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Statue of Liberty a symbol of hope and friendship.

More than any other symbol, the Statue of Liberty expresses the nature of the United States as a nation of boundless freedom, opportunity and possibility.

The statue was a gift to the American people from the people of France. The idea for it originated at a dinner party in 1865, when French historian and law professor, Edouard Rene de Laboulaye, proposed a gift to tighten the bond between the two countries. Like many of his time, Laboulaye was enamored of the United States, studying and writing about the nation and its beginnings. He suggested that a monument be built as a memorial of America's independence, and he thought it only right that the project be the work of both nations.

The idea resonated with another guest at the party Frederic August Bartholdi, a sculptor from Alsace, France. He was a recognized artist in France, having received his first commission when he was only 18. He recently had traveled through Egypt and returned with the dream of building a huge monument like the pyramids that would last for ages.

In 1871, at the urging of Laboulaye, Bartholdi traveled to the United States. In New York City the harbor, and particularly Bedloe's Island, captured his imagination. He envisioned it as the perfect site for his monument. He had earlier sketched a woman holding a torch in the air for a possible lighthouse, but the project had never materialized, so he resurrected it for America.

Bartholdi spent five months traveling the country, meeting many influential Americans including Mormon leader Brigham Young; Horace Greeley, who was the editor of the New York Tribune; poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow; and President Ulysses S. Grant. Every person he visited was fascinated by the idea and Bartholdi's enthusiasm, but no one offered any support for the project.

Bartholdi returned to France and began planning his statue, which he called Liberty Enlightening the World. Since France was in political turmoil at the time, Laboulaye and Bartholdi felt the timing wasn't right to introduce the project to the French people.

In 1874, Laboulaye judged. that it was time for public discussions about the proposed gift to the United States. It soon became apparent that the French would not be able to raise all the funds needed, and it was decided that the French would bear the cost of the statue, while the Americans paid for the foundation and pedestal.

Bartholdi used copper for the statue. The metal was light, easy to work with and strong enough to stand up to a long ocean voyage. It also would hold up well in the salty air of New York harbor. The thin copper sheets were shaped and fastened to an internal structure of iron beams designed by Alexandre Gustave Eiffel, an engineer who later created Paris' famous tower.

In order to help Americans see the French vision, Bartholdi built Liberty's hand holding the torch and sent it to America in 1876, where it was displayed at the Philadelphia Exposition. A group of New Yorkers formed The American Committee for the Statue of Liberty, and in 1877, Congress granted Bedloe's Island for the sculpture.

The statue was completed in 1884, and on July 4, a formal presentation was made to the U.S. ambassador in France. The statue was then disassembled and shipped to its new-home.

However, money had not been raised for the pedestal, and many Americans were com plaining about the cost of the foundation. An appeal was launched to raise the money, and the goal was reached after Joseph Pulitzer took up the cause. Pulitzer, himself an immigrant from Hungary, gently chided citizens for accepting the gift without providing a place for it. He launched a national campaign, urging people to send in what little they could, and 121,000 people responded. Each donor had his name printed in Pulitzer's newspaper.

Pulitzer also held a poetry contest. One poet was Emma Lazarus, a Sephardic Jew from New York. Her poem "The New Colossus" was intended as a comfort for the thousands of Jewish refugees pouring into New York City to escape anti-Semitic attacks in Russia. When it was first published, the poem went almost unnoticed. Later, the poem was used on the statue's base.

The pedestal was finally completed in April 1886, and the statue was assembled. On Oct. 28, 1886, a dedication ceremony took place. President Grover Cleveland, who had steadfastly refused to allocate government funds for the statue, said, "We will not forget that Liberty has made here her home, nor shall her chosen altar be neglected. Willing votaries will constantly keep alive its fires and these shall gleam upon the shores of our sister republic to the east. Reflected thence and joined with answering rays, a stream of light shall pierce the darkness of ignorance and man's oppression until Liberty enlightens the world."

Lady Liberty was finally home.

RELATED ARTICLE:
The New Colossus

By Emma Lazarus

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!" cried she
With silent lips. "Give me
 your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning
 to breathe free,
The wretched refuse
 of your teeming shores.
Send these, the homeless,
 tempest-tost to me
I lift my lamp beside
 the golden door!"
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Author:Parachin, Victor
Publication:Grit
Date:Sep 29, 2002
Words:924
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