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Assembling The Statue Of Liberty


Once conceived in 1867, Bartholdi spent much of his time designing, re-designing, and promoting the statue. By 1870 Architect/engineer Eugene Emmanuel Violett-le-Duc, a renowned theoretician responsible for the restoration of Notre Dame, was at work on the statue's structure. His concept consisted of a base filled with sand (for stability to resist wind) and an upper structure of iron. He presented the concept at a banquet at the Hotel du Louvre in 1875, with much fanfare.

Work began on the statue itself in the winter of 1875. Initially, both French and Americans had hoped for completion for the American centennial in 1876, but fund raising was slow and the late start made that date impractical.

Work progressed however, starting with the right arm and torch, and by August 12, 1876, the arm and torch , 21 copper pieces, were completed, assembled, dismantled, packed and shipped to the the Philadelphia International Centennial Exhibition, where it was assembled as a feature exhibit.   50 cents admission was charged to walk up the steps to the observation deck, proceeds went to the fund for the pedestal, on which design work had begun. (WP)

With funds running thin, Bartholdi and his workshop managed to complete the the head and shoulders which were moved across town to be displayed at the Paris World's Fair in June 1878.

The enthusiasm generated by her appearance at the World's Fair prompted the French government to allow a lottery for the purpose of raising the funds needed to finish the statue. Prizes were donated: a silver plate set, pearl and gem jewelry, a painting by Bartholdi's friend Jean Gerome, even two works by Bartholdi, a total of 528 items in all. In addition, Bartholdi issued a signed and numbered collection of clay "Models of the Committee," sold for 1,000 francs each in France and for $3,000 each in America. By the end of 1879, about 250,000 francs had been raised for the statue's construction. On July 7, 1880, the Franco-American committee held a "Notification Dinner" to announce that fund raising was complete and the statue would be finished by 1883.

In the meantime, Violett-le-Duc died in 1879, and was replaced by the designer of the Paris World's Fair Exhibiton Hall in which Liberty's head was displayed, Gustave Eiffel (who ten years later completed his own universal monument the Eiffel Tower, for the 1889 Universal Exhibition and Centennial of the French Revolution).

In 1880, the iron framework for the tower was begun in the yard of Gaget, Gauthier et Cie, and over the course of about 3 years the inner structure and outer skin were assembled piece by piece to Liberty's full height of 151 feet.

The statue was completed in Paris in June 1884, presented to America by the people of France on July 4, 1884. The statue was dismantled and shipped to US in early 1885, transported by the French frigate "Isere".   The finished statue consisted of 350 individual pieces shipped to the US in 214 crates.

179,200 pounds (81,300 kilograms) of copper was used in Statue. 250,000 pounds (113,400 kilograms) of iron. Total weight of the Statue is 450,000 pounds (225 tons). The thickness of Copper sheeting is 3/32 inch (2.37mm), about the thickness of a penny.

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Paris Workshop of Gaget, Gauthier et Cie, ca.1878. 35 workmen among the forms, parts and pieces of the statue during construction. Bartholdi stated that during the course of the fabrication of Liberty, more than 300,000 people visited the shop, including General Ulysses S. Grant (in 1877).

Men in a workshop hammering sheets of copper for the construction of the Statue of Liberty.

Paris Workshop of Gaget, Gauthier et Cie, ca.1878. Well published photo shows Bartholdi at center inspecting the lath forms. Sequence of construction: Wood frame, lath, plaster to dimensions of finished surface, then a negative wooden mold was built into which the copper surfaces were pressed, formed, and hammered. Copper pieces were then riveted to each other, attached to the wrought iron supports, and hung on the structural iron frame.

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

Scientific American, December 31, 1881
Structural frame outside the Paris Workshop of Gaget, Gauthier et Cie, ca.1880, Number 25, Chazelles Street.

Scaffolding for the assemblage of the Statue of Liberty, of which the head is shown at left, in Paris.

Structural frame and lower part of copper skin outside the Paris Workshop of Gaget, Gauthier et Cie, ca.1883.

Assemblage of the Statue of Liberty in Paris, showing the
        bottom half of the statue erect under scaffolding, .
        the head and torch at its feet.

Structural frame and copper skin, ready for the last part - the right arm and torch - outside the Paris Workshop of Gaget, Gauthier et Cie, ca.1884.

Assemblage of the Statue of Liberty in Paris

Statue completed at the Paris Workshop of Gaget, Gauthier et Cie, 1885.
Face of Statue of Liberty uncrated on Liberty Island (Bedloe's Island) 1885. Dark color is the result of oxidation of the copper material, which turned deeper brown, black, and eventually the light green color of fully oxidized copper.
Interior side of Liberty's face uncrated on Liberty Island, 1885. Note wrought iron bars, shaped to match, and attached to the copper skin, which provided support of the skin to connect to the iron framework.
Pieces uncrated on Liberty Island, 1885.


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The Statute Of Liberty Nearing Completion


Scientific American, August 14, 1886.
Contemporary account of the construction.


