Gustave Eiffel’s Original Drawings for the Statue of Liberty

from kottke

Long thought destroyed or lost forever, a cache of original engineering drawings & blueprints for the Statue of Liberty done by Gustave Eiffel were found among some of Eiffel’s papers purchased at auction last year. Smithsonian magazine has the story of how they came to be found and why the drawings are so significant.

More here.

Posted in Ideas, Innovation and tagged , , , .


  1. It’s very interesting to find new information about structures that have existed in my life for a long time, and a part of America for even longer. Despite growing up seeing a Statue of Liberty that I know and love, knowing that it could’ve looked much different than how it does today is fascinating. Because to me, I know it as the statue that symbolized freedom as well as good nature between America and France. The task of creating the Statue of Liberty was not easy whatsoever because it had to be able to support its own weight as well as withstand the forces of the winds in New York Harbor. A lot goes into planning for this especially when it comes to creative control because in the end you are deciding how your own work is to look. For Bartholdi, he disregarded Eiffel’s plans for the arm of the Statue of Liberty which would make it sturdier which has been a challenge. Instead, he opted for a figure that would have the statue’s arm that tilts outward. It’s funny to me because as a general citizen of New York, I probably would not have noticed the minute details regarding the arm, but again, this is probably one of those things a true artist can detect. According to, Eiffel’s archive of blueprints is a collection of both Bartholdi and another designer, Morris. It states that one blueprint not represented by a drawing in the Eiffel collection is of four different profiles of the inside of the statue. Personally, I have only been on the inside once and I already fascinated by it. I would love to see what a different design would have looked like. I would even be satisfied with looking at the missing plans. One thing always stuck out to me, which the article also addresses. I find it interesting that a symbol that Americans most easily identify with liberty and freedom is something that we did not make ourselves, rather it was gifted to us by another country. I would also say that displays our connection to other countries

  2. In my years growing up, I dreamed of being an Architect. The construction of homes and the designs of skyscrapers is what really caught my attention which is why I absolutely fell in love with New York City. The legendary history in New York structures is one of a kind. I studied many buildings in the big apple and if someone was to ask me facts about any building in New York 9 times out of 10 I could spit them out one after the other, especially in the Lower Manhattan area.
    I bring this up because Jason Kottke’s article on the Gustave Eiffel’s Original Drawings for the Statue of Liberty simply just took me back to a time where this was the type of thing I loved. Today I do feel like I don’t love Architecture as much as I did in the past, but I still have an admiration of it.
    At first glance of looking at Gustave’s initial drawings of the Statue of Liberty, I do not see much of a difference compared to the Statue of Liberty we have today. However, when Kottke mentions “that Bartholdi disregarded Eiffel’s engineering plans when it came to the statue’s upraised arm, electing to make it thinner and tilted outward for dramatic and aesthetic appeal. Several drawings appear to depict a bulkier shoulder and more vertical arm — a more structurally sound arrangement,” I can see the differences.
    This change from the original design sparks two thoughts. First, the body standards at heavily influenced the design we have today. Thinner was better and of course, Lady Liberty could not be anything else. Secondly, the placement of the arm is where I I agree with the change. Gustave’s original placement looked a tad bit awkward similar to a student raising their hand when they are eager to answer a question. The underlying theme in the change is appeal. I just glad to grow up in a generation where we now have the opportunity to call out these things. Or even to have a Lady Liberty that does not have to be thin.
    Because I admire the Architectural craft, I understand how hard it must have been for Gustave to create the Engineering drawing of this structure by hand this detailed in this time period. He must be an extremely patient man because even doing engineering drawings online today takes a good amount of time.

  3. The Statue of Liberty is, in my opinion, the most important symbol of freedom, opportunity, and hope that exist in the country. There are many reasons why I say this, and they are biased as my family began in New York, but the family history that is involved not only in this state but also in the city of New York is a perfect example of the American dream. When the industrial revolutions was beginning in America, and masses of immigrants from across the world were heading overseas to the “land of opportunity”; the sacrificed everything they had in their old homes, all because of a shred of hope that they had for this country and it’s promises. Many arriving were told the streets in America were paved with gold, and many were truly disappointed when they got there. But the meaning of that sentence, it’s not literal, its another example of the prosperity and opportunity promised here.
    My grandparents came from Scotland and Ireland when they were both very young, my grandmother specifically came to America when she was 13, many many years ago. My grandmother was one of the last group of immigrants to enter the country through Ellis Island, before it became a historical site. I remember a few years before she passed away, may father and his siblings got her a copy of her immigration certificate from Ellis Island the day she came to America. One of the things I remembered about Ellis Island is how the Statue of Liberty was right near it, and Lady Liberty would greet those arriving to America for the first time, ready to start brand new lives in a brand new world. The idea of leaving everything and coming to such an unknown place like that is extremely terrifying to be frank, and hearing my grandmother talk about arriving in America and seeing the statue as a little girl for the first time, it puts a whole new perspective on the American dream. Because the United States is a melting pot, formed from all of our differences, I believe it is important to remember where we all came from, and embrace it. Its what makes us Americans.

