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Statue of Liberty

The Lighting System

By Benjamin Levine and Isabelle F. Story
National Park Service, 1961

This Web Version
GET NJ COPYRIGHT 2003

Improvements in the Statue Since 1886
Rain fell on the night of the dedication, causing postponement of the brilliant fireworks, and also dimming Liberty's light. When the rain ceased, it was apparent that Freedom's lamp would not shine out the expected 50 miles to sea; and the lighting problem was long a perplexing one. The original electrical system has several times been replaced by more modern equipment. In 1916, from the Presidential yacht Mayflower, anchored close to the island, President Woodrow Wilson placed in operation the first adequate lighting system by pressing a wireless key that transmitted an electrical impulse to turn on new floodlights. Two hundred and forty-six projectors, utilizing 250-watt incandescent lamps, were located in the star points of the base of the monument and on roofs of small buildings on the island. Fifteen 500-candle-power gas-filled electric lamps were installed in the torch.

A still more modern system was installed in 1931, including electric transformers, switch panels, automatic clock controls, and a complete new floodlighting system. This installation consisted of ninety-six 1,000-watt incandescent lamps enclosed in cast bronze floodlight projectors. Groups of 8 units each were placed in 10 points of the 11-pointed star masonry base. On the eleventh point was installed a battery of 16 floodlights to heighten the nighttime character of the face of the statue. A cluster of thirteen 1,000-watt incandescent lamps and one 250-watt incandescent lamp went into the torch. This improved system approximately doubled the lighting of the previous installation.

In 1945, to intensify the previous lighting, reveal the third dimensional effect of the statue, eliminate undesirable shadows, and, in general. "paint" the statue with light, 16 high-intensity 400-watt mercury-vapor lamps were added to the floodlight emplacements. Experiments with the torch revealed that mercury vapor lamps added brightness and a bluishwhite color to the flame. The present floodlighting system consists of ninety-six 1,000-watt incandescent lamps and sixteen 400-watt mercury vapor lamps.

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