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Even those unacquainted with the details of such work may, by carefully considering all the conditions involved, form a tolerably accurate idea of the labor expended and the patience and skill exercised in the erection of such a structure as the Statue of Liberty. The last operation before the figure left France was the assembly of all of the many pieces comprising the shell or statue proper and the final fitting of each piece to each of its surrounding neighbors. Each piece was then marked with a particular number or figure, and every two meeting pieces were designated by the same character marked upon their adjoining edges; this of course was to serve as a guide when reassembling the statue upon its pedestal at Bedloe"s Island. Surrounding each separate piece at a short distance from the edge is a row of small holes; when two pieces are joined together, the holes in one coincide with those in the other, so that the two may be firmly united together by rivets.

When the statue was taken down, in France, the pieces were packed in frames of wood, to prevent as much as possible their being bent by handling and during the passage to this country. But it was impossible to prevent a certain amount of distortion from taking place, so that the reassembling now in progress is to some extent also a work of refitting. This, together with the drawbacks under which the men labor, particularly the great height above ground, renders the otherwise simple work of erection one of great magnitude. The thousands of rivets add most materially to the labor, as they must be so driven as not to disfigure the statue by presenting conspicuous and unseemly lines.

The copper of the shell, being only about three thirty-seconds of an inch thick, lacks rigidity, so that it was necessary to increase the stiffness of every piece, particularly those of a large size, by means of iron bars secured to the interior surface. These bars are three-quarters thick by two inches wide, are bent to closely conform to the curves in the copper, to which they are fastened by copper bands whose ends are riveted to the shell, and are so disposed and united to each other as to form a most intricate network of bracing, covering and strengthening the entire a statue. The interior view of the face upon our first page clearly illustrates the extent of this bracing and the manner of securing it to the shell.

This bracing is connected by bars with the main frame that holds the statue upon its pedestal, as shown by the engraving upon opposite page. By this means, the rigidity of the whole work is assured, and any wind pressure - the force most to be provided for - upon the pliable, paper-like shell is transmitted to the four massive iron corner posts of the frame, which are firmly anchored to the masonry.

All the framework in the interior of the statue was made in France; and while there is regularity in the main frame, there is nothing apparent in the connecting bracing but a seemingly confused collection of bars of all shapes and lengths, and extending in every conceivable direction. This is caused by the constant change in the direction assumed by the copper, and the endeavor not to have too large a surface unsupported.

No part of the ironwork is in direct contact with the copper, a thorough insulation being obtained by shellacking the adjoining surfaces and interposing a strip of asbestos. This is necessary to obviate the deleterious chemical action that would occur if the iron were in direct contact with the copper.

The method pursued in the erection of the statue may be briefly described. The framing has been finished with the exception of two small parts that supporting the right hand and that of the head. The shell of the statue has been carried up only a little further than shown in the engravings.

The various pieces were temporarily stored in a shed between the base of the pedestal and the dock at which visitors are landed by the little tug plying between the Battery and the island. The piece wanted is carried to the foot of the pedestal, the face of which is protected from injury by a covering of wood, and is, if large, lashed to a wooden frame to which is attached the end of a rope passing over a derrick on top of the frame, and thence to a hoisting engine on the ground. The piece is then raised to a platform built around the top of the pedestal, and is carried to the place where its marks indicate that it belongs. When necessary, a rope and tackle are brought into play to raise the piece into position, and to hold it uutil enough rivets or small temporary bolts have been inserted to secure it. All the rivets are then driven, and the braces are bolted to the frame and stiffening bars. The shell is thus carried up, piece by piece, in horizontal courses. The difficulty of the work increases as the top is approached, mainly because of the increased height above ground, the top of the pedestal, where the statue begins, being 150 feet, and the torch 305 feet above water level.

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There are three kinds of joints in the copper. Where it is particularly desirable that the joint should be concealed, the meeting edges are brought flush together, and are held by a double line of rivets through a strip covering the inside of the joint. In other cases one edge overlaps the other, a single line of rivets uniting them, and the outer edge is either hammered down to make a flush joint or is not touched further, the selection of the style of seam being governed by its location. The outer heads of the rivets, which are of copper, are countersunk.

The two systems of heavy girders, whose ends are embedded in the masonry in the interior of the pedestal, one at the top and the other sixty feet below, together with the four sets of eye bars that unite the two systems, have been placed in position, as shown in one of the accompanying views. These girders extend across the well at right angles to each other, and, being connected at the top with the main frame, serve to anchor the statue to the pedestal.

Lightning has several times struck the ironwork, but, owing to the means that were early taken to lead the current away, not the slightest damage has been done. Extending down each inside wall of the pedestal is a copper rod five-eighths of an inch in diameter. The lower ends of these four rods are joined to plates that were buried in wet earth beneath the bottom of the foundation before building was commenced. The upper ends are united to the frame, but will, upon the completion of the statue, be joined to four diametrically opposite points of the shell.

Up to the present time, no portion of the foundation has settled; and the solid concrete foundation proper, which is easily the largest single block of artificial stone in the world, being ninety feet square at the base, sixty-five feet square at the top, and fifty-two feet ten inches in height, with a central well-hole ten feet square, is without crack or flaw of any description. The inside of the pedestal walls are also of concrete, the face being granite, and they display the same perfection in both material and workmanship.

It is extremely doubtful if the statue can be finished by the 3d of next month, the date set for what we may term the unveiling. There is much to be done, and the rate of progress is slow, as it is impossible to employ a great number of men.

In the SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN of June 13, 1885, we illustrated and described very thoroughly the foundation, pedestal, and frame.

Scientific American,

 VOL. LV New York, August 14, 1886




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