  4. This article about the statue of liberty demonstrates how important archaeology and historical field investigations are. Considering that these blueprints were found completely by chance-purchased at an auction house- and also considering how much information has been revealed by its discovery, imagine how many things society could discover with concentrated efforts. That being said, a panoply of universities, museums, and other academic institutions maintain committed archaeological enterprises. However, many of these programs are underfunded. I digress. These documents in particular serve two purposes to historical purposes. On the one hand, they indicate that there was a last minute change to the positioning of the statue’s right arm, with an original plan calling for a more vertical angle to be built, rather than the raised position that can be seen today. The torch of the Statue of Liberty is arguably her most inspiring feature, raising the beacon of freedom and opportunity high enough for the entire world to see. It is fascinating to know that such a split-second decision influenced so much. On the other hand, the blueprints provide insight into the architectural process of last century, and yield the fact that engineers and architects of yore, especially Gustave Eiffel, were quite advanced and more capable than is commonly realized by the majority of Americans today (in my opinion). It is my hope that we are able to make such significant findings for centuries to come, all in the interest in rebuilding the narrative that tells the story of humankind.

  5. I feel like I am looking at something out of Leonardo Da Vinci’s workshop, and it’s cool to look at it really close. The detail on the paper between measurements and representation is interesting, even for someone like me who cannot read basic French and doesn’t trust Google Translate enough to run it all through. I see what the article means when it asserts that the drawer intended for the statue arm to angle more forward, obviously a post script and edit to the original sketch. I wonder what the statue would have looked like had they kept the original design… maybe it would wear slower? Maybe it would not be as appreciated, since it’s current style is more dramatic and human (have you ever seen a real life person hold a torch straight above their head?). Perhaps it would be regarded the same, and the argument wouldn’t be about what the artist wanted it to look like but who the artist wanted it to be — Lady Liberty who welcomed immigrants (even though the statue’s famous poem and Ellis Island both came after) or Lady Liberty who celebrated liberated slaves ( Knowing something’s history increases its value immensely, whether that value be monetary or not.

  6. The original Statue of Liberty drawings by Gustave Eiffel was found recently. This comes as a major surprise as the drawings were thought to be destroyed or lost forever. A surprise was also hidden within these drawings that were thought to be lost forever. It depicts what historians thought of to be true for many years. That Bartholdi disregarded Eiffel’s engineering plans when it came to the structure of the raised arm on the Statue of Liberty. The original drawings show a more bulky shoulder and a more vertical arm, which construe as the original plans for the Statue of Liberty. Although it can be constituted that Bartholdi went against these suggestions and made the arm of the statue of liberty that holds the torch more skinny. He created the arm to be more dramatic and artistic, although the way to go about doing this was shown in the plans to be difficult. The article says,” It looks like somebody is trying to figure out how to change the angle of the arm without wrecking the support”. These drawings are immensely interesting because the give consideration to the fact that historians may have been correct all this time in the assumptions.

  7. The aspect that stood out the most was that the current Statue of Liberty was used over Gustave Eiffel’s because of artistic appeal. I forgot about it, but aesthetics and visual language would be just as important as structural integrity for a symbol of an entire country. For example, the Vatican and other smaller churches during the Renaissance period contracted artists and guilds to create murals, paintings, and sculptures depicting various stories in the Bible. The majority of the population was illiterate, meaning that the way they learned the stories through either their church officials reading scripture aloud or through the artwork. For example, Michelangelo’s The Last Judgement shows the fates of those who fall to hell and those who ascend to heaven through its size, color contrast/choices, and structure. An essay that goes into more detail about the specifics of this can be found on Khan Academy by Dr. Esperanca Camara, but in summation, art is meant to tell a story as detailed and succinctly as possible without words to instill certain feelings. In many ways, I believe that this same mindset was present in the Statue of Liberty. Truthfully, having a slightly different arm position is an innocuous detail that might have been far more trouble than it initially seemed since the new illustrations show someone trying to figure out how to realize Bartholdi’s design. However, the outstretched arm gives the impression of moving forward or, in other words, seeking liberty and freedom. It perfectly conveys the view of liberty and freedom that the United States held.

    Dr. Esperanca Camara’s essay on The Last Judgement:

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