That most recognizable phrase associated with the Statue of Liberty – “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” – is actually a two-decade later addition. These words are not inscribed on the Statue of Liberty and they were never foreseen as part of the statue's symbolic message by French sculptor and statue creator Frederic Bartholdi. The phrase is part of a poem affixed inside Miss Liberty's pedestal, inscribed on a plaque later added there in 1903. The Statue of Liberty was officially dedicated and unveiled on October 28, 1886. Those now cherished words are taken from a sonnet "New Colossus," written in 1883 by the wealthy New York City Jewish activist, emigrant advocate, socialite, and elite American Poet Miss Emma Lazarus (1849-1887). Her poem was published as part of a fund-raising auction that helped finance engineering and construction costs of the Statue of Liberty pedestal. Selected lines from Miss Lazarus' poem were later mounted on a plaque some nineteen years after statue construction was finished. The single original statue inscription is found on the tablet Miss Liberty holds in her left hand – “JULY IV MDCCLXXVI” [aka: July 4, 1776].
Liberty construction commenced in Paris in 1875, a time intended in part to recognize the centennial year of “The Shot Heard Round The World” at the Lexington-Concord events that opened the Revolutionary War, and that valuable later alliance of French and new United States of America Forces during the American Revolution. Those now famous words “Give me your tired, your poor...” became fixed to the Statue of Liberty only after the largely forgotten Lazarus poem was rediscovered in 1901, some seventeen years after poet Lazarus's death. A friend and fellow New York City socialite Georgina Schuyler discovered the poem in an old bookshop and actively commenced a civic effort to resurrect those lost words as tribute to her departed friend Miss Emma Lazarus. Schuyler's successful efforts yielded the addition of a plaque containing the last five lines of Miss Lazarus's poem as placed inside the Statue of Liberty pedestal. Later in 1945, a plaque presenting the entire fourteen-line sonnet was installed just inside the statue pedestal main entrance.
Full text of the sonnet “New Colossus”
– by Emma Lazarus, New York City, 1883
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-tossed to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"