and it lasted long afterward. Even today, advertisements and other creative works continue to draw inspiration from the famous emblem of freedom and democracy.

Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the statue’s designer, submitted a photo of his final study model of the statue when he applied for copyright registration in 1876, America’s centennial year—the statue commemorates the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. Six years before Bartholdi’s application, Congress centralized the U.S. copyright registration and deposit system at the Library. “The Statue of American Independence” as the Statue of Liberty was first named, was registered on August 31, 1876.

In the decade before the statue’s assembly, newspapers and magazines popularized images of it, and memorabilia proliferated. Advertisers of everything from patent medicine to light bulbs also capitalized on—and expanded—the statue’s celebrity.

An ad is imprinted on the statue’s base in this lithograph registered for copyright protection in 1884 by New York publisher Root and Tinker.

A theatrical advertising poster copyrighted in 1883 by Imre and Bolossy Kiralfy, producers of burlesques.




New York publisher Root and Tinker, for example, registered a color lithograph of the statue in 1883, thought to have been commissioned to raise funds to build the statue’s giant pedestal, designed by architect Richard Morris Hunt. The next year, the publisher registered a reissue of the same lithograph with “Low’s Jersey Lily for the Handkerchief” imprinted on the statue’s base. The statue’s image appears in many such ads, including posters for theatrical productions.

Following installation of the statue, it continued to captivate the popular imagination as documented by an 1897 burlesque-show advertisement, a period railway travel poster, and even an 1898 motion picture by Thomas Edison’s firm.

By World War I, the Statue of Liberty was firmly established as an American icon. Its image was used to sell war bonds and to encourage young men to enlist in the military, and sheet music publishers incorporated it on cover illustrations.

More recently, the Historic American Engineering Record documented the Statue of Liberty in great detail. More than 450 images from the project are accessible on the Library’s website.

To learn more about the Library’s holdings related to the landmark statue

A 1918 poster by Joseph Pennell promoting the sale of bonds to support U.S. efforts in World War I.

Cover for sheet music titled “Liberty Statue Is Looking Right at You,” published in 1918.

Inquiring Minds: Copyright Records Hint at Early America’s Preoccupations

Copyright records are a valuable primary source for scholars seeking to understand the development of almost any aspect of American life. So wrote John Y. Cole, Library of Congress historian, in introducing a volume the Library published 30 years ago documenting the nation’s earliest copyright records—those dating from 1790 to 1800. They include copyright registrations […]

Free to Use and Reuse: Travel Posters

Faraway states, natural wonders and beautiful beaches—these are the settings that often come to mind as we start to plan our summer vacations. They also form the backdrop of hundreds of travel posters in the Library’s collections, including an assortment featured this month on the Library’s home page. The featured posters are U.S. government works, […]

Pic of the Week: Saint Patrick’s Day

What do parades, shamrocks, and green beer bring to mind? Saint Patrick’s Day, of course. The first Saint Patrick’s Day celebrations in the United States took place in the 18th century in Boston and New York, and festivities expanded in the 19th century as more and more Irish immigrated to the country. Today, Saint Patrick’s […]

Women’s History Month: Zora Neale Hurston Dramas

Zora Neale Hurston died in obscurity in a Florida nursing home in 1960. But her standing as a distinguished writer of African American literature was already on the rise in 1997 when a retired Copyright Office staff member serving as a volunteer identified 10 little-known play scripts she had deposited decades earlier for copyright registration. […]

Library Welcomes New Blog

“Copyright: Creativity at Work” is a new blog of the U.S. Copyright Office. Karyn Temple Claggett, the office’s acting Register of Copyrights, wrote the inaugural post, published today. The blog will introduce readers to the important work of the Copyright Office and its multitalented staff—many of whom have a personal stake as musicians, artists, and […]

First Word: The 14th Librarian of Congress

(The following is a feature in the September/October 2016 issue of the Library of Congress Magazine, LCM.) Carla Hayden discusses her decision to become a librarian and her plans as the new Librarian of Congress. You are about to be sworn in as the 14th Librarian of Congress. How does that feel? It’s such an honor […]

Here’s to a Couple of Ruff Characters

Four hundred years ago this weekend, two of the greatest geniuses in wordcraft this world has ever seen both died: William Shakespeare and Miguel de Cervantes. Shakespeare’s plays still dazzle, written though they are in Elizabethan English and iambic pentameter; their story lines are still fresh enough to inspire endless straight-play performance worldwide, Broadway musicals […]