Original hand-drawn plans of the Statue of Liberty show last-minute design changes


Original hand-drawn plans of the Statue of Liberty show last-minute design changes to its torch-bearing arm – going against the wishes of architect Gustav Eiffel

  • Uncovered plans showing the changes were discovered by a map dealer in 2018
  • The Statue was designed by French sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi in 1870
  • Gustav Eiffel was hired by Bartholdi to create an internal structure for the statue 
  • Eiffel wanted a larger shoulder and more upright torch-bearing arm for the statue but this was changed to reflect the design proposed by Bartholdi 

The Statue of Liberty’s outstretched arm of welcome, holding aloft her torch was changed at the last minute, making it less stable but more aesthetically pleasing.

Lady Liberty was designed by sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi but its internal structure was engineered by famed architect Gustave Eiffel. 

Preparatory artwork produced by Eiffel, showing the internal structure for the statue, were discovered by map dealer Barry Lawrence Ruderman in 2018.

In the drawings Eiffel planned for a bulkier arm with less of a curve, but these were changed at the last-minute by someone else to give us the statue we know today.   

In the schematic drawings you can see the design as we see it today in red – next to the original blue plans as laid out by Eiffel. It’s not known who made the change

Preparatory artwork produced by Eiffel, showing the internal structure for the statue, were discovered by map dealer Barry Lawrence Ruderman in 2018

Preparatory artwork produced by Eiffel, showing the internal structure for the statue, were discovered by map dealer Barry Lawrence Ruderman in 2018

The Statue of Liberty was a gift to the United States from the people of France to mark their alliance during the American Revolution

The Statue of Liberty was a gift to the United States from the people of France to mark their alliance during the American Revolution

The schematic drawings show the development of Eiffel’s innovative design that has seen the copper sculpture stand in New York Harbour since its dedication in 1886.

The torch-bearing arm was one of the last parts of the 151ft statue to be developed and the drawings suggest Eiffel wanted a bulkier shoulder and a more vertical arm.

This would have been a more structurally sound arrangement and provided for a safer and more secure build – but it didn’t match with Bartholdi’s design. 

In the schematic drawings you can see the design as we see it today in red – next to the original blue plans as laid out by Eiffel. It’s not known who made the change.

‘This could be evidence for a change in the angle that we ended up with in the real Statue of Liberty,’ Edward Berenson, a historian at New York University told the Smithsonian Magazine.

‘It looks like somebody is trying to figure out how to change the angle of the arm without wrecking the support.’  

Berenson said by the time the changes were made to the design Eiffel had largely moved on to other projects and assigned an assistant to ‘wrap things up’.

‘That may be one reason why Bartholdi decided he could make modifications, because he knew that Eiffel was not totally hands-on,’ Berenson says. 

This change in design caused problems for the Statue of Liberty when a German saboteur blew up a nearby munitions depot in 1916. 

The arm and torch were damaged by flying debris from the explosion but experts predict it wouldn’t have been as severe had the structure been more secure.

The Statue of Liberty was a gift to the United States from the people of France to mark their alliance during the American Revolution. 

Bartholdi started to work on his design in 1870 and enlisted the help of Eiffel in 1879 to build the underlying structure that would allow it to withstand the test of time and heavy winds in New York Harbour.

Bartholdi started to work on his design in 1870 and enlisted the help of Eiffel in 1879 to build the underlying structure that would allow it to withstand the test of time and heavy winds in New York Harbour

Bartholdi started to work on his design in 1870 and enlisted the help of Eiffel in 1879 to build the underlying structure that would allow it to withstand the test of time and heavy winds in New York Harbour

The design is made of thin copper so the underlying structure is integral to what makes Lady Liberty the icon it is today

The design is made of thin copper so the underlying structure is integral to what makes Lady Liberty the icon it is today

The documents contained 22 original engineering drawings of the statue with handwritten annotations and calculations by Eiffel (pictured) and others in the margins

The documents contained 22 original engineering drawings of the statue with handwritten annotations and calculations by Eiffel (pictured) and others in the margins

The design is made of thin copper so the underlying structure is integral to what makes Lady Liberty the icon it is today.

‘Without really good structural support, the copper would never stand up on its own,’ said Berenson. 

The papers showing the last-minute changes were found in 2018 but had to be properly conserved as they were very fragile.  

Ruderman bought a folder of material from Eiffel’s workshop at a Paris auction expecting to find blueprints and other papers related to the statue.

The work came as a stack too fragile to open but a conservator was able to soften them and that is when Ruderman made his amazing discovery.

The documents contained 22 original engineering drawings of the statue with handwritten annotations and calculations by Eiffel and others in the margins.

‘To find the drawings from which all the blueprints were made, that’s just as good as it could get,’ said Alex Clausen, director of Ruderman’s gallery. 

WHAT IS THE STATUE OF LIBERTY? 

The Statue of Liberty is a neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbour, New York and is made of copper.

It was a gift to the United States of America from the people of France and was designed by Frederic Auguste Bartholdi.

The metal framework was built by famed French architect Gustave Eiffel and was dedicated on October 28, 1886.

The statue symbolises Liberty and is a representation of the figure Libertas, a robed Roman liberty goddess.

She can be seen holding a torch high above her head with her right hand and carrying a tablet with the date of the US Declaration of Independence in her left hand.

It is seen as an icon of freedom and of the United States – a symbol of welcome to immigrants arriving into the country by sea.

The statue is 151 ft 1 in high but from ground level to the tip of the torch – including the pedestal, Lady Liberty reached 305 ft 1 in.

 



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