Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How Crowdfunding Brought the Statue of Liberty to America

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

How Crowdfunding Brought the Statue of Liberty to America

Article excerpt

Isere, the French ship carrying the crates of sculpted metal that would become the Statue of Liberty, pulled in to New York Harbor 130 years ago on Wednesday, and almost a decade behind schedule. The iconic statue faced a twisting and troubled path to the US, which may have derailed the project entirely if not for an ambitious newspaper owner, boxing matches, and France's defeat in the Franco- Prussian War.

This modern colossus commemorates the American Revolution and the partnership with France that helped win the war. The French planned to complete the statue by 1876, in time for the 100th anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. But political troubles in France and apathy in the US soon threw off that schedule.

While Lady Liberty honored the Revolutionary War, it was actually the Civil War that motivated the gift. Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, who designed the statue, said that French politician and staunch abolitionist Edouard Rene de Laboulaye inspired the idea in 1865. At the time, France lived under the rule of the authoritarian Napoleon III. Celebrating American liberty, they thought, would also undermine the monarchy in their own country. Mr. Bartholdi developed early ideas for such a statue, but had to stop amid a resource crunch in France, not to mention his military service during the Franco-Prussian War. Napoleon III lost the conflict, freeing Bartholdi to continue the project once again.

After the war, Mr. Laboulaye sent Bartholdi to the US to scout out locations and drum up support for the statue among influential Americans. Bartholdi had little trouble picking an island - President Ulysses Grant assured him personally that Bedloe's Island (now Liberty Island) would work - but the French sculptor worried that neither Americans nor French seemed too excited about his idea. To get both sides more invested, Laboulaye and Bartholdi cut a deal with the Americans: France would finance the statue if the US secured the rights to Bedloe's Island and paid of the large pedestal beneath the Statue of Liberty.

While many people think of Kickstarter and Indiegogo as modern phenomena, the Statue of Liberty would not exist without crowdfunding. …

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