The Statue of Liberty was red before it turned green

  • When the statue of liberty was gifted to the US from France in 1885, she was actually a shiny copper color
  • But the statue changed from its shiny copper color to a dull brown, and finally to its blue-green color of today 
  • This was as a result of reactions between copper and the air – when copper gave up electrons to oxygen
  • But it was more than one reaction – the color change is due to about 30 years worth of different reactions 
  • This reactions led to a mixture of greenish minerals that formed on the outside of the statue
  • The reactions involved sulfur, which comes from natural processes such as volcanic eruptions, but also from man-made emissions from cars, boats, airplanes as well as factories

New York‘s iconic, blue-green statue of liberty wasn’t always green. 

When the statue was gifted to the US from France in 1885, she was actually a shiny copper color. 

A new video reveals the chemical reactions involving oxygen and even air pollution that led to her color change from copper to liberty green. 

Pictured is the statue of liberty  in 1900 during its color transition to the blue-green color it is today. The statue's color change was as a result of oxidation reactions between copper and the air

Pictured is the statue of liberty  in 1900 during its color transition to the blue-green color it is today. The statue’s color change was as a result of oxidation reactions between copper and the air, a new video has revealed

The statue of liberty was a gift from France to the US as a way of commemorating the US’s fight for independence, as well as their own aspiration for democracy.  

A video, published by the American Chemical Society, explains that the 305-foot (93 meter) statue was built over nine years in sections of copper skin on top of an iron skeleton. 

According to the National Park Service, the statue is made of thirty tons of copper – enough to make 435 million pennies. 

‘In her first few decades in the Big Apple, the state slowly turned from that shiny copper color to a dull brown and the, finally, to the blue-green, or as they’d say back in France, ‘verdigris’ we see today,’ said the video’s narrator. 

When it changed color, some officials suggested restoring her back to her original color, but after the public protested against this decision, she was left the way she is. 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE STATUE OF LIBERTY 

Designed by Frederic Bartholdi, the statue is a neo-classical sculpture representing the Roman Goddess of Freedom, Libertas.

She was a present to America from France to celebrate the US’s independence and was erected in 1886 in Upper New York Bay on Liberty Island.

Bartholdi’s inspiration for the statue was a comment made by politician Édouard RenĂ© de Laboulaye in mid-1865, when he stated: ‘If a monument should rise in the United States, as a memorial to their independence, I should think it only natural if it were built by united effort – a common work of both our nations.’ 

The Statue Of Liberty Under Construction In The Monduit And Bechet Workshop, Paris, France. Funds to create the Statue of Liberty were provided by both France and the US, and were obtained through various crowdfunding campaigns

The Statue Of Liberty Under Construction In The Monduit And Bechet Workshop, Paris, France. Funds to create the Statue of Liberty were provided by both France and the US, and were obtained through various crowdfunding campaigns

Funds to create the Statue of Liberty were provided by both France and the US, and were obtained through various crowdfunding campaigns.

In France, entertainment, public fees and a national lottery helped with the funds. In the US, things were much slower.  

Auctions, various forms of entertainment, and fights helped provide some funds. Famed newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer decided he needed to get the attention of the American people to get necessary money, so he took out an editorial in his newspaper putting pressure on the rich and middle class to help funds this important icon for America.

The pedestal for the statue wasn't completed until April 1886. Immediately after, reassembly of the statue began

The pedestal for the statue wasn’t completed until April 1886. Immediately after, reassembly of the statue began

On August 1885 finances in the United States for the pedestal were complete.

The statue was built over nine years in sections of copper skin on top of an iron skeleton. It was then transported in parts on board a French steamer ship ‘Isere’, reaching New York port in June, 1885.  

The pedestal for the statue wasn’t completed until April 1886. Immediately after, reassembly of the statue began.

When the statue was finally assembled, it was officially presented in a dedication ceremony on October 28, 1886.  

The main body of the statue stands at 151 feet (46 meters) high, but with the pedestal included, reaches 305 feet (93 meters).

She has been featured in several Hollywood flicks, including Independence Day, Cloverfield, The Day After Tomorrow, and, of course, Planet Of The Apes, where she appears buried in a beach. 

