GATEWAY TO LIBERTY: The Story of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island by Mary Shapiro

GATEWAY TO LIBERTY: The Story of the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island

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Superbly illustrated, solidly done but rather academic documentary record of two great American landmarks, celebrating the yearlong centennial of the Statue of Liberty and the rededication of Ellis Island. Wisely, the book falls into two halves, the first about the statue, the second the island. The two landmarks express ""an essential, characteristically American theme: the search for freedom from political and social oppression."" But in a biting way they are unrelated. ""Liberty was an expression of romantic idealism commemorating a glorious past; Ellis Island was an attempt to cope with a world migration that was bringing to America hundreds of thousands of people every year."" The statue was the brainchild of its sculptor, Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, a Frenchman who came up with the idea that--since France had given so deeply of itself in helping America achieve its independence--a memorial to American independence should be the common work of both nations. The text and photos show the step by step creation of ever larger models for the statue, the casting of its sections and their amazing first assemblage with the statue towering over the Parisian skyline. Ironically, American funds were slow in coming. And Emma Lazarus; who at 34 wrote the moving verses bolted to the statue, died of cancer at 37, never having seen the magnificent figure whose lamp she lighted. Before America's open-door policy was shut down in 1924, over 34 million immigrants had arrived, the greatest mass movement of people in world history. Under conditions hardly to be believed today, passage in steerage to America ""was usually an appalling and dangerous experience. . .with outrageously high mortality rates. . ."" In one 70-day voyage from Hamburg to New York in 1868, 105 of 544 German passengers died ""from want of good ventilation, cleanliness, suitable medical care, sufficient water, and wholesome food."" Meanwhile, steamships sank by the hundreds in fierce North Atlantic gales. Ellis Island, born in a hotbed of corruption, remained as the landing spot for immigrants from 1892 to 1954--and for the most part it has a bitter history. Recommended for all libraries, as the centennial fever builds.

Pub Date: May 21st, 1986
Publisher: Vintage/Random House