The Statue of Liberty originally called Liberty Enlightening the World symbolizing liberty in the form of a woman wearing flowing robes and a spiked crown of seven spokes (symbolizing the seven oceans and the seven continents) who holds a torch aloft in her right hand and carries in her left a book of law inscribed "July 4, 1776". The broken chains, symbolizing the overthrow of tyranny, lie at her feet.

Originally conceived as a gesture of international friendship, the statue has become global symbol of freedom.

The giant sculpture, designed by the French sculptor Frèdèric Bartholdi, was given by France to the United States to commemoraten the centennial of US independence and Bartholdi`s intention was to honor the idea of liberty.

Historical records make no mention of the source of the copper used in The Statue of Liberty.

The solution to one of the Statue of Liberty`s last remaining mysteries, the source of her copper skin, has been found at the end of a trail that leads to 1 Commupaw Ave, Jersey City, New Jersey from a defunet copper mine on a Norwegian Island in the North Sea.

It has been widely rumored that the copper used in the building of the Statue came from Visnes Coppermines at Karmoy, a small rocky island near Stavanger in Norway. Copper from the statue was analyzed, and it has now been confirmed that it was indeed extracted in Norway. The missing link in the history of the statue`s mystery is solved.

Enter the golden door!

The New Colossus

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-post to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door !

by Emma Lazarus, New York City, 1883


It has been widely rumored that the copper used in the building of the Statue of Liberty in New Jersey came from Visnes Copper Mines at Karmoy near Stavanger in Norway. In the autumn of 1985 copper from the statue was analyzed and it has now been confirmed that it was indeed extracted at Visnes.

Historical records make no mention of the source of the copper used in the construction of the Statue of Liberty, although a local tradition suggests that the copper came from the French-owned Visnes Mine near Stavanger, Norway. Records show that ore from this mine, refined in France and Belgium, was a significant source of European copper in the late nineteenth century. To investigate further the origin of the statue`s copper, "Bell Laboratories" in New Jersey, USA, have analyzed the samples of copper from the Visnes Mines and from the Statue of Liberty by emission spectography. A comparison of the presence and concentration of metallic impurities show the two samples to be very similar, and a review of historical and geographical information on possible suppliers of the copper suggests that the Visnes Mine is a very likely source. "Bell Laboratories" conclude that it is highly probable that the copper from the Visnes Mine was used for the Statue of Liberty, and that the metallurgical evidence argues strongly that the copper comes from Norway.

The Statue of Liberty ("Liberty Enlightening the World" by Frèdèric Aguste Bartoldi) in New Jersey waters outside New York Harbor is sheathed in copper of average thickness 2 mm. The statue is 50 m high and some 80 metric tons of copper was required for its fabrication. It is probable that few projects before or since the Statue`s construction in 1876-1885 ever required as much copper. Nonetheless, no historical records have yet been found to indicate positively the source of copper.

One of the mines which provided high-purity ore to the European metals industry in the late nineteenth century was the Visnes Mine in Norway. This mine was in operation throughout much of the latter half of the ninetenth century, and local tradition has it that copper from the mine was uses for the Statue of Liberty. In an attempt to obtain further information concerning the copper origin, "Bell Laboratories" have analyzed samples of copper from an instrument from the Visnes Mine and from the Statue of Liberty. This paper lists and discusses the sources of European copper during the period when the statue was built, describes briefly the history of the Visnes Mine, presents the analytic results of the examinations. and discusses the implications of the findings for establishing the origin of the Statue copper.

Sources and characteristics of nineteenth century European copper

Copper has been mined in Europe for millenia, but a handful of deposits provided nearly all copper used in Europe in the nineteenth century. The English mines at Cornwall and Devon were the world`s largest producers of copper ore during the first half of the nineteenth century. By the latter part of the nineteenth century, they had been supplanted by Montana and Arizona mines in North America and by the Rio Tinto mine in the Huelva Province of Spain in Europe. Copper ore was also derived from the Mansfield mines in Germany and in a number of relativeliy small deposits in Norway. Negligible amounts of copper-bearing ore were mined in France.

From consideration of geography, one would anticipate that among the convenient sources of refined copper for a Paris sculptor would be Swansea, England, where the British ore was refined. Hamburg, Germany, where the German ore was refined. Huelva, Spain, a major source of copper where the German ore was refined. Huelva, Spain, a major source of copper for centuries, or ore mined in Norway and refined on the continent.

In the 1870`s one of the most active of the Norwegian copper mines was at Visnes, a community situated on the island of Karmoy on the west coast. The copper at this site was discovered in 1865 and the mine constructed under the direction of Charles Defrance, a French mining engineer.

Defrance was employed by a mining company in Antwerp, Belgium. This company owned ore processing plants in France and Belgium and a refinery at Hemixen, Belgium (near Antwerp). The corporation formed to develop the Visnes ore body, Sociètè des Mines et Usines de Cuivre de Visnes, used the same processing and refining facilities, but had its headquarters in Paris.

During the 1865-1890 period the Visnes ore, a high grade pyrite-complex copper ore with zinc, was shipped to sulfuric acid plants in Dunkirk, France and Antwerp, Belgium. The location of the Visnes mine on the North Sea made transportation of the ore relatively convenient.

The premium grade Visnes ore had an average content of 3.5% copper, 3% zinc and 44% sulfur. After it was roasted to manufacture sulfuric acid and to form the copper oxide, the ore was shipped to the copper leaching plant at Hemixen. There the copper was put into solution (probably by dilute sulfuric acid leaching) and then precipitated out on iron to produce cement copper. The production during the 1870s and 1880s reached as much as 3.000 metric tons of copper per year.

Although details of the metallurgical processing are not certain, one can presume the cement copper was melted and cast at Hemixen. It is not known whether the cast copper was rolled to sheet at Hemixen or at some other plant.

It is a special treat to know where the copper, used to construct the World`s most famous Statue of Liberty, was mined and how the miners lived and worked at extracting this metal from the earth.

Discovery of Copper at Visnes in Norway - today a Mining Community Museum

In 1865 a rich copper ore was discovered in Gronnevik at Visnes, on the western side of Karmoy island. By 1895 the mine had been excavated to a depth of 730 m under the sea level, and 1,8 mill. tons of copper ore had been extracted. During these years, up to 70% of Norway`s copper export came from Visnes, which at that time was one of North-Europes largest mines.

Thanks to the mining regulations operative at that time, the Belgian and French owners were allowed to run their activities free from undue interference. The local authorities exercised very little control. The mining companies had their own health service complete with doctors and hospital, their own school system, and mining staff were the resident policemen.

In operation from 1865 - 1895, extracted 1,4 mill. tons of copper ore. Extracted and exported 850.000 tons of copper enriched mineral. In operation from 1899 - 1972, extracted and exported 1,3 mill. tons of copper enriched mineral.

The mining began using compressed air driven drills as early as 1875. This resulted twice as much ore being extracted from the ore. As long as the rock wasn`t too hard, it was possible with a hand drill and mallet to advance by 12 to 17m in a month (25 days). By using aircompression drills it was possible to advance by 20-30m over the same period of time. The Copper Mine Museum also has in its collection the first electric lightbulb, put into use at the the mine. That was as early as 1870.

Several bridle paths were made in the northern part of the property. They still exists, and form a network of paths crossing the landscape which is not common for the west coast of Norway. The paths are broad and level, so level in fact that even wheelchairs can be used in this woody terrain. Although a strong north-west wind can sometimes blow in the headland, the bordering wood provides shelter for those using the paths.

The nature around Visnes at that time, a wasteland covered by heather and juniper, was not wery inspiring. The mines first director, Charles de France, decided to create a more appealing landscape for his Southern-European workers. A number of beautiful gardens were subsequently designed and planted.

Nine ovens were utilised to produce powered copper and enriched copper ore. Useful by-products were zinc oxide and sulphur. The smelting works was in operation from 1872 - 1887. On the rocks stretching out into the sea there are many remains of gun posts, trenches and bunkers. All these relics bear witness to lively activity in the days of the war.

In the old mining area you will find a beautiful park area, including "Fransehagen", named after the first director, Charles de France, Visnes mining museum and the old mine.

Letter dated September 5, 1873

Please sign the Statue of Liberty GuestPAD

Photo: Thomas Miller - Webmaster: Michael Holmboe Meyer

Stavanger History Guide
Norway`s 1st Pavilion on EXPO 96


Last modified: February 23, 1997

You are # visiting this site since October 30, 1996

This site is included within the history section of global pavilion by
World Fair Secreatariat EXPO 96, October 31. 1996

Old letter and Vigsnes Coppermine logo by Paal Kjeldsen Animated flag by The Page Stavanger logo by Seeger`s Art


Vigsnes Copper Museum
Director: Olaf Selmer Aarsheim
N-4262 Avaldsnes