Secrets of the Serial Set: The Statue of Liberty

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‘Tis the season for gift-giving, so it’s only fitting that this month’s Secrets of the Serial Set uncovers the story behind one of the most famous gifts ever given to the United States of America: the Statue of Liberty. Perhaps one of the most recognized and celebrated symbols of freedom, the Statue of Liberty has spent nearly 150 years gracing what is now called Liberty Island in New York City.

Secrets of the Serial Set is an exciting and informative blog series from HeinOnline dedicated to unveiling the wealth of American history found in the United States Congressional Serial Set. Documents from additional HeinOnline databases have been incorporated to supplement research materials for non-U.S. related events discussed.

These posts have been so informative; they enable both patrons and staff to understand what the Serial Set is and how invaluable it is to all kinds of research.
Gail Fithian, Boston Public Library

The U.S. Congressional Serial Set is considered an essential publication for studying American history. Spanning more than two centuries with more than 17,000 bound volumes, the records in this series include House and Senate documents, House and Senate reports, and much more. The Serial Set began publication in 1817 with the 15th Congress, 1st session. U.S. congressional documents prior to 1817 are published as the American State Papers.

The Serial Set is an ongoing project in HeinOnline, with the goal of adding approximately four million pages each year until the archive is completed. To date, we’ve completed 95% of the project! View the current status of HeinOnline’s Serial Set project below.

The Inspiration Behind Lady Liberty

The idea for the Statue of Liberty actually came from France. In 1865, Édouard de Laboulaye, a French anti-slavery activist, proposed that the French provide the United States with a gift to celebrate the success of democracy[1]“Site for and acceptance of Bartholdi statue of Liberty Enlightening the World.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1884, p. 1-6. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset25517&i=255. This report is … Continue reading and the recent emancipation of slaves. Sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi took to work designing the statue out of copper sheets, while the designer of the Eiffel Tower, Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, built the framework of the statue out of iron and steel. The symbolism incorporated in the statue is obvious: the broken shackle and chains around Lady Liberty’s foot, the tablet inscribed with Roman numerals denoting the date of the Declaration of Independence signing. Meanwhile, American architect Richard Morris Hunt began constructing the pedestal on Bedloe’s Island[2]“Estimate for completing pedestal and approaches to Statue of Liberty, Bedloe’s Island.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1887, p. 1-2. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset33900&i=399. … Continue reading in Upper New York Bay, inside a War of 1812 fortress. The goal was to have the monument ready in time for the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence[3]“Letter from president of Centennial Commission, inviting Senate to attend commemoration of one hundredth anniversary of Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1876.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1875, p. 1-2. HeinOnline, … Continue reading on July 4, 1876.

screenshot of report in U.S. Congressional Serial Set

The Arrival of Lady Liberty

In 1885, the Statue of Liberty was ready to move into her new home. Once the statue was complete, it was taken apart and packed into more than 200 boxes to travel by boat from France to New York City, where it was then assembled once again. Then-president Grover Cleveland then accepted and inaugurated the Statue of Liberty[4]“Presidential message on inaugurating Bartholdi statue of Liberty.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1885, p. 1-6. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset36522&i=523. This message is located in … Continue reading in a ceremony attended by thousands of people, on the centennial of the Declaration of Independence.

Screenshot of presidential message in U.S. Congressional Serial Set

A Welcome to Immigrants

Ellis Island, located in Upper New York Bay near Bedloe’s Island, was opened as a federal immigration station in 1892. As ships carrying immigrants to their new lives in America pulled into the shore, they were welcomed by the Statue’s promise of freedom and hope.[5]“Presidential message on inaugurating Bartholdi statue of Liberty.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1885, p. 1-6. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset36522&i=523. This report is located in … Continue reading Engraved into the pedestal of the Statue was a poem written by Emma Lazarus, titled “The New Colossus,” with the famous words “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free/The wretched refuse of your teeming shore/Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me/I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

photo of the Statue of LIberty
A photo of the Statue of Liberty, located in the Pan American Union bulletin in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set.

