Why Is The Statue of Liberty Green?

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And now, it’s time for Who Smarted?

Narrator: Psst. Hey, Smarty Pants. Oh my. Give me a second to catch my breath. Ooh! Okay, I’m back. In case you’re wondering, I’m inside the Statue of Liberty, making my way up a cramped spiral staircase with 354 steps that lead to Lady Liberty’s crown.

As for me, I’m wondering how much more I have to go, because this is exhausting. Whew! I sure hope the view from the top is worth it.

Fred: Oh, I promise, the view from the top is worth it.

Narrator: Huh? Who are you? Where’d you come from? What are you doing here?

Fred: Who, me? I’m always here, at least in spirit. I am Frederick Auguste Bertoldi, designer and sculptor of the Statue of Liberty. Call me Fred.

Narrator: Oh, hi Fred. Call me, Trusty. Okay, break time’s over. To the top I go. [Panting for breath] Oh, I made it. I’m inside the crown.

Wow, you’re right. The view out these 25 small windows is amazing. I can see the New York City skyline and all of New York Harbor. It’s beautiful. How high up am I?

Fred: Right now, you’re over 20 stories, or 265 feet high. But don’t forget, there’s an arm holding up a torch that reaches even higher:

Narrator: Right. Smarty Pants, how tall do you think the entire Statue of Liberty, from the ground to the tip of the torches, is? Is it 255 feet, 305 feet, or 420 feet? If you said 305, then they should build a Smarty Statue for you.

The statue itself is 151 feet tall, and the rest is the pedestal and the foundation. When it was built, it was the tallest structure in all of New York.

Fred: Other fun facts. Her fingers are 8 feet long, her head is 17 feet long, each eye is over 2 feet wide, and she wears an 879 shoe. [Whoa!] Except she’s not wearing shoes.

Narrator: Smarty Pants, do you know what the Statue of Liberty is wearing on her feet? Did you say “Sandals”? Nice. Say, Fred, how much does the statue weigh?

Fred: 450,000 pounds. That’s over 200 tons.

Lady Liberty: Whoa, whoa. Excuse me. How many times have I told you not to talk about my weight, Fred?

Fred: So sorry, Lady Liberty, but he asked.

Narrator: Hold on. The Statue of Liberty can talk?

Lady Liberty: Well, Fred gave me a giant three-foot mouth. I may as well use it.

Narrator: That’s amazing. Here, I thought I’d be just taking a regular tour. Instead, maybe you can help answer all my burning questions about the Statue of Liberty.

Like why and how was the Statue of Liberty built? Why is such an inspiring symbol for immigrants? And why the heck is it green? Get ready for a monumental whiff of history and science on…

Who Smarted? Who Smarted? Who Smart? Is it you? Is it me? Is it science? Or history? Listen up, everyone! We make smarting lots of fun, on Who Smarted?

Narrator: Okay, Fred and Lady Liberty, take me back to the beginning. Where did the idea for a Statue of Liberty come from?

Fred: Well, Trusty, it all started with a dinner I had in France back in 1865 with a friend named Edouard-René de Laboulaye. He was very excited about the Union Army triumphing in the American Civil War and wanted to do something to honor America’s commitment to freedom and democracy.

So, he proposed France give the United States some sort of monument. As a sculptor, that’s where I come in.

Narrator: I still can’t believe I’m talking to the person who designed the Statue of Liberty.

Lady Liberty: You do realize that’s not my real name.

Narrator: It’s not? Smarty Pants, what is the official name of the Statue of Liberty? Is it A, Liberty Enlightening the World. B, The Freedom Monument. Or C, Torch Lady?  Miss, if you don’t mind?

Lady Liberty: My actual name is A, Liberty Enlightening the World. At least that’s what it says on my birth certificate. But Statue of Liberty or Lady Liberty is fine.

Fred: You want to know a secret? When I designed Lady Liberty, I actually stole my own idea.

Narrator: Uh, meaning?

