How Has the Statue of Liberty Changed over Time?

The Statue of Liberty may seem like a timeless symbol of freedom, but a century after being erected on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, the Statue of Liberty had begun showing its age.

The Statue of Liberty's torch was replaced during renovation work between 1984 and 1986.
The Statue of Liberty's torch was replaced during renovation work between 1984 and 1986.

Between 1984 and 1986, extensive conservation and restoration work was undertaken in preparation for the statue's centennial. This included the removal of Lady Liberty’s torch, which had to be replaced after a series of ill-advised alterations over the years.

In 1886, prior to its dedication, the U.S. Lighthouse Board decided to install nine arc lights inside the flame, cutting away portions of the copper skeleton. And after "Black Tom" saboteurs exploded bombs in New York Harbor in 1916, the torch was weakened further. Most of the copper was replaced with amber glass -- but the panes leaked during rainstorms, causing damage to the statue’s arm.

Ultimately, a new torch covered in 24K gold was substituted for the original. After extensive renovation work, the Statue of Liberty reopened to the public in 1986.

More about Lady Liberty and her torch:

  • The original torch was displayed inside the statue’s pedestal for more than 30 years, but today sits proudly in the Statue of Liberty Museum, which opened in 2019.

  • The Statue of Liberty's torch is lit with 16 floodlights, accessed only by a narrow 40-foot (12.2-m) ladder inside the statue.

  • The statue's copper skin is 0.094 inches (2.4 mm) thick -- the width of two U.S. pennies. Its familiar green patina is a result of a thick layer of oxidation, which helps keep the copper from wearing away.

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