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Statue of Liberty Dedicated Oct. 28, 1886

Not all immigrates to the shores of America passed by the famed Statue of Liberty in New York, mostly because it did not even exist in the harbor until it was officially dedicated on Thursday, October 28, 1886 when the last rivet was fitted by U. S. President Grover Cleveland during a special ceremony. This 151-foot statue of lady liberty with her arm holding a torch was designed by the French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, with its steel framework designed by French structural designers, Eugene-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc and Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel (yes, of Eiffel Tower fame).

It began back in February 1877 when Edouard de Laboulaye of France suggested a statue, known then as ‘Liberty Enlightening the World’ to symbolize the alliance of France and American during the American Revolutionary War. It was sculptor Bartholdi who suggested the location to the U. S. Congress. The location was Bedloe’s Island in New York, due to the fact that all vessels in those days to New York did sail past that island. It would take until May 1884 before the statue was completed in France. Then in June 1885 the finished statue was dismantled and packed in 200 packing crates. With its set-up and dedication in 1886, it was ready to welcome the world.

Prior to the final rivet placed by Cleveland, there had been a large parade through the streets of New York City, with some one million spectators. As the parade traveled along Wall Street, stock traders threw streams of ticker tape from their brokerages’ machines out the windows to decorate the sky in support of the new statue. This was the beginning of a tradition, the ticker-tape parades of New York. Cleveland had headed the parade which had bands and marchers from all over the United States. After the street parade there was a boat parade in the early afternoon with President Cleveland and other dignitaries on a yacht to travel to Bedloe’s Island.

After the speeches and the final rivet, that evening the torch in the lady’s right hand was lit and there were fireworks to celebrate the opening of the Statue of Liberty.

The processing of immigrates at nearby Castle Garden had been done for decades (from 1855 to 1890 with some 8 million immigrants). As of 1892, it was Ellis Island, located close to the Statue of Liberty, with a new facility that would process the waves of immigrates. Between 1886 and the 1950s there were approximately 25 million passengers and immigrants who saw Lady Liberty as they entered the New York harbor on their way to Ellis Island. Were your ancestors part of those millions?

The Ellis Island web site operated by the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation, Inc. makes it easy to view records to see if you had ancestors arrive at Ellis Island. A reminder, the opening of Ellis Island was Jan. 1, 1892 and during that first year some 450,000 people came through that entrance.  Your ancestor could have arrived prior to that date or could have come into another port such as Boston or New Orleans.

Lady Liberty will need some additional safety features added, which will mean the statue and the pedestal will be closed to the public starting on Oct. 29, 2012 and remain closed for about a year.

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