If you’re getting ready to take a citizenship exam, here’s the answer to question 127: New York Harbor. Or New Jersey. Or Liberty Island or the middle of the Hudson River. The fact is, the answer to Where is the Statue of Liberty? is all of the above because of a lot of wrangling over the New York-New Jersey border from the get-go.
Liberty Island used to be Bedloe’s Island. It’s clearly on the Jersey side of the line, but it was privately owned in 1768 when the Corporation of the City of New York bought it and ceded it to the federal government for military use. The army built a star-shaped land battery which later came to be called Fort Wood and later still became the base for the Statue of Liberty. As a result of many court cases, the island is legally an enclave of New York City, but the land under water all around it belongs to New Jersey.
Whatever. It’s all run by the National Park Service of course and on this day in 1884, the cornerstone for the statue’s pedestal was laid. About ten months later, the statue arrived, but it had to wait at the dock for another ten months while funding was found for the base.
Most of the bay between New York and New Jersey was filled with oyster beds when the Dutch arrived. Oysters were a food source for everybody for the next three hundred years, but they disappeared when the railroads filled in the edges of the bay to lay track and build docks.
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Today’s dubious historical fact is that on August 5, 1890, Britain and France divided Africa between them. Actually, Britain, France, Belgium, Portugal and Germany divvied up the continent over the course of a year from 1884 to 1885 at something called the Berlin Conference. They made up their own rules about who could play and what they could keep. Only Liberia and Abyssinia (Ethiopia) escaped their clutches.