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Has the Statue of Liberty Ever Had a Practical Use?

When the Statue of Liberty's torch was illuminated for the first time on the evening of 1 November 1886, the light was barely visible in Manhattan. The New York World newspaper said it was "more like a glowworm than a beacon." Because the statue was intended to be a lighthouse, the United States Lighthouse Board pledged to do what it could to enhance the torch's effect, but nothing worked.

And so, in 1901, President Theodore Roosevelt, realizing that the Statue of Liberty was a failure as a lighthouse, transferred jurisdiction over the statue to the War Department. But something else had happened by then -- the statue had become a symbol of America for immigrants arriving from Europe, and points beyond. Although she was not exactly useful in a practical way, the statue was nevertheless a welcoming beacon for all those who were seeking a new life in a new land.

Lady Liberty lights the way:

  • In 1916, the New York World raised $30,000 USD for a system that would illuminate the statue at night. An underwater cable brought electricity from the mainland and floodlights were placed along the walls of Fort Wood.

  • In addition, sculptor Gutzon Borglum (who also created Mount Rushmore) redesigned the torch, replacing much of the original copper with stained glass. On 2 December 1916, President Woodrow Wilson pressed a telegraph key that turned on the lights, successfully illuminating the statue.

  • After the United States entered World War I in 1917, images of the statue were prominently featured in recruitment posters and Liberty Bond drives that urged Americans to support the war.

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More Info: Parade magazine

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