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The Original Lady Liberty

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The picture of the model of the Statue of Liberty that Bartholdi submitted for copyright. Copyright Division.

This is a  guest post by Alison M. Hall, writer and editor in the Copyright Division. It also appears in the Sept.-Oct. issue of the Library of Congress Magazine

Of the tens of millions of creative works registered with the Copyright Office, the Statue of Liberty is one of the biggest and most famous.

French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi registered his “Statue of American Independence” on Aug. 31, 1876, submitting two photos of a model of the statue as the deposit copies. The first image shows just the model. The second is a rendering of how the statue would appear against the New York skyline on the pedestal. The pedestal also is registered with the office with architect Richard M. Hunt listed as the author.

This second image has great significance because it shows a very early version of the statue that most people today would not recognize.

In the original design, the Statue of Liberty is shown holding a broken chain and shackle in her left hand, representing freedom newly achieved. Bartholdi later made a major change to his design by placing the chain and shackle, symbolically broken by Liberty, at her feet. He then positioned the familiar tablet, inscribed “July IV, MDCCLXXVI” (July 4, 1776), in her left hand.

In the decade before the statue was assembled in New York Harbor, newspapers and magazines popularized images of it, and memorabilia proliferated. New York publisher Root and Tinker registered a color lithograph of the statue in 1883, thought to have been commissioned to raise funds to build the pedestal. 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 copyright on the original Statue of Liberty sculpture has expired, which means it is now in the public domain. Creators are free to use it in any way in their works.

Copyright application of Statue of Liberty, set in New York Harbor. Copyright Division.


Comments (8)


  2. Hello all,

    I was born in Jersey City New Jersey. I would see the Statue of Liberty almost every day growing up. My dad Andrew J. Passero was born in Brooklyn N.Y. 1921. The day after his mother and farther arrived in Brooklyn N.Y. We can only imagine what went through their mind when they seen this beautiful statue. Their Dreams , their Future and their Freedom. God bless America.

  3. Iam very happy and excited and would love to contribute in a positive manner

  4. The article speaks of chains lying at Lady Liberty’s feet.
    Is this a fact of today statue?

  5. There is also amazing story of the Statue of Freedom atop the US Capitol Dome across from the Library of Congress. Her entire history from the Civil War and beyond has been written into articles at the United States Capitol Historical Society and is being written in a book Lady Freedom: Heart of a Nation –

  6. Your article has a typo in it.

    Richard Morris Hunt is the Architect who created the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

    Hunt – Not Hart.

    • Indeed, you are correct. Thanks for the catch! Article has now been updated.

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