The Statue of Liberty: The Full (little known) Story

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Duration 00:59:43

College of the Holy Cross

Edward O’Donnell is a professor of history at College of the Holy Cross. He is the author of several books, including Henry George and the Crisis of Inequality: Progress and Poverty in the Gilded Age. He frequently contributes op-eds to publications like Newsweek and The Huffington Post, and has been featured on PBS, the History Channel, the Discovery Channel, and C-SPAN. O’Donnell also has curated several major museum exhibits on American history and appeared in several historical documentaries. He currently hosts a history podcast, “In the Past Lane.”




The Statue of Liberty is an icon, a national treasure, and one of the most recognizable figures in the world. Each year millions who cherish its ideals make the journey to experience its history and grandeur in person. Most visitors, in part because Ellis Island is close by, see the Statue as a symbol of freedom, inspiration, and hope for successive waves of immigrants to the U.S.  But they would be shocked to learn that the Statue originally had nothing to do with immigration. It was, rather, an extraordinary gift from the people of France to the people of the United States to commemorate the centennials of the American (1776) and French (1789) Revolutions, as well as celebrate the close relationship between the two countries.

In this class, historian Edward O’Donnell will tell the story of how a French reformer named Édouard de Laboulaye conceived of the idea, how sculptor Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi created the monumental structure, and how it almost ended up somewhere in the U.S. other than New York harbor. Along the way, he’ll explain how the Statue was gradually transformed into an immigration icon and a very powerful and pliable political symbol.



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Sam Klepper

Chock full of interesting facts and context

Very well structured talk going through the historical symbol of lady liberty, the social and political climate at the time when the state was built in both the US and France, the influences on the design and building of it and the change over time of what it stood for. My wife and I found it very interesting.

2 years ago

the Statue of Liberty

the Statue of Liberty
Unfortunately I answered a cell phone call during my view of the Statue of Liberty and other American icons. As a result of the phone call I was not able to get back onto the program. Was able to view only about 20% of his program

2 years ago
Madonna Karr

Full,of Information

I enjoy this guy’s talks. He has lots of interesting information and enjoys giving it to,you. Will look for other lectures of his. This was my second.

3 weeks ago
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