- Historic Sites
One thing was clear through the rain and the mist: America’s enthusiasm for Miss Liberty matched her colossal dimensions
February 1966 | Volume 17, Issue 2
After the appropriate introductions had been made, Gilmore’s 22nd Regiment Band played “Hail to the Chief” just loud enough to be heard above the continuing din. After about fifteen minutes, when things had quieted down somewhat, Dr. Richard Storrs, a noted Brooklyn clergyman, began a prayer in the midst of which one tugboat captain let loose a whistle that was quickly answered in kind by his colleagues in the flotilla. “The prayer,” as the Herald commented the following morning, “was conducted under disadvantages such as never before beset a minister of God.”
Next came the doughty de Lesseps, who, dressed in evening clothes, gave his speech bareheaded in the rain; though he spoke in French he managed to still the whistles and impress his audience enormously.
Senator William Evarts of New York followed, and did very well for the first few minutes. But by this time Bartholdi and a few companions had climbed up inside the statue to the torch some 300 feet above; and, on a mistaken signal, he pulled the cord that unveiled the face. The flag fell, and a great cheer went up: “Hail, Liberty!” Everyone was on his feet, every ship responded with a deafening crescendo of whistles and horns, another broadside exploded from the Tennessee , bells rang on the mainland, Gilmore’s band launched into “America”—and Evarts sat down. About twenty minutes after that, the President made a brief acceptance speech in which he called the statue a “token of the affection and consideration of the people of France” and vowed that “we will not forget that Liberty has here made her home; nor shall her chosen altar be neglected. Willing votaries shall keep its fires alive, and they shall gleam upon the shores of our sister Republic in the East. [Great applause.] Reflected thence and joined with answering rays, a stream of light shall pierce the darkness of ignorance and man’s oppression until liberty shall enlighten the world. [An overwhelming roar of approval.]”
A few closing remarks were made by Chauncey M. Depew, the railroad magnate; Bishop Henry C. Potter said a benediction; and, at twenty minutes to five, the President, amid still another twenty-one-gun salute, left for Jersey City and his train back to Washington. The sunset gun went off on Governor’s Island.
The fireworks had to be postponed a few nights because of the weather. But the Goddess of Liberty had officially taken her stand at the entrance of America’s great harbor, where she would beckon millions from the Old World in the years to come.