The Statue of Liberty



The Statue of Liberty was a gift from France in 1886 to the United States, and is a symbol of America’s freedom, but did you know it was an operating lighthouse between 1886 and 1901? President Grover declared that the Statue of Liberty would operate as a lighthouse under control of the Lighthouse Board in 1886.

In order for the statue to become a lighthouse, a light had to be installed in the torch and around its feet. The Chief Engineer designed for the lighthouse lights to point upwards rather than outwards so that the Statue would be illuminated for ships and ferries at night and during poor weather.

People traveled from all over to attend the Statue of Liberty’s opening day ceremony incorporating fireworks and an electric light show, but things did not go according to plan. The electric lighting was initially wired and displayed wrong and led to several false starts, and a large shadow cast over the statue. Engineer James J. Wood from the American Electric Manufacturing Company stepped up to design an arc lighting system that successfully illuminated the statue. The AEMC agreed to keep the lighthouse lit for one week which then forced President Cleveland to reluctantly delegate the task to the Lighthouse Board in 1886.

Albert E. Littlefield became the lighthouse keeper in 1886 and lived with his family and several assistants on the island in a three-story house. The Statue of Liberty’s torch could be seen by ships 24 miles from the statue’s base.

The Lighthouse Board constantly complained about operational costs involved in using the Statue of Liberty as a lighthouse. In 1901 the Lighthouse Board released their control to the War Department, and in 1902 it was no longer used as a navigational aid. The Statue of Liberty switched hands for a final time in 1932 when the National Park Service took control in order to operate the statue as an American tourist attraction.  

If you have toured the Statue of Liberty before, share your pictures with us on our EdgeWater Boats Facebook page!