125 years old, still young and still hot. I love her. I love where she stands, I love her crown of radiant wisdom and her torch and her book of laws, I love Miss Lazarus’ poem, I love that she’s an excellent sculpture on her own terms. I love that you can buy bronze paperweights of her, and that she’s so familiar she can figure in cartoons and movies, in parts or in whole. I love that we fixed her up for another century (Bartholdi did a good job, but he (and Eiffel) didn’t know enough about electrolytic corrosion when you rivet copper onto a steel frame). I love the French for thinking the American experiment was their project, too.
Among the liberties she recalls today is freedom from broken bodies, ruined lungs, blindness, and the poverty industrial disability used to assure. Here is where she was made: a filthy, smoky hell worse than any of Piranesi’s dungeons: not a pair of goggles or steel-toed shoes in sight, and just walking across the floor could break your leg. Every breath put asbestos in your lungs. Imagine the noise: this was a metalsmithing factory with everyone banging on sheet metal with a hammer. Going up on the scaffold? Safety harness…what are you talking about? Just try not to break any equipment when you land; you, we can replace tomorrow.
That’s where everything was made back then. When she was restored in 1986, things were very different: for example, the workers had protection from Eiffel’s asbestos . Save a thought for OSHA, child labor laws, Social Security Disability insurance, and the unions who made it safe to go to work in the morning and make stuff for us.