Lonely Planet Writer

Research shows that the iconic green Statue of Liberty was actually once red in color

The Statue of Liberty’s unusual color is so well known that people often refer to that blue-green hue as simply Liberty Green. Yet the world’s most famous statue did not always look that way and over the course of her first thirty years would have changed color several times.

The iconic blue-green colored Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty Image by Frank Schiefelbein EyeEm

Gifted by France to the United States, Lady Liberty has, since her dedication in 1886, stood guard over New York Harbor. When it was first unveiled to the public however, it was actually a reddish brown colour. Over time, it turned first a dull chocolate brown before lastly taking on the blue-green colour that we all know – and love – so well today.

Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor
Staten Island ferry passes the Statue of Liberty in NewYork Harbor. Image by: Christopher Penler/ ShutterstockRF

To celebrate the landmark’s changing looks, the American Chemical Society has put together a video describing exactly the science behind the Statue of Liberty’s evolution. As they explain, the 305-foot statue contains thirty tonnes of copper, enough to make 435 million one cent coins.And that is exactly the colour the Statue of Liberty would have started out with – the familiar reddish-brown we would recognise from our one cent or one penny coins.
Leaving Lady Liberty out in the air has had an oxidising effect and over the course of its first thirty years transformed its appearance.

A combination of oxygen, rain, and sea spray all combined to turn her blue-green. Interestingly, when the statue first began changing colour, there was considerable debate over restoring it back to its original hue.

For almost everybody now living, the Statue of Liberty has never been anything but blue-green so any future plans to change back her colour are unlikely to gather much support.