June 24, 2016
During a recent tour of the Massachusetts State House (part of the American Friends of Lafayette annual meeting) I was intrigued by a relief on one of the walls in the old Senate Chamber. It is a “Teagle,” a bird with an eagle’s body and feet but a turkey’s neck and head. According to our guide, it was still uncertain which bird would be selected for the national symbol when the State House was built so a design combining the two was made. This story reminded me of how easy it is to take for granted the many little (and not so little) decisions that have been made over the years, decisions that shape our world.
October 19, 2015
Today is the 234th anniversary of the victory at Yorktown, Virginia, in 1781, which effectively concluded the American War for Independence.
During the summer of 1781 General Lafayette and a relatively small force in Virginia skirmished with the British troops in the south under the command of General Cornwallis. Toward the end of summer the British decided on a different strategy and Cornwallis pulled his forces back to the coast near Yorktown, unaware that a formidable fleet of French war ships, sent by Louis XVI, was on its way to Chesapeake Bay. Recognizing the opportunity to overwhelm the British in the south, General George Washington and the Comte de Rochambeau hurried to Virginia, bringing American and French troops from the north. The combined land forces, together with the French fleet, encircled the British in a siege at Yorktown. Cornwallis soon realized he had no choice but to surrender his forces.
The Continental Congress acknowledged the significance of this victory and immediately in October 1781 authorized the construction of a commemorative monument, which it described as a “marble column, adorned with emblems of the alliance.”
Work on the monument, however, did not begin until nearly a century later.
The cornerstone was laid as part of the centennial Yorktown Day celebration in 1881.
While the Monument to the Alliance and Victory was still under construction, the architect responsible for the design, Richard Morris Hunt, was selected to design the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.
June 15, 2015
After a 31-day crossing of the Atlantic, the Hermione arrived in Yorktown, Virginia, on Friday, June 5. There were many festivities in Yorktown, reminiscent of the joyous greeting the original Hermione received in 1780. The Hermione will make 12 stops before returning to France: Yorktown, Mount Vernon, Alexandria, Annapolis, Baltimore, Philadelphia, New York, Greenport, Newport, Boston, Castine, and Lunenburg, Nova Scotia.
This beautifully hand-crafted ship was built in France as a replica of the 18th century ship that brought the Marquis de Lafayette back to America in 1780, during the American War for Independence. Lafayette had returned home to France to convince Louis XVI to send more aid, soldiers, and war ships to assist the Americans.
The crew, which includes many volunteers, trained for months in preparation for sailing across the Atlantic.
October 28, 2014
In October 1886 the Statue of Liberty was unveiled in New York Harbor, bringing to completion a 21-year journey from conception of the idea to inauguration of the monument. The idea for an American liberty statue, to be collaboratively built by the French and the American people, was first suggested in France in 1865, at the end of the American Civil War. The French sponsors waited several years for the right moment to announce their idea for this ambitious project and to commence fundraising in France. In the years that followed, the design was finished; funds were raised, first in France and then in the US; the statue was constructed in Paris, then disassembled (with each piece labeled so the structure could be easily re-constructed in the US) and packed into crates; the 210 crates were shipped from France to New York Harbor, where a pedestal had been prepared on Bedloe’s Island (now Liberty Island); and the 151’-1” tall statue was erected. On October 28, 1886, after long anticipation, the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World was joyfully unveiled on Bedloe’s Island. Near the end of a day filled with ceremony and festivity, President Stephen Grover Cleveland accepted and inaