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Thursday, April 18, 2024

Norway’s own link to Lady Liberty

As the US celebrated the 125th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty on Friday, many Norwegians are still claiming their own link to the legendary monument in New York’s harbour. Not only have hundreds of thousands of Norwegian immigrants sailed by the statue, and been part of the huddled masses processed through nearby Ellis Island, the statue itself is believed to be constructed from Norwegian raw materials.

The replica of the Statue of Liberty in the island town of Visnes on Norway's west coast. PHOTO: Wikipedia Commons

So strong is the claim that the copper for the statue came from a mine in Norway, not least by the Olavsrosa Foundation Norwegian Heritage (external link), that there’s actually a replica of the statue in the west-coast community where the mine is located.

The statue at Visnes in Rogaland County, near Haugesund on the island of Karmøy, commemorates not just the real Statue of Liberty but the Vigsnes Mining Field and its vein that provided the copper for the statue. The vein was discovered in 1865 and it was so productive that it reportedly provided around 70 percent of Norway’s copper export in the late 1800s.

The copper mine itself was owned at the time by a French company, Japy Fréres, which donated all the copper used in the Statue of Liberty.

Much of the documentation that the copper actually came from Visnes, however, was destroyed by fire and newspaper Aftenposten reported that a Norwegian filmmaker tried last year to get new documentation. French sources, however, were not cooperative so the actual original copper was hard to trace.

As Aftenposten noted, though, school children in Visnes’ first-grade classes have long been taught at least two things: The text to Fader Vår (the Lord’s Prayer) and that copper from their own local mines dressed the Statue of Liberty (often called Frihetsgudinnen in Norwegian).

Even without the documentation, there is another Norwegian claim to the statue: Part of its actual construction was overseen by a Norwegian engineer, Joachim Gotsche Giæver, one of the many immigrants to the US.

Views and News from Norway/Nina Berglund

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