Why is the Statue of Liberty green?
But just why is the Statue of Liberty green?
The Statute of Liberty or, as its sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi named it, Liberty Enlightening the World, was gifted to America by France in honour of friendship and shared opposition to the British. Having been created in France, it was shipped to America in 350 individual pieces packed into 214 crates. Bedloe’s Island, renamed Liberty Island in 1956, was chosen as Lady Liberty’s final resting place – a welcoming 151-foot tall beacon for anyone arriving in New York Harbour by boat (12 million immigrants passed beneath her gaze between 1892 and 1943!).
The Statute of Liberty wears a 7-point crown representing the seven seas and the seven continents, holds a torch in one hand and a tablet inscribed with the date of the Declaration of Independence (in roman numerals) in the other. A chain and broken shackle lay at her feet and her right foot is raised indicating forward momentum. The pedestal upon which she sits is inscribed with the following stanza written by poet, Emma Lazarus:
Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send those, the homeless, tempest-tost to me.
And, perhaps most distinctively, the Statue of Liberty is a mossy shade of green. But just why is the Statute of Liberty green?
The statute is made of hundreds of thin copper sheets on a steel frame (which was built by Gustave Eiffel). While only 3/32 of an inch thick, the copper outer later is very strong. The copper applied to the statute is also very pure; the majority of the 100 tonnes required was donated by copper magnate Pierre-Eugene Scretan. Copper was also selected because it is impervious to rust. Despite all of these advantages, the statue only held onto its original copper colour for a few years. The colour of a penny when it was unveiled in 1886, by 1906 it had turned green. Oxidisation, a chemical reaction in the copper when exposed to air and water, is to blame. However, rather than this being a harmful process, oxidisation has resulted in a thin layer of copper carbonate called a patina or verdigris, which protects the copper remaining underneath from further erosion. Just as oxidisation has preserved ancient artefacts from centuries ago, the Statute of Liberty is capable of being preserved for many thousands of years. The mossy green hue is a small price to pay for her everlasting presence.