New York City

The Real Reason the Statue of Liberty Is Green

Lady Liberty did not arrive in the United States looking the way she does now.

What to Know

  • Natural weathering and oxidation turned the shiny copper structure into the green color we see today.
  • The Statue of Liberty underwent extensive restoration in 1986.
  • The monument reopened its tours to the crown on Oct. 11 after being closed for over 2 years during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The iconic Statue of Liberty shines bright green in the New York Harbor, but NYC natives and tourists alike may be surprised to find that the monument has not always looked this way. 

According to the National Park Service, the statue was dedicated to the United States by the people of France in 1886. The monument stands over 300 feet tall from the ground to the tip of the torch.

The landmark's website explains that Lady Liberty’s green color is called "patina," and it comes from the natural weathering of copper surfaces.

Oxidation occurs when any element chemically combines with oxygen.

According to Reader’s Digest, the copper’s shiny metallic surface began oxidizing upon assembly, quickly turning the exterior into a dark brown mineral coating called tenorite. This tenorite and oxidized copper then mixed with the sulfuric acid in the air to create the green color we see today.

The National Park Service's website states that the Statue of Liberty - Ellis Island Foundation was created under Ronald Reagan’s presidency in 1982 to raise money for a restoration during the monument’s centennial in 1986.  The statue’s torch was severely damaged and replaced with an exact replica during this time.  The restoration also involved repairing holes in the copper exterior and reinforcing its interior with stainless steel bars.

Public tours up to the crown of the Statue of Liberty resumed on Oct. 11 after being shut down for over two years during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Tickets to Liberty Island can be purchased through Statue City Cruises, the National Park Service's official ferry service provider.

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