July 25, 2014
I was quite surprised to read, in a review of a new book about the Statue of Liberty, that little has been written about the statue! I wondered, how could a book reviewer not know about my book, when Enlightening the World is even cited in the notes as a source? The review was written by Eric Liebetrau of Kirkus Reviews, which provides a marketing service for authors; i.e., a book review and promotion. Now I wonder, is this becoming an acceptable, even common, practice in the industry?
The review also reminded me of how differently people interpret history. My telling of the statue’s story in Enlightening the World: The Creation of the Statue of Liberty differs significantly from this new book’s.
Here is a letter I wrote to the Boston Globe, which printed the Kirkus review:
In his review of “Liberty’s Torch” by Elizabeth Mitchell (“The sculptor and the statue,” g, July 19) Eric Liebetrau suggests that Mitchell fills a void in literature about the creation of the Statue of Liberty. Mitchell’s book is actually the latest in a series of recent books.
One of the interesting features distinguishing these books is each author’s interpretation of the statue’s story. Mitchell’s skepticism about the sculptor’s motives reflects the disbelief that Americans displayed even as the statue was under construction. This viewpoint downplays the inspirational experience of the sculptor’s first, 4-month-long visit to the United States, when he committed the next 15 years of his life to realizing an American liberty figure. It also questions the strength of French admiration for America’s Founding Fathers and what they achieved.
Yet there is no denying that the primary sponsor in France, Edouard Laboulaye, the man who shepherded the statue from idea into construction, dedicated his career to teaching US history, wrote a three-volume history of the United States, translated Benjamin Franklin’s autobiography, and – a full decade before conceiving of a liberty statue – wrote an engaging political novel based on the theme that “one is never cured of a yearning for freedom.”
Dr. Lefebvre’s American Dream – The story of a French academic, his love for America and his plan for a post-Civil War gift to the country — in the shape of a giant statue.
April 4, 2014
Carol Harrison’s piece in the NY TImes features Édouard Laboulaye, the primary sponsor of the Statue of Liberty (he shepherded the statue from idea to construction). I appreciate her citing Enlightening the World as a source for her article.
From Harrison’s article:
“The survival of the Union at a great cost, including especially the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, spurred Laboulaye to imagine a monument commemorating French and American commitment to freedom. Famously, the Statue of Liberty was born at Laboulaye’s dining room table in an 1865 gathering. Among the guests was Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, a sculptor whose ambition to build a modern colossus became part of Laboulaye’s project to erect a monument to liberty. A monument built by French and American efforts would act as a reminder of the “sympathy” between the nations; it would celebrate the survival of American liberty and perhaps remind French subjects of the Emperor Napoleon III of the peril to their own.”
I could not help feeling a tinge of disappointment on hearing that the Sears (now Willis) Tower has lost its title as tallest building in North America to One World Trade Center in New York. But I was pleased that the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat executive director, in announcing the height of One World Trade Center, recalled the building designers’ early vision of a spire and beacon honoring the Statue of Liberty. The spire of One World Trade Center “which holds the beacon light,” he said, “shining out at the symbolic height of 1,776 feet, is especially poignant – echoing the similarly symbolic beacon atop the Statue of Liberty across the water.” In fact, in early drawings of 1WTC the designers showed the spire rising at one side of the tower (rather than centered on the roof).
March 11, 2014
One World Trade Center (1WTC) in New York, originally known as the Freedom Tower, has become “The Top of America,” as this week’s issue of Time magazine puts it. According to the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat (CTBUH), the organization that determines how a building’s height is measured, 1WTC’s height to architectural top is 1,776 feet. This includes the 408-foot-tall spire that rises above the main structure of the building. In announcing the CTBUH decision to include the spire in its measurement, the organization’s executive director noted the symbolic importance of the spire reaching to 1,776 feet and the Height Committee’s confidence that the spire will remain a permanent architectural feature of the building.
So, the Sears Tower (now Willis Tower) in Chicago has lost its title as the tallest building in North America (it was the World’s Tallest Building from its completion in 1974 to 1996, when it lost that title to the Petronas Towers). The main roof level at the top of the building structure is actually higher at the Willis Tower in Chicago than at 1WTC: 1,451 feet at the Willis Tower vs. 1,368 feet to the steel parapet at 1WTC. But since the late 1990s the CTBUH has evaluated buildings according to several measurements, with height to architectural top determining the official building height. Initially there were four measurement categories; these have been reduced to three, eliminating the height to roof measurement.
The current three categories of measurement are:
- Height to architectural top. Permanent spires are included in this measurement. 1WTC’s height to architectural top is 1,776 feet; the Willis Tower’s height to architectural top is 1,451 feet.
- Height to highest occupied floor. 1WTC’s highest occupied floor is at 1,268 feet; the Willis Tower’s highest occupied floor is at 1,354 feet.
- Height to tip. This measurement includes antennas. 1WTC’s height to tip is 1,792 feet; the Willis Tower’s height to tip measures 1,729 feet.
A number of people have asked about my father’s efforts to help his homeland during the liberation war of 1971. This is indeed an important part of his life so I have added a page – titled 1971: Bangladesh Liberation War – to my website http://drfazlurrkhan.com. The text is based on the section “Crisis in Bangladesh” in Engineering Architecture: The Vision of Fazlur R. Khan.
My thanks to everyone who asked about my father’s efforts.
October 14, 2013
The Statue of Liberty reopened yesterday, despite the continuing US government shutdown.
All parks run by the National Park Service closed as a result of the shutdown but the State of New York offered to fund the operations at Liberty Island so that it could reopen—for six days, initially. The state and the National Park Service plan to renegotiate every few days to continue this arrangement, until the shutdown has ended.
It was also during Bartholdi’s 1871 visit that he discovered Bedloe’s Island. Although he was still forming the liberty statue in his mind when he arrived in New York, as soon as he saw the island he knew that it might just be the right site for the statue. Ten days later he took a closer look and became enthusiastic, now convinced that this was “the best site.” Symbolically, the island was also perfect for a statue intended for the nation, in that it belonged, not to a single state, but to the federal government.
Bartholdi hoped to pursue this idea and, thanks to Édouard Laboulaye’s connections in the U.S., had the opportunity to present it directly to Ulysses S. Grant, president of the United States. Édouard Laboulaye was known in the U.S. as a friend of America: he admired the American legal and political institutions and lectured about them at the Collège de France in Paris, and he assisted American campaigns by writing articles for U.S. publication, supporting Abraham Lincoln in the early 1860s and Grant in 1868. In the summer of 1871 Bartholdi paid a short visit to President Grant, who was staying at his summer cottage with his family. “I spent an interesting half hour with the Grants,” Bartholdi wrote his mother. “There is no formality.” Bartholdi asked about the possibility of obtaining Bedloe’s Island for the proposed statue. The idea apparently appealed to the president and he assured Bartholdi that, if the project moved ahead, he would do what he could to designate Bedloe’s Island for the purpose. He kept his word, and in 1877 Grant signed a resolution designating an island site for the anticipated gift from the people of France. The statue was completed in 1886 but it was not until 1956 that the island was renamed Liberty Island.