Fred: A few years earlier, I planned to create a statue to stand at the entrance of the Suez Canal in Egypt. It was going to be an Egyptian woman in a robe holding a torch. Sound familiar?

Narrator: Vaguely.

Fred: I was going to call it, “Egypt Carrying the Light to Asia.” But they said it was too expensive.

Lady Liberty: Too bad. I would have loved having a twin sister.

Narrator: So Fred, did you actually build the Statue of Liberty?

Fred: No, no. I merely sculpted it. When it came to building it, I had the help of a structural engineer who later became famous for another architectural marvel.

Narrator: Hmm. What do you think that other architectural marvel might be, Smarty Pants? Is it the Empire State Building, The White House, Or the Eiffel Tower? The answer is the Eiffel Tower.

Fred: Yep. My partner was none other than Gustave Eiffel.

Narrator: Hey, I know him! Smartypants, we met Gustave Eiffel in our Eiffel Tower episode. Sorry, go on.

Fred: Eiffel created an ingenious iron framework, kind of like the statue’s skeleton.

Lady Liberty: Thanks to his brilliant design, I can sway up to three inches in the wind in any direction. Woo! Here comes a stiff wind now. Watch.

Narrator: Whoa! You’re really swaying. And I can’t say I’m loving this feeling.

Fred: It’s better than me cracking open and falling into the harbor.

Narrator: Good point. Okay, so Gustave Eiffel built the skeleton. Then what?

Fred: On top of the skeleton, we attached Lady Liberty’s skin.

Narrator: Skin? The Statue of Liberty is made of skin?

Lady Liberty: Not skin like yours, Trusty. My skin is made from super-thin sheets of copper. Ooh! They’re only about as thick as two pennies pressed together.

Narrator: Wow! That is thin.

Fred: That’s one reason why the statue weighs so little. I mean, relative to its enormous size.

Lady Liberty: Ahem

Fred: What? It’s a compliment.

Lady Liberty: Still, not cool.

Fred: Sorry. Of course, when you build your statue out of copper, something very interesting happens a few years later.

Narrator: Hmm. What could Fred be talking about, Smarties? Do copper statues fall apart? Sink into the ground? Or turn green? [Hulk smash!] Believe it or not, it’s turn green. [Whoa!]

Lady Liberty: That’s right. Remember, I’m made of copper. Until I was about 20 years old, I was a dullish brown, sort of like a penny.

Fred: But after being left out in the elements for all that time, her copper skin started to oxidize.

Narrator: Ah, of course. Smarty Pants, do you know what oxidize means? Oxidation is a chemical reaction that causes metal to rust. When most metals rust, they turn reddish. But when copper oxidizes, it forms a green layer on top called a patina, or vetigrine.

By 1906, the entire statue had turned from penny brown to sea green.


Lady Liberty: At first, they were going to repaint me, but then they realized my green patina actually protects me from corrosion, that is, it keeps my skin from crumbling away. [Ah!]

Fred: Plus, it’s a lot cheaper than buying 10 million gallons of paint.

Narrator: I’ll say. So, do you mind if I go up into the torch now? [Surprise!] What? Why are you both looking at me like that?

Lady Liberty: Trusty narrator, nobody’s been allowed to go up into my torch since 1916.

Narrator: 1916? Hmm. I wonder what happened in 1916 to make Lady Liberty’s torch off-limits. Any guesses, Smarty Pants? Well, we’ll find out right after this quick break.



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Now back to Who Smarted?

Narrator: I’m here with Lady Liberty and her creator, Frederic Bartholdi. And they’re about to reveal why the torch has been strictly off limits since a fateful day in 1916. So, what happened?

Fred: It all went down on its own on July 30th, 1916, which was right in the middle of World War I. On that day, enemy spies blew up a building full of weapons and ammunition just over there on that island.

Lady Liberty: The explosion shattered windows all across the city and sent debris flying into my torch holding arm. It actually caused enough damage that it wasn’t safe for people to go up there anymore.

