What comes to mind when you think of the Statue of Liberty? America, freedom, democracy. Her image is immediately recognized around the world as an ambassador for the United States and icon of the American dream. She has been the focal point of many a celebration over the years and in several cases, the gracious hostess (and waypoint) for aerial races and demonstrations. In celebration of her 125th anniversary, we gathered a few images, objects, and posters that feature inspiring views of Lady Liberty in the context of flight.
Wilbur Wright was contracted for $15,000 to make a series of flights during the two-week Hudson-Fulton Celebration in 1909, which was commemorating the 300th anniversary of Henry Hudson’s first entry into what would become New York Harbor, and the centennial of Robert Fulton’s first voyage of his North River Steamboat up the Hudson River in 1809. Wilbur made a seven-minute flight on September 29th , circling the Statue of Liberty. On October 4th, he made a long-distance flight of more than 33 minutes and approximately 20 miles from Governor’s Island to Grant’s Tomb and back, again circling the Statue of Liberty. It is estimated that a million people witnessed Wilbur’s flight up the Hudson from Governor’s Island. For these flights, Wilbur attached a red canoe under the airplane as a make-shift pontoon in the event he was forced down in the water. The canoe survives and today is on display in Carillon Historical Park in Dayton, Ohio.
John Bevins Moisant flew over New York Harbor in 1910 in a Blériot XI monoplane. This flight took place during the Statue of Liberty Flight prize race on October 27, 1910. The race was the final event in one of the first major flying meetings held in the U.S., the International Aviation Tournament at Belmont Park, NY.
Lady Liberty appears frequently in memorabilia commemorating Charles Lindbergh’s historic solo transatlantic flight from New York to Paris. On this clock, displayed at the Museum’s Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center, the Statue of Liberty represents New York (America) while the Eiffel Tower represents Paris (Europe) with the Spirit of St. Louis flying between them. Not to scale, of course.
Bill Bennett played a key role in the initial development of hang gliding in the U.S. He was a spectacular promoter of the sport and stirred publicity for his tow-kites when he flew near the Statue of Liberty on July 4, 1969, released his towrope and circled the monument twice, landing at its base. Several of his gliders are in our collection.
In 1986, a major celebration was held for the restoration and 100 year anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. Liberty Weekend included a blimp race and flyover by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds aerial demonstration team. We don’t have any images from Liberty Weekend handy, but here is a great shot of the Thunderbirds with Lady Liberty in 2005.
Over the years, the Statue of Liberty has symbolized many things, Freedom, Enlightenment, Compassion, Acceptance to all those arriving in the land of opportunity — what does she mean to you?