New Book Recalls Philadelphia’s Role in Bringing Statue of Liberty to U.S.
By John Ostapkovich
NEW YORK, N.Y. (CBS) — The Statue of Liberty is iconic, and it may seem as if its construction and placement in New York Harbor was just meant to be.
Statue designer Frederic Auguste Bartholdi originally envisioned something like it at the north end of the Suez Canal but, in a sign of things to come, he didn’t get the money. So he shifted gears and set his sight on the United States.
The idea for a new book, Liberty’s Torch: The Great Adventure to Build The Statue of Liberty, began with author Elizabeth Mitchell in the New York Public Library researching something else, when she found a trove of letters from Bartholdi. In these letters, he described his frustrations at getting the money for his project.
Bartholdi raised money in France and America, for a time right here in Philadelphia.
“When Philadelphia had the World Expo in 1876, Bartholdi hoped he would be able to unveil the whole statue,” Mitchell explains. “That was just not possible because he wasn’t raising money fast enough in France to build it, but he sent the hand and the torch down to Philadelphia.”
Here, he charged people to climb up inside the hand portion of the sculpture to stand in the rim of the torch, about twenty feet off the ground.
Another method he used, in France, was a diorama, and charged people there, too.
Says Mitchell: “He built (a model of) New York Harbor and people would go and say, ‘I felt like the wind was rushing through my hair and I could look out and see the whole thing with the Statue of Liberty standing there.’ ”
He wasn’t above using the Philly-New York rivalry to generate funding for his colossal project!
Eventually, thanks to newspaperman Joseph Pulitzer, New Yorkers got on the Statue of Liberty bandwagon, concluding this very visual chapter in US history.