Arrival of the Isère at Bedloe’s Island June 19, 1885

June 19, 2017

The presentation of the Statue of Liberty as a gift to the United States was celebrated in Paris on July 4, 1884. People filled the streets around the copper foundry’s workshop and yard, as well as climbing onto neighboring rooftops for a good view of the ceremony.  July1884 2

The statue had been fabricated and erected in Paris to ensure that every part was considered and the statue was complete before being shipped to the United States. The U.S. Minister to France accepted the statue on behalf of the President of the United States, Chester A. Arthur. The physical transfer of the statue, however, would not take place until the following June, when 214 crates containing the disassembled statue arrived in New York Harbor aboard a French naval transport, the Isère.

The Isère arrived in the Lower Bay of New York, off Sandy Hook, on June 17, 1885. Two days later she headed up the bay on the last leg of her journey. A formidable entourage, ranging from U.S. and French war ships to small leisure watercraft, prepared to escort the Isère. “The scene,” newspapers from Philadelphia to St. Louis to Los Angeles reported, “was one of the liveliest description. . . . as far as the eye could reach there were vessels without number. . . . The music of a dozen bands flowed out over the water, while the war ships thundered and the forts re-echoed with booming guns.”

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Upon reaching Bedloe’s Island, “when the anchor of the Isère was lowered and had obtained a firm grip, there was more firing of cannon, blowing of whistles and shouting of people.” Bedloe’s “island was so full of people,” the New York Sun exclaimed, “that it seemed as if some of them must fall off.” Many more people waited in Lower Manhattan for the start of a land parade. “The city was in holiday attire” to celebrate the arrival of the Isère and the gift she carried, wrote the Boston Daily Advertiser. “Flags were flying from all public buildings and nearly every big store on Broadway was profusely decorated.”

The scene on June 19, 1885, was especially impressive considering that the statue remained below deck, hidden from view, disassembled and packed in 214 huge wooden crates (the crate containing the face alone measured 20 feet long by 12 feet wide). It was another year before construction on Bedloe’s Island was complete and the Statue of Liberty was ready for inauguration – the occasion for another grand celebration – on October 28, 1886.

 

 

 

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