The Syracuse Arts Festival is much like any small town art fest – jewelry stands are bordered by art displays and an array of pottery pieces. But dig a little deeper and you’ll find demonstrations and talks about what goes in to make these masterpieces.
I came across a six-foot-three bearded man who was working with a sheet of copper. Dennis Heaphy, a fourth generation tin smith, spoke about the art of repoussee, or the shaping and strengthening of malleable metal by hammering. Resident tin smith for the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, Heaphy started working in the family business when he was 11 and has been working at Lady Liberty for 14 years (he also incorporates the dying trade into his acting career with educational programs about the statue). I sat down with Heaphy to get the inside track on the statue; here are six things you might not know about Lady Liberty.
1. She moves: The statue’s head sways three inches with 50 mph winds, the torch sways even more, and constantly. Heaphy’s first project as the tin smith was to repair the brass window panes in her crown. Every night after visitors would leave, he climbed to the statue’s head and worked late into the night. He is, to his knowledge, the only person who has slept in Lady Liberty.
2. Her specs: Lady Liberty stands at 305 feet and six inches tall. Surprisingly, the copper sheets used to shape her figure are only as thick as a penny and a half. Speaking of pennies, the structure without the pedestal weighs 225 tons. That’s equivalent to 8,990,000 pennies.
3. She’s got a secret: The French placed a door to peek inside on the back foot of the Statue of Liberty before assembling her on the star-shaped pedestal. Today you can enter through the pedestal but make sure to go around to the back of the statue to see the “treading” pattern added to hide the original door.
4. How she was funded: When the French arrived with the statue, all the funds to build the pedestal were not yet collected. Joseph Pulitzer, in his newspaper New York World, urged people to donate money. The newspaper ad raised $100,000 in six months and most of the donations were less than a dollar – that’s $2.4 million, today.
5. What holds her together: Lady Liberty contains 350 parts held together with 50 percent lead and 50 percent tin. This “glue” can best be seen on the model nose in the lobby of the base of the statue. Look for a jagged line on the tip of the nose to see where the nostrils were attached, Heaphy notes.
6. Where she almost lived: Though the Statue of Liberty greets those entering the New York Harbor, at one point Philadelphia, a city symbolic with American history, was among the debated locations to place the gifted statue. Civil War General William Tecumseh Sherman made the final decision and opted for Bedloe’s Island when he was appointed to choose Lady Liberty’s home.