Source: Statue of Liberty Tickets 

The statue’s color change was as a result of oxidation reactions between copper and the air. 

But it was more than one reaction – the color change is due to about 30 years worth of different reactions leading to a mixture of greenish minerals. 

Oxidation reactions happen when an atom loses an electron to another atom. 

In the case of the statue of liberty, her color change was bound to happen due to oxygen in the atmosphere that is ‘hungry’ for electrons. 

On top of this, elements of New York City’s polluted air added to the color change too. 

The statue of liberty was built over nine years in sections of copper skin on top of an iron skeleton. According to the National Park Service, the statue is made of thirty tons of copper - enough to make 435 million pennies

The statue of liberty was built over nine years in sections of copper skin on top of an iron skeleton. According to the National Park Service, the statue is made of thirty tons of copper – enough to make 435 million pennies

The first chemical reaction of the color change involved copper giving up electrons to electron-hungry oxygen in the atmosphere.

This led to a mineral called culprite – which is pinkish red. 

The feet of the statue of liberty (pictured) arrived on Liberty Island 1885. The statue was a gift from the people of France to the United States, It represents Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom

The feet of the statue of liberty (pictured) arrived on Liberty Island 1885. The statue was a gift from the people of France to the United States, It represents Libertas, the Roman goddess of freedom

Then, culprite loses even more electrons to oxygen, forming a new mineral called tenorite, which is blackish in color. 

The black color of tenorite explains why the statue got darker over time, forming a dark brown color. 

Then, further chemical reactions occurred when sulfur in the atmosphere reacts with water. 

The statue's color change was as a result of oxidation reactions between copper and the air. But it was more than one reaction - the color change is due to about 30 years worth of different reactions leading to a mixture of greenish minerals

The statue’s color change was as a result of oxidation reactions between copper and the air. But it was more than one reaction – the color change is due to about 30 years worth of different reactions leading to a mixture of greenish minerals

Sulfur comes from natural processes such as volcanic eruptions, but also from man-made emissions from boats, cars, airplanes and factories. 

When sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere reacts with water, it produces sulfuric acid. 

The state of liberty was transported in parts on board a French steamer ship, reaching New York port in June, 1885. However, the statue required a pedestal to be erected, and wasn't completed until April 1886

The state of liberty was transported in parts on board a French steamer ship, reaching New York port in June, 1885. However, the statue required a pedestal to be erected, and wasn’t completed until April 1886

Immediately after a pedestal for the statue of liberty was completed in April 1886, reassembly of the statue - that had originally arrived in parts - began, and the statue was officially presented in a dedication ceremony on October 28, 1886

Immediately after a pedestal for the statue of liberty was completed in April 1886, reassembly of the statue – that had originally arrived in parts – began, and the statue was officially presented in a dedication ceremony on October 28, 1886

Sulfuric acid forms green minerals with copper oxides, so the sulfuric acid in the atmosphere made the state green over time.  

Added to that, chloride from the sea spray surrounding Ellis Island where the statue is located made the statue even greener. 

The statue stayed this way for over 100 years because the exposed copper is now oxidized and stable, but the statue wouldn’t be the same anywhere else. 

THE CHEMISTRY OF THE STATUE’S COLOR CHANGE 

Tenorite reacts with sulfuric acid in the atmosphere and water to form brochantite, a blue-green mineral

Tenorite reacts with sulfuric acid in the atmosphere and water to form brochantite, a blue-green mineral

The first chemical reaction of the color change involved copper in the state giving up electrons to electron-hungry oxygen in the atmosphere.

This led to a mineral called culprite – which is pinkish red. 

Then, culprite loses even more electrons to oxygen, forming a new mineral called tenorite, which is blackish in color. 

When sulfur dioxide in the atmosphere reacts with water, it produces sulfuric acid. 

Tenorite reacts with sulfuric acid in the atmosphere and water to form brochantite, a blue-green mineral.  

New York City pollution put even more sulfuric acid into the atmosphere, which converted brochantite into green antlerite in some places on the statue. 

And because of sea spray from Ellis Island, sulfate in the brochantite got swapped for chloride, making olive-green atacamite.





Courtesy: Daily Mail Online

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