As we approach the day of our independence, shouldn’t we know something about the iconic symbols that have been sculpted trough out our country? Patriotic things. We should even know about things that are not directly related to Independence Day. Our country is still a mecca for tourists from all over the world. As citizens shouldn’t we know more about our country than them? Well we don’t. All we have to do is ask Mom and Dad if they are citizens and if we were born on United States soil, then we automatically become a citizen as well. Others who come to this country and crave to become an American must learn an awful lot about our history and pass an exam.
By living in the northeast, I see many immigrants visiting and hoping to make America their home arriving through the New York airports and are very eager to visit the Statue of Liberty they were so happy to see from an airplane window prior to landing. What do we know to say about her besides, “Yeah there she is.” as we look at her standing alone in the water. Author, Elizabeth Mitchel wrote a book recently called Liberty’s Torch where she says that sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi would have felt gratified that more than 125 years later, people are still making the ferry boat trip and taking pictures of his Lady Liberty
The ferry filled with tourists from all over the world leaves the southern tip of Manhattan heading 1½ miles west into New York Harbor to a 14 acre island which is home to one of the world’s largest and best known statues. The lady made out of copper, The Statue of Liberty, has stood there for 128 years since 1886. It has been renovated and reinforced and is now guarded with Airport like security. Elizabeth’s book goes on sale on Wednesday in time for the 4th of July. She advertises that her book is about the great adventure it took to build The Statue of Liberty. For a sculpture, the closest thing to immortality is to have your work looked at for over a century.
The author describes the French sculptor as being peevish and obnoxious. She uses words like crazy and driven and a career climber as if she knew him well. He rarely missed an opportunity to advance his career. In this country we call that success driven and we applaud people like that. Yet he had a 15 year struggle to achieve success. Were it not for Bartholdi’s obnoxiousness to get the massive project done, we probably wouldn’t have had the Statue of Liberty. In today’s world it would cost a fortune and where would we find that talent to create such a pretty lady?
The book tells us how Frederic at age 21 takes a trip to Egypt to see the colossal and skilled statuary and massive pyramids. The author met Frederic by accident a decade ago in the archives of the New York Public Library. The sculptor died in 1904, but writers and historians have a way under the right circumstances of breathing life into old stories and dead characters even though in biographies, they are breathing new life into a very real character who left us very real things that we still treasure today.
In this book we learn through her research new important facts. Mitchell realized that Bartholdi’s story was more complex and interesting than the myths that had grown up around the statue. She learned it was not a gift from the government of France to the people of the United States. That the money came from a variety of sources, that some of it was raised by Bartholdi. She saw that Bartholdi did not like most Americans. He though they were more interested in money than art. So why did he go through the trouble to make such a thing for us?
His original idea for a giant female figure holding up a light was not designed for New York. He designed that for the mouth of the Suez Canal. Only after Egypt rejected his plan did he shift his sites to the USA a country he had never visited. When he did visit America in 1871 at age 36, he was more impressed by America’s landscape and bridges than by the people he met. The author of the book found a quote of his. He said, “America is an adorable woman chewing tobacco.” I agree that this country has a sarcastic charm to it.
He then returned to Paris with plans to build a 151-foot statue that the French would pay for. The Americans would build its 154-foot stone pedestal. Fundraising was a struggle. Bartholdi put parts of the statue on display with an admission charge. The arm and torch in Philadelphia in 1876. It’s head in Paris in 1878. I think it is a shame that talented artists must seek their own projects, create the project and find the source of financing. Who puts that much effort into any dream they have? Our youth should all know his name and not the Kardashians who has produced nothing but gossip and sex tapes.
Frederic copyrighted the statues image intending to get paid every time it was used in advertisements, postcards and trinkets. But he found tracking and enforcing the copyright too difficult. If he did enforce it his estate would be worth a fortune. If we all could ask him one question we would want to know who he used as a model for the statue’s face. Lady Liberty has a strong jaw, a troubled brow and a slightly down turned mouth.
She was finally dedicated on October 28 1886. Her height is 305 feet tall, 6 inches from the base of the pedestal to the tip of the torch. Originally she was a dark reddish brown. Its copper exterior turned light green because of weathering. Bartholdi failed in an effort to have it gilded in gold. He never raised that much money yet I believes Americans would band together in an effort to make her look as beautiful as possible.
After the 911 terrorist attacks in 2001 the statue was closed for security reasons. The pedestal reopened in 2004, the statue in 2009. It closed again in 2012 because of damage caused by Super storm Sandy and it reopened July 4th of 2013. She is open for business now. Give her a look and thank a persistent Frenchman for all his efforts in giving America such a proud symbol of our freedom to all people here in this beautiful country.