Fred: Since then, only members of the National Park Service are allowed in there when they have to change out the lights. To get there, you have to climb this scary 40-foot ladder. You’re welcome to try it if you like.

Narrator: Oh, no thanks. I’m good.

Lady Liberty: Smart move, because you also have to worry about…[Lightning strike]

Narrator: Ah! What was that?

Lady Liberty: Oh, just a lightning strike. Did you know I’m struck by lightning around 600 times per year? I once got hit four times in one night.

Fred: Unfortunately, it comes with the territory when you’re 305 feet tall and made of metal. You’re basically a lightning rod in sandals.

Lady Liberty: The good news is, they’ve installed a live torch camp, so anyone who wants to enjoy the view can do so from the comfort and safety of the internet.

Narrator: Cool! I didn’t know that. What other secrets are you two hiding?

Fred: Well, I built a lot of symbolism into the statue.

Narrator: Such as?

Fred: Take her crown, for example. How many points does it have?

Narrator: Smarty Pants, any idea how many points are in the Statue of Liberty’s crown? Five, seven, or ten?

Fred: The answer is seven, and it’s no accident.

Narrator: Hmm. What do you think those seven points symbolize, Smarty Pants? Is it

The Earth’s seven continents?

The seven days of the week?

Or the seven Harry Potter books?

Fred: Why, it’s the seven continents, of course and the seven seas.

Lady Liberty: Not to mention, the seven points of my crown are meant to resemble the sun’s rays. It’s another way, besides my torch, to show how liberty enlightens the world.

Narrator: Clever! What about the tablet you’re holding in your other hand? I notice there’s Roman numerals on it.

Lady Liberty: That’s right, Trusty. Those Roman numerals spell out the date, July 4th, 1776, the birth of American independence.

Fred: Don’t forget your feet, Lady Liberty.

Narrator: What about her feet?

Lady Liberty: Trusty, if you and the Smarty Pants had to guess, would you say I’m standing still, or walking?

Narrator: Uh, what do you think, Smarty Pants? Standing still?

Lady Liberty: Nope. If you look closely, you see my right foot is raised as if I’m about to take a step, and around my feet are a broken shackle and chain, which represent my freedom from oppression.


Narrator: Ah, that’s probably why people immigrating to America in the late 1800s and early 1900s saw you as such a hopeful figure.

Lady Liberty: That’s exactly right. Many of those people were escaping from countries where they had little to no freedoms. I was the first thing those immigrants saw when their ship entered New York Harbor.

Fred: There’s a poem on Lady Liberty’s pedestal written by Emma Lazarus, it’s called “The New Colossus,” and it includes the famous line, “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

Lady Liberty: Any immigrant reading that would immediately feel welcomed in their new home, America.

Narrator: You’re truly an awe-inspiring monument, Lady Liberty. It’s no wonder four million people visit you each year.

Lady Liberty: Ooh, speaking of, a new batch of tourists just arrived on the next boat.

Fred: Eh, she should probably stop talking, and I should probably vanish. Not everyone likes hanging out with a ghost.

Narrator: Sounds good. But this time, I’m taking the elevator down.



A special shout out to my Smarty Pants friend, Graham, and his Smarty mom, Claire, in New York. We’re so glad you love listening to Who Smarted every night on your Yoto Player. Plus, we hear you’re also big fans of our Netflix series, “Brain Child.” Amazing! We’re so glad to bring your family joy and fuel your love of learning and being creative.

This episode, “Statue of Liberty,” was written by Steve, Monumental Melcher, and voiced by Téa, “Give Me Your Tired, Garland,” Kim, “Declaration of Independence,” Davis, and Jerry Kolber.

Technical direction and sound design by Josh, New York Harbor, Hahn.

Who Smarted? is recorded and mixed at the Relative Studio. Our associate producer is Max, Crown, Kamasky.

The theme song is by Brian, So Many Stairs, Suarez. With lyrics written and performed by Adam, Tempest Tossed, Davis.

Who Smarted? was created and produced by Adam Tex Davis and Jerry Kolber. This has been an Atomic Entertainment production.