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She’s our national cover girl, a gift from France to celebrate democracy, a 151-foot-tall supermodel prowling the New York Harbor catwalk in robes that are always in vogue. Consisting of 310 pieces of hammered copper assembled around an iron skeleton, Liberty Enlightening the World (Lady Liberty’s official name) was dedicated on October 28, 1886—in plenty of time to greet Albert Einstein, Irving Berlin, Cary Grant, and 12 million other immigrants who arrived at nearby Ellis Island.
On July 4, visitors will again ascend to the statue’s crown for a democratic view. (It had been off-limits since 9/11.) That she has survived countless lightning strikes and the indignities of a deodorant commercial is surprising for a woman of such thin skin, thin enough—3/32 of an inch, the height of two stacked pennies—to allow her to sway as much as three feet in strong winds. But that’s Liberty for you: bending to the forces of opposition but still standing strong. You go, girl.
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Photography courtesy of Derek Jensen/Wikimedia Commons
This article was first published in July 2009. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.