The Face of Freedom: Stirring Portraits of the Statue of Liberty

Statue of Liberty, 1951.
Margaret Bourke-White—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images
Statue of Liberty, 1951.
Architecture & Design

This year, on the Fourth of July, the Statue of Liberty will reopen to the public after being closed for eight months due to major damage from 2012′s Hurricane Sandy. It’s fitting, of course, that Lady Liberty, with her distinctive light-green patina, will once again welcome — on Independence Day — countless pilgrims from America and around the globe eager to visit the 150-foot (300 feet from ground to torch) copper-clad emblem of freedom. After all, if one sight in all the world immediately signals “welcome,” it’s Lady Liberty standing tall above New York Harbor.

The reopening of the iconic monument on July 4, meanwhile, reminds us that LIFE magazine once offered some thoughts on the nature of Independence Day that sound, to our modern ears, at-once quaint and — despite the dull, predictable snark that dominates contemporary culture — somehow still quite genuine. Still quite true.

The Fourth of July, although it originated in the hot spirit of defiance and the powder smell of revolution, is a quiet holiday. In the small cities the crowds gather beneath bunting and flags to watch their parades.  In the picnic grounds the orators sweat and strain to produce three cheers for liberty. Yet everywhere … the crowds are in shirtsleeves and cotton dresses, relaxed, having a good, long, easy day, taking their liberty for granted, a a little embarrassed by all the fancy talk. In the cool of the evening many Americans will express their unselfconscious patriotism in the thought, “This has been a pleasant day and this is a pleasant land.” For in early July, on the nation’s birthday, the land is at its best.

In celebration of the Statue of Liberty’s re-opening, and in acknowledgement that “America’s birthday” is, despite everything, still worth commemorating, presents a series of photos of Lady Liberty as captured by LIFE photographers through the years.

Happy Fourth of July, everyone.

Statue of Liberty, 1944

Dmitri Kessel—Time & Life Pictures/Getty Images


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