The Remarkable Story of Transporting the Statue of Liberty to New York

By: Evan Scoboria, Last updated: May 28, 2023

When one thinks of the Statue of Liberty, the iconic image of a colossal symbol of freedom and democracy standing proudly in the New York Harbor comes to mind. But have you ever wondered how this massive monument made its way from France to its current location in the United States? The transportation of the Statue of Liberty was an incredible feat of engineering and international cooperation, and this article will take you through the fascinating journey of how Lady Liberty found her home in New York.

From France to America: The Origins of the Statue

The Statue of Liberty, officially named "Liberty Enlightening the World," was a gift from the people of France to the United States to commemorate the centennial of the American Declaration of Independence. Designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi and completed with the assistance of engineer Gustave Eiffel, the statue was constructed in Paris between 1875 and 1884.

Dismantling and Packing the Statue for Transportation

The sheer size and weight of the Statue of Liberty posed a significant challenge for its transportation across the Atlantic Ocean. To facilitate the journey, the statue was carefully dismantled into 350 individual pieces and packed into over 200 wooden crates.

Each component was meticulously cataloged and labeled to ensure proper reassembly upon arrival in the United States. The disassembly process was a delicate task, as the statue's copper skin was only about 2.4 millimeters (0.094 inches) thick – slightly thinner than the width of two pennies. Interestingly, the statue at that time would not have exhibited the green hue we have accustomed to as its copper exterior would more so have resembled the color of a penny. 

Crossing the Atlantic: The Voyage of the SS Isère

In May 1885, the crates containing the disassembled Statue of Liberty were loaded onto the French steamer SS Isère for their transatlantic voyage. The journey was not without its challenges, as the ship encountered severe weather, which threatened the safety of the precious cargo. Fortunately, the Isère arrived in New York Harbor on June 17, 1885, after a month-long journey.

Reassembling Lady Liberty on American Soil

Upon the statue's arrival in New York, the process of reassembling the monument began. However, the statue's pedestal on Liberty Island was still under construction, and fundraising efforts were underway to finance its completion.

During this time, the statue's components remained in storage on the island. In October 1886, the pedestal was finally completed, and the reassembly of the statue began. Each piece of the statue was carefully hoisted into place with the assistance of a custom-built scaffold system, and the statue was reassembled using the same rivets that held it together in France. The process took four months to complete.

The Dedication and Inauguration of the Statue of Liberty

On October 28, 1886, the Statue of Liberty was officially dedicated in a ceremony presided over by President Grover Cleveland. The event was attended by thousands of spectators, who celebrated the unveiling of the colossal monument that would become an enduring symbol of freedom and democracy. Since then, millions of visitors to NYC have purchased tickets to view the statue up close and wander the shores of Liberty Island. 

Final Thoughts

The transportation and assembly of the Statue of Liberty were remarkable achievements in the annals of engineering and international cooperation. Lady Liberty's journey from France to her home in New York Harbor is a testament to the dedication, skill, and perseverance of the many individuals involved in bringing this iconic symbol of freedom to the United States. Today, the Statue of Liberty remains a beloved symbol of American values, serving as a beacon of hope and inspiration for millions of people around the world.