Liberty's Torch: The Great Adventure to Build the Statue of Liberty

Liberty's Torch: The Great Adventure to Build the Statue of Liberty

Elizabeth Mitchell

Language: English

Pages: 336

ISBN: 0802123791

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


The Statue of Liberty has become one of the most recognizable monuments in the world: a symbol of freedom and the American Dream. But the story of the creation of the statue has been obscured by myth. In reality, she was the inspiration of one quixotic French sculptor hungry for fame and adoration.

Inspired by descriptions of the Colossus of Rhodes, the young Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi first envisioned building a monumental statue of a slave woman holding a lamp that would serve as a lighthouse for Ferdinand de Lesseps’s proposed Suez Canal. But after he failed to win this commission, and in the chaotic wake of the Franco-Prussian War, Bartholdi set off for America, where he saw the perfect site for his statue: Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor. Before long, he was organizing the construction of a massive copper woman in a Paris workshop. Through spectacular displays of the statue’s arm and torch in Philadelphia at the 1876 World’s Fair, and the statue’s head at the 1878 Paris Exhibition, along with other creative fundraising efforts, Bartholdi himself collected almost all of the money required to build the statue. Meanwhile, he brought luminaries including Gustave Eiffel, Victor Hugo, Ulysses S. Grant, Joseph Pulitzer, and Emma Lazarus into his scheme. Moving from the black waters of the Nile to the revolution-torn boulevards of Paris, to the muddy streets of New York, Liberty's Torch tells the story of an artist, entrepreneur and inventor who fought against all odds to create this wonder of the modern world.

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at the Musée Bartholdi in Colmar, France. The preeminent scholar on Bartholdi, Régis endured my awkward French and my tight deadlines to not only provide me access to the remarkable Bartholdi archive he has curated for many years, but to gift me with texts and academic papers I would never have accessed any other way. He treated me with deep friendliness and eased my internment in the Bartholdi library with his coffee and cookies. As I departed on the last day, he hoisted a fist in the air and

New York Harbor spread out before the poet on this painted canvas. As they walked on, Bartholdi seemed to remember something. May I, he asked, present my old collaborator, Simon? Of course, Hugo said. The elderly Simon threaded his way from the back of the crowd and timidly stood before the legend. He was only ten years younger than Hugo so he knew every step of Hugo’s very public life. Hugo extended his hand. “Ah,” said Simon, “Mr. Victor Hugo, I haven’t seen you since the atelier of

“He has left considerable work for American engineering ingenuity.” “Would it be possible to erect the statue permanently with only such appliances as have come in the Isère?” asked Garczynski. He attested that both replied: “It would be impossible.” They then turned to the problem of the galvanic action between the copper and iron. Engineers from Nevada had warned the reporter of the horrors that could result. “This much at least is certain, is it not, Mr. Drexel, that the French have left

considered all the way back in 1856 about monumental sculpture. Now he contemplated his own Liberty, not the sphinxes. “I have put many years of my life into that work,” he said, “but I am sure that I will gain thereby the reward that all true artists seek—the kindly remembrance of posterity.” In Paris, a reporter found him musing about American greed. He referred to the canvases that he had shown at the Philadelphia Exposition titled Old California and New California. The former showed a man

about fifteen years; and if I had not received the most kindly and beneficent support I believe that no axe would have opened my head enough to bring out the Statue of Liberty. . . . There was a time when I met with difficulties.” He recounted how the statue almost went to Philadelphia. “I however was convinced that the best place for the statue would be in the harbor of New-York.” He went on to boast: “Somebody called me once ‘the Columbus of Bedloe’s Island.’ They said nobody had known of

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