THE STATUE OF LIBERTY
Legend has it that Frenchman Edouard de Laboulaye first came up with the idea for France to present a monument to the United States in 1865. He inspired his friend, a sculptor named Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, to design an enormous sculpture. Both French and US officials decided to name it Liberty Enlightening the World. They planned for the US to build the pedestal, because the French were to create the statue in France and then ship it across the ocean.
All was going well until they hit an obstacle on both sides: how to pay for it. France raised funds from a variety of sources, from schoolchildren to copper manufacturers. In the US, events, art exhibits, and auctions did not raise enough money. Poet Emma Lazarus wrote her famous sonnet, The New Colossus, in 1883, for the art and literary auction to raise money for the statue’s pedestal.
Back in France, Bartholi needed the help of an engineer to figure out how to support the 151-foot copper figure. He asked Alexandre Gustave Eiffel (who later built the Eiffel Tower) to design a framework. Eiffel used an innovative iron construction to help the skin of the statue resist cracking and stand upright.
Back in America, fundraising was moving quite slowly. Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of a newspaper called the New York World, criticized the rich who failed to give money for the pedestal, as well as the middle class who relied on the rich to give the money. After Pulitzer’s criticism, the money intake for the pedestal increased greatly.
Then came architect Richard Morris Hunt, who designed the statue’s concrete-and-granite pedestal. The cornerstone was laid in 1884. He donated his pay to fund the statue. Finally, after daily donation calls in Pulitzer’s paper, construction on the pedestal was finished in 1886.
The statue from France had already arrived by then. It was completed on July 1884 and came to New York in June 1885 on board the French boat Isere. It traveled in 214 crates holding 350 individual pieces. Lady Liberty was reassembled on her pedestal in four month’s time. To this day, she represents not only the generosity of France and the collaboration between the two countries, but also maybe a newfound friendship between France and the United States.