Bedloe’s Island, home of the Statue of Liberty, was eventually declared a free public park[6]“Resolution for improvement and use of Bedloe’s Island, New York Harbor.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1889, p. 1-3. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset33484&i=426. This report is … Continue reading in 1890. In 1924, the federal government declared it a national park, and in 1933, it was placed under the control of the National Parks Service. The Ellis Island immigration port was eventually closed[7]“Disposal of Ellis Island.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1965, p. 1-10. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset22121&i=869. This report is located in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial … Continue reading in 1954, and two years later, Bedloe’s Island was fittingly renamed Liberty Island.[8]“Changing name of Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor to Liberty Island.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set,1956, p. 1-6. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset22520&i=1971. This report is … Continue reading Then, in 1965, Ellis Island was established as part of the Statue of Liberty National Monument.[9]“Disposal of Ellis Island.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1965, p. 1-10. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset22121&i=875. This report is located in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional … Continue reading

Screenshot of joint resolution in U.S. Congressional Serial Set

The Celebration Continues

In 1941, Congress named October 28, 1941 as Statue of Liberty Day[10]“Declaring Oct. 28, 1941, Statue of Liberty Day.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1941, p. 1-2. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset23111&i=505. This report is located in HeinOnline’s … Continue reading to commemorate the 55th anniversary of the Statue’s dedication in the New York Harbor. The Statue of Liberty Centennial[11]Reagan, Ronald. “Remarks on Signing the Bill Designating the Centennial Year of Liberty in the United States – October 28, 1985.” Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, 1985, p. 1299-1301. HeinOnline, … Continue reading was celebrated in 1986 after a massive, two-year restoration project that temporarily closed the monument to the public. After 9/11, the Statue was closed off to the public for about three years, and it wasn’t until 2009 that visitors could climb up to the crown again—with a reservation (however, the crown is now once again closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Today, there are multiple interactive galleries within the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal, while the Statue of Liberty Museum is located nearby.

Screenshot of presidential proclamation in U.S. Congressional Serial Set

However, while everything around the Statue has changed over the years, her sense of hope and grace, her promise of a better life possible, remain as relevant as ever.

Help Us Complete the Project

If your library holds all or part of the Serial Set, and you are willing to assist us, please contact Shannon Hein at 716-882-2600 or shein@wshein.com. HeinOnline would like to give special thanks to the following libraries for their generous contributions which have resulted in the steady growth of HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set.

  • Wayne State University
  • University of Utah
  • UC Hastings
  • University of Montana
  • Law Library of Louisiana
  • George Washington University
  • University of Delaware
  • Southern Illinois University, Morris Library

We will continue to need help from the library community to complete this project. For a complete list of remaining missing volumes of the Serial Set, please email our Marketing Team at marketing@wshein.com.

HeinOnline Sources

HeinOnline Sources
1 “Site for and acceptance of Bartholdi statue of Liberty Enlightening the World.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1884, p. 1-6. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset25517&i=255. This report is located in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
2 “Estimate for completing pedestal and approaches to Statue of Liberty, Bedloe’s Island.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1887, p. 1-2. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset33900&i=399. This letter is located in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
3 “Letter from president of Centennial Commission, inviting Senate to attend commemoration of one hundredth anniversary of Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1876.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1875, p. 1-2. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset23522&i=1141. This letter is located in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
4 “Presidential message on inaugurating Bartholdi statue of Liberty.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1885, p. 1-6. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset36522&i=523. This message is located in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
5 “Presidential message on inaugurating Bartholdi statue of Liberty.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1885, p. 1-6. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset36522&i=523. This report is located in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
6 “Resolution for improvement and use of Bedloe’s Island, New York Harbor.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1889, p. 1-3. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset33484&i=426. This report is located in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
7 “Disposal of Ellis Island.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1965, p. 1-10. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset22121&i=869. This report is located in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
8 “Changing name of Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor to Liberty Island.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set,1956, p. 1-6. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset22520&i=1971. This report is located in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
9 “Disposal of Ellis Island.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1965, p. 1-10. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset22121&i=875. This report is located in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
10 “Declaring Oct. 28, 1941, Statue of Liberty Day.” U.S. Congressional Serial Set, 1941, p. 1-2. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.usccsset/usconset23111&i=505. This report is located in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Serial Set database.
11 Reagan, Ronald. “Remarks on Signing the Bill Designating the Centennial Year of Liberty in the United States – October 28, 1985.” Public Papers of the Presidents of the United States, 1985, p. 1299-1301. HeinOnline, https://heinonline.org/HOL/P?h=hein.presidents/ppp085002&i=439. This proclamation is located in HeinOnline’s U.S. Presidential Library.
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