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From Haven to Home: The Statue of Liberty

Emma Lazarus, who had worked with East European immigrants through her association with the Hebrew Emigrant Aid Society, composed “The New Colossus” in 1883 as part of a fundraising campaign for erecting the Statue of Liberty. In 1903, a tablet with her words — “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” — was affixed to the statue's base. These words remain the quintessential expression of America's vision of itself as a haven for those denied freedom and opportunity in their native lands.

The deed below, dated July 4, 1884, marks the presentation of Frederic Auguste Bartholdi's colossal statue, “Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World” to the people of the United States from the “people of the Republic of France . . . attesting to their abiding friendship.” In 1886, the Statue of Liberty was erected on its pedestal at Bedloe's Island in New York Harbor.

Deed of Gift for the Statue of Liberty.
Document with watercolor, July 4, 1884.
Courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration, Washington, D.C.

At the inauguration ceremony on October 28, President Grover Cleveland accepted the statue on behalf of the American people, promising, “we will not forget that Liberty has here made her home; nor shall her chosen altar be neglected.”

Invitation to the inauguration of the Statue of Liberty by the President (Grover Cleveland), Oct 28, 1886.
Printed invitation engraved with gold seal and lithograph of statue.
William Maxwell Evarts Papers.
Manuscript Division

Set in 1885, Irving Berlin's Broadway musical Miss Liberty centers on the dedication ceremonies of the Statue of Liberty and the hero's search for the model that posed for Bertholdi's statue. Berlin, himself an immigrant from Russia, set music to Emma Lazarus's iconic poem, “Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor.” It is the only song in the Irving Berlin canon for which he used someone else's words.

Irving Berlin (1888-1989) and Emma Lazarus (1849-1887)
"Give Me Your Tired, Your Poor," from Miss Liberty, 1949.
Piano vocal score.
Irving Berlin Collection.
Music Division

Sources: Library of Congress