Secrets of the Statue

Spies. Explosions. Buried treasure. The Statue of Liberty has an exciting past! You can explore all of it at the new Statue of Liberty Museum that opened on Liberty Island in May. Visitors can touch a copy of the statue’s face. They can also learn amazing facts like the ones on these pages.

1) She’s not meant to be green.

Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

The artist who created the statue wanted her to be covered in gold so she would shine. But copper was used instead. It cost less. When construction started in 1885, the statue was reddish brown, like a penny. About 25 years later, she had turned green. That’s what happens to copper over time. The green coating actually protects the copper and keeps it from wearing away.

2) Enemy spies nearly destroyed her.

Illustration by Marcelo Baez

During World War I (1914-1918), German spies snuck onto a pier in New York Harbor and set off an explosion. Flying debris struck the Statue of Liberty’s arm and torch. Repairs cost more than $100,000. For safety reasons, visitors are no longer allowed into the torch.

3) She’s standing on buried treasure.

Burwell and Burwell Photography Contractor for The United States Mint

Did you know that a secret box is buried under the Statue of Liberty? Inside is a copy of the U.S. Constitution, a portrait of the statue’s designer, and 20 bronze medals, like this one of George Washington.

4) The statue is made up of 350 parts.

Bettmann Archive/Getty Images

Lady Liberty was a gift from France. When she arrived in New York Harbor in 1885, she was packed in 200 crates. It took months to assemble her. But people got a sneak peek at the parts before that. The hand and torch were shown at the Philadelphia World’s Fair in 1876. Visitors paid 50 cents to climb to the top.

5) She almost spoke.

In 1877, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph, a machine that recorded sound. He hoped to play speeches from inside the statue. They would be heard across New York City. But the plan was never carried out. If the statue could play a speech, what do you think it should say? Why?

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