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Monday, June 17, 2013

This Day In History

"Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!" — Inscription on the Statue of Liberty.

On my iPad I have several applets that each day shows me what happened on this day in history. It displays events and the birth or death of famous people. I find it quite interesting and sometimes it gives me ideas for this blog.

I have always found history to be a fascinating subject as it gives some context to current events. I refer to William Shakespeare’s Sonnet No. 59 where the bard said:

“If there be nothing new, but that which is

Hath been before, how are our brains beguiled,

Which, labouring for invention, bear amiss

The second burden of a former child.

O, that record could with a backward look,

Even of five hundred courses of the sun,

Show me your image in some antique book,

Since mind at first in character was done!

That I might see what the old world could say

To this composed wonder of your frame;

Whether we are mended, or whe'er better they,

Or whether revolution be the same.

O, sure I am, the wits of former days

To subjects worse have given admiring praise.”

Another and more familiar quote from Edmund Burke states:

“Those who don't know history are destined to repeat it.”

Burke’s statement on the value of history was slightly modified by the Spanish poet and novelist George Santayana and has become the axiom for the value of history:

“Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

There are many people in this nation that have no knowledge or connection to History. This malady usually affects liberals and progressives. This has been proven many times through tests given college and university students as they enter and exit their college studies. They begin their higher education with a woeful lack of knowledge of history and geography and graduate with little more. It appears as though Shakespeare, Burke and Santayana saw the same condition.

With this preface I will now get on to what happened on this day in history 128 years ago.

On this day in 1885, the dismantled State of Liberty, a gift of friendship from the people of France to the people of America, arrived in New York Harbor after being shipped across the Atlantic Ocean in 350 individual pieces packed in more than 200 cases. The copper and iron statue, which was reassembled and dedicated the following year in a ceremony presided over by U.S. President Grover Cleveland, became known around the world as an enduring symbol of freedom and democracy.

Intended to commemorate the American Revolution and a century of friendship between the U.S. and France, the statue was designed by French sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi (who modeled it after his own mother), with assistance from engineer Gustave Eiffel, who later developed the iconic tower in Paris bearing his name.

Bartholdi was inspired by French law professor and politician Édouard René de Laboulaye, who commented in 1865 that any monument raised to American independence would properly be a joint project of the French and American peoples. Due to the troubled political situation in France, work on the statue did not commence until the early 1870s. In 1875, Laboulaye proposed that the French finance the statue and the Americans provide the site and build the pedestal. Bartholdi completed the head and the torch-bearing arm before the statue was fully designed, and these pieces were exhibited for publicity at international expositions.

The statue was initially scheduled to be finished by 1876, the 100th anniversary of America’s Declaration of Independence; however, fundraising efforts, which included auctions, a lottery and boxing matches, took U.S._Patent_D11023longer than anticipated, both in Europe and the U.S., where the statue’s pedestal was to be financed and constructed. The statue alone cost the French an estimated $250,000 (more than $5.5 million in today’s money).

Finally completed in Paris in the summer of 1884, the statue, a robed female figure with an uplifted arm holding a torch, reached its new home on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor (between New York City and Hudson County, New Jersey) on June 17, 1885. After being reassembled, the 450,000-pound statue was officially dedicated on October 28, 1886, by President Cleveland, who said, “We will not forget that Liberty has here made her home; nor shall her chosen altar be neglected.” Standing more than 305 feet from the foundation of its pedestal to the top of its torch, the statue, dubbed “Liberty Enlightening the World” by Bartholdi, was taller than any structure in New York City at the time. The statue was originally copper-colored, but over the years it underwent a natural color-change process called patination that produced its current greenish-blue hue.

In 1892, Ellis Island, located near Bedloe's Island (which in 1956 was renamed Liberty Island), opened as America’s chief immigration station, and for the next 62 years Lady Liberty, as the statue is nicknamed, stood watch over the more than 12 million immigrants who sailed into New York Harbor. In 1903, a plaque inscribed with a sonnet titled “The New Colossus” by American poet Emma Lazarus, written 20 years earlier for a pedestal fundraiser, was placed on an interior wall of the pedestal. Lazarus’ now-famous words, which include “Give me your tired, your poor/Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” became symbolic of America’s vision of itself as a land of opportunity for immigrants.

Some 60 years after President Calvin Coolidge designated the statue a national monument in 1924, it underwent a multi-million-dollar restoration (which included a new torch and gold leaf-covered flame) and was rededicated by President Ronald Reagan on July 4, 1986, in a lavish celebration. Following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, the statue was closed; its base, pedestal and observation deck re-opened in 2004, while its crown re-opened to the public on July 4, 2009. (For safety reasons, the torch has been closed to visitors since 1916, after an incident called the Black Tom explosions in which munitions-laden barges and railroad cars on the Jersey City, New Jersey, waterfront were blown up by German agents, causing damage to the nearby statue.)

The statue was administered by the United States Lighthouse Board until 1901 and then by the Department of War; since 1933 it has been maintained by the National Park Service. The statue was closed for renovation for much of 1938. In the early 1980s, it was found to have deteriorated to such an extent that a major restoration was required. While the statue was closed from 1984 to 1986, the torch and a large part of the internal structure were replaced.

There are several plaques and dedicatory tablets on or near the Statue of Liberty. A plaque on the copper just under the figure in front declares that it is a colossal statue representing Liberty, designed by Bartholdi and built by the Paris firm of Gaget, Gauthier et Cie (Cie is the French abbreviation analogous to Co.). A presentation tablet, also bearing Bartholdi's name, declares the statue to be a gift from the people of the Republic of France that honors "the Alliance of the two Nations in achieving the Independence of the United States of America and attests their abiding friendship There is a tablet placed by the New York committee that commemorates the fundraising done to build the pedestal. The cornerstone also bears a plaque placed by the Freemasons

In 1903, a bronze tablet that bears the text of "The New Colossus" and commemoratesEmma_Lazarus_plaque (1) Emma Lazarus was presented by friends of the poet. Until the 1986 renovation, it was mounted inside the pedestal; today it resides in the Statue of Liberty Museum in the base. It is accompanied by a tablet given by the Emma Lazarus Commemorative Committee in 1977, celebrating the poet's life. The plaque reads:

“Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,

With conquering limbs astride from land to land;

Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand

A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame

Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name

Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

"Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!" cries she

With silent lips. "Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

(The giant of Greek fame refers to the Colossus of Rhodes)

A group of statues stands at the western end of the island, honoring those closely associated with the Statue of Liberty. Two Americans—Pulitzer and Lazarus—and three Frenchmen—Bartholdi, Laboulaye, and Eiffel—are depicted. They are the work of Maryland sculptor Phillip Ratner

After the September 11 attacks in 2001, it was closed for reasons of safety and security; the pedestal reopened in 2004 and the statue in 2009, with limits on the number of visitors allowed to ascend to the crown. The statue, including the pedestal and base, was closed for a year until October 28, 2012, so that a secondary staircase and other safety features could be installed; Liberty Island remained open. However, one day after the reopening, Liberty Island closed due to the effects of Hurricane Sandy, and the island remains off limits to the public. Public access to the balcony surrounding the torch has been barred for safety reasons since 1916. The statue will reopen to the public by July 4, 2013.

From the 1890s until the beginning of World War One millions of immigrants passed beneath Lady Liberty as they made their way to our immigration facilities at Ellis Island. They mostly came from Western, Eastern, and Southern Europe. They were Poles, Hungarians, Italians, Germans, Romanians, and Irish. They came as individuals and as families and needed sponsors in the United States.

Beginning in 1892, immigrants to the United States were subject to a medical inspection,Ellis_Island_arrivals created to restrict the entry of persons with a "loathsome or dangerous contagious" disease, like tuberculosis or mental deficiency.

Ellis Island, which received over 10 million newcomers between 1900 and 1914, served as the largest ever medical screening facility. Far from reflecting a unified policy, the medical inspection offered a complicated compromise amidst a swirl of competing interests. Many industrialists blamed the waves of Southern and Eastern European immigrants for urban joblessness, filth, unrest, overcrowding, and disease. In an era of depression, labor groups opposed immigrant competitors for scarce jobs. Nativists believed immigrants could not overcome their defects because these were genetically transmitted. Germ theory proponents recognized communication of microorganisms as the problem, with controlling the spread of infections as the solution. Many Progressive reformers held that the scientific screening of immigrants offered a systematic solution for the disorder.

Dozens of immigrant aid societies struggled to attenuate the effects of the inspection, and as depression subsided after 1900, employers, too, favored the influx of immigrants.

At the examination the immigrants are asked to show their money. Some craftily failed to show it all; others willingly displayed their whole petty hoardings. The money was carefully counted, and, after a record had been taken, restored to them. Later, they are asked if they wish any money changed. Many refuse for fear of being cheated; others stop before the busy money-changers' booth at the end of the long examination room.

In 1901 388,931 immigrants showed $5,490,080, an average of $14.12 The French led all the others with an average of $39.37. The Hebrews stood at the foot of the list bringing on an average $8.58. The Germans followed the French with an average of $31.14. The other nationalities stood in the list as follows:

Race Average per Capita

  • Italians (Northern) $23.53
  • Bohemian and Moravian $22.78
  • Scandinavian $18.16
  • Irish $17.10
  • Armenian $15.75
  • Croatian and Dalmatians $15.54
  • Greek $15.10
  • Slovak $12.31 Magyar $10.96
  • Italian (Southern) $8.67

Roughly speaking, the North-of-Europe people were considered to make better citizens than those from the South of Europe. The better class would go to the country and the worst to the cities unless they had a sponsor waiting for them. Greeks were considered about the least desirable of all; the Italians from the southern portion of the peninsula also were considered to make poor citizens; but those from the northern part of Italy ranked with the Swiss and other desirable nationalities.

A few of the notable immigrants passing through Ellis Island were:

Annie Moore


First arrival through Ellis Island

Antonius Dvorak



Fritz Austerlitz


Father of dancer Fred Astaire

Rudyard Kipling


Writer, Poet

Israel Beilin


Composer/Musician Irving Berlin

Moses Teichman


Dancer Arthur Murray

Angelo Siciliano


Bodybuilder Charles Atlas

William Claude Fields


Comedian W.C. Fields

Enrico Caruso


Musician, Opera singer

Johann Weissmuller


Actor and Olympian Johnny Weissmuller

Henry Youngman


Comedian Henny Youngman

John & Mable Ringling


Circus Owner

Giacomo Puccini


Opera composer

Gustav Mahler


Composer, musician

Leslie Hape


Actor/Comedian Bob Hope

Arturo Toscanini


Musical Conductor (1 of 5 arrivals)

Carl Jung



Sigmund Freud



Lily Chauchoin


Actress Claudette Colbert

Arthur Stanley Jefferson


Stan Laurel of Laurel and Hardy

Barbara West


Titanic Survivor

Charles Chaplin


Actor/Director Charlie Chaplin

Leopold Stokowski


Musical Conductor

Madeline Astor


Titanic Survivor

Woodrow Wilson


U.S. President

Rodolfo Guglielmi


Silent actor Rudolph Valentino

Harry Houdini



Javier Cugat


Violinist, Bandleader

Pablo Casals


Master cellist, musician

Sergei Rachmaninoff


Composer, conductor, pianist

Walter Elias Disney


Pioneering entertainer

William Tyson


Father of actress Cicely Tyson

Archibald Alec Leach


Film star Cary Grant

Bela Lugosi


Actor, Count Dracula

Albert Einstein


Professor, Nobel Prize in Physics

Cole Porter


Composer, songs and musicals

Ernst Lubitsch


Film Director

F. Scott Fitzgerald


American novelist

George M. Cohan


Songwriter / Composer

Leslie Howard


Actor, Gone with the Wind

Maurice Chevalier


Comedian, Actor

Joseph Conrad



Pietro Berra


Father of Yogi Berra

George Gershwin


Composer, songs and musicals

Jascha Heifetz


Master Violinist

For a more comprehensive list of famous immigrants please click here

In 1911 three not so famous immigrants passed through Ellis Island on the way to meet their sponsor in Cleveland, Ohio. They were my maternal grandparents and their 2-year old son Joseph. As they came from Hungary they were tagged with their nationality “Magyar” — the Hungarian name for Hungary. When they immigration official saw the tag he entered “Major” in as the last name for Joseph, Rose, and their little boy Joseph.

The Majors arrived in Cleveland and settled in the Hungarian community on Cleveland’s east side. Joe Sr. soon found work and a year later my mother was born and four years after that my aunt Elizabeth.

Joe Sr. and Rose never became citizens and had to register as an alien each year at a post office. Joe Jr. received his citizenship while serving in the U.S. Army during WWII where he was attached to a tank destroyer unit in Patton’s Third Army in FranceStatue_of_Liberty_frontal_2. Joe Jr. received several medals including a Purple Heart for his actions during the Battle of the Bulge.

The Major family like so many other immigrant families during the period from 1890 to 1914 brought no real skills except their willingness to work and raise children that would go on to help build this nation. They worked in the mills, factories, and on the farms. They did not take government assistance and paid their taxes. They came here legally under a quota system and abided by the rules. Their children went on to become part of the “greatest generation” and their children’s children became the “baby boomers.”

Today, the Statue of Liberty is one of America’s most famous landmarks. Over the years, it has been the site of political rallies and protests (from suffragettes to anti-war activists), has been featured in numerous movies and countless photographs, and has received millions of visitors from around the globe.

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