"And in that moment, I sensed a palpable fragility in her structure, floating there above us. But at the same time, I felt how powerful the idea she represents is -- an idea more indestructible than anything made of copper or steel, an idea as imperishable as the stars that were shining that night."
Lady Liberty at Paris World's Fair circa 1878 courtesy
It was the first thing that immigrates to the New World saw when they entered New York Harbor. For some, it represented a friendship between the donor, France, and the recipient, the United States. For others it was much more: a landmark of freedom.
The concept for the Statue of Liberty was conceived in 1865 by a staunch abolitionist and supporter of the Union in the Civil War named Edouard Rene de Laboulaye. At his home in Versailles, he broached the idea to French sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi: "If a monument should rise in the United States , as a memorial to their independence, I think it only natural if it were built by united effort." (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statue_of_Liberty). IN 1870, Bartholdi visited New York City, sketches of Lady Liberty in hand, and fixed his eyes on Bedloe's Island as the site for the copper statue.
Designed by Frederick Auguste Bartholdi and built by Gustave Eiffel, the architect of the famous tower, the 151 foot statue was built piece by piece. Lady Liberty's head and shoulders were exhibited at the Paris World's Fair in 1878. Her torch was displayed at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia in 1876. The full statue was shipped to the United States where it was assembled in 1886 on a pedestal built by the Americans, partly financed by public donations. , the statue was dedicated on October 18, 1886 on Liberty Island in New York Harbor. Lady Liberty represents Libertas, a Roman goddess, who holds a torch and a tabula ensata inscribed with the date July 4, 1776, the day the Declaration of Independence was signed. New Yorkers celebrated the statue's completion with their first ticker tape parade, presided over by President Grover Cleveland.
Over the next several decades, from 1892 to 1954, over twelve million immigrants would feast their eyes on Lady Liberty as they entered New York Harbor. Authors Margret and H.A. Rey, creators of Curious George, were two such immigrants, fleeing Nazi occupied Europe. Novelist Isaac Asimov fled Communist Russia. Dance studio legend Arthur Murray came from Poland. For more information on Ellis Island, visit http://alinefromlinda.blogspot.ca/2013/05/may-31.html.
I would guess that some of Ken Burns' relatives sailed past the famous statue as well upon immigrating to the United States. Ken Burns first became interested in Lady Liberty as she approached her 100th birthday. Given permission to film night scenes on Liberty Island for his upcoming documentary, he and his crew camped out there overnight. However, tucked into their sleeping bags under the colossal monument, they could not sleep. Burns explained:
"And in that moment, I sensed a palpable fragility in her structure, floating there above us. But at the same time, I felt how powerful the idea she represents is -- an idea more indestructible than anything made of copper or steel, an idea as imperishable as the stars that were shining that night." (http://www.pbs.org/kenburns/statueofliberty/about/)
Note: For more information on the Statue of Liberty, visit http://alinefromlinda.blogspot.ca/2013/05/may-31.html.