You may already know that a Viking was the first European to discover America, some 500 years before Columbus did. But did you know that the birthplace of the Statue of Liberty is also in Norway? It’s true – and Visnes, a small village on Karmøy island in Rogaland county, has its own miniature version of Lady Liberty to celebrate this fact.
From a humble hamlet to a thriving mining town
You may not guess it today, but back in 1882, Visnes was considered to be Norway’s largest workplace, and it was all thanks to copper. Visnes Copper Mine, the largest and most modern in Northern Europe at the time, first opened in 1865, and transformed the area around it. In just a few years, the hamlet at Visnes was transformed into a modern town. It had almost 3,000 inhabitants, and access to the top technological advances of the era such as pneumatic drills and the telephone (just four years after its invention); it even boasted electric lighting.
Behind the operation of the mine, and the innovations that followed it, was a French engineer called Charles Defrance, and this was perhaps how it came to be that a certain statue, gifted by the people of France to the people of the United States, was crafted from copper from the Visnes mine.
All that glitters is… copper?
We say ‘perhaps’, because until very recently there was no way to verify this story, as the mine’s old records were destroyed in a fire. But on the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty, back in the 1980s, researchers and historians started investigating the statue’s origins, and made the connection with the French-owned copper mine in Visnes. Finally, in 1986, the copper from the Statue of Liberty was tested against the copper at Visnes and was determined to be a positive match, proving that the birthplace of the statue is, indeed, this little village in western Norway. A smaller replica of the statue was then built in Visnes to commemorate this fact.
If you ask the people of Visnes, though, they claim that they knew all along that their hometown gave birth to Lady Liberty. And given that the discovery of America by Europeans was also originally made by a Northman, we think this is entirely fitting.