The town of Boonton, New Jersey was a small town built by men of iron: nailers, puddlers and blacksmiths. And in 1884, the Boonton Iron Mill was the economic mainstay of the New Jersey villagers. But for months, the excitement that had been swirling through the pubs and shops of Boonton was the possibility of new iron jobs.
And these iron jobs would not be at the mill.
They would be jobs of a different kind: locally skilled blacksmiths needed to craft the iron girders of a mason pedestal. A very, very large pedestal. One that would hold a massive statue in the New York harbor.
Listening to William's announcement, George was instantly drawn away in thought. Working as his own man, he had felt success with his little blacksmith shop on the corner of Birch and Union in the center of Boonton. But to grab an element of history pulled at his heartstrings.
As the grandson of an Irish immigrant, George was awestruck with the idea of putting his hand to the building of the pedestal of the great statue. Though his work would be minor in scale, participating would have deep meaning for him.
And so, George Jones locked up the little blacksmith shop on Birch and Union streets and drove his wagon 30 miles to the New York harbor. Gleaming with the anticipation of rolling and burning iron for the French statue's pedestal.
As France was building the Statue of Liberty in the early 1880's, the American people agreed to design and build the pedestal the statue would sit upon. The construction of the pedestal, designed by the American architect Richard Morris Hunt, was completed on April 22, 1886. The statue itself had been completed in France in July 1884, but due to a lag in American financing of the pedestal, the statue sat in France for two years, waiting for its delivery.
The two sets of iron girders built into the enormous pedestal are connected by iron beams that carry upward into the framework of the statue, clamping the two constructions together, making them one. And though there will likely never be documentation found of my great grandfather George Jones providing his craft to its construction, the story of his involvement has been passed down with great pride.
There is another story that has held over the years; one that includes all of the masons and blacksmiths working on the statue's pedestal. As the last stone was placed into the pedestal, the workers reached into their pockets and tossed their own silver coins into the mortar. Perhaps symbolizing the workingman's financial contribution to the construction of the pedestal.
The Statue of Liberty closed on October 29th to begin a yearlong upgrade project. All of the interiors, including the statue, pedestal and crown, will be refurbished for the 125th anniversary. But visitors can still view the statue and its pedestal via the webcams placed strategically around the monument.
Take a few moments and complete a virtual tour of your monument; the Statue of Liberty. And utilize the Ellis Island.org's wonderful search engine to find your immigrant ancestors.
And pause to remember that some of our ancestors not only passed through the Ellis Island port; but many also used their skilled hands to build the foundation that the Statue of Liberty sits upon.
Keep searching for answers,
(Source: The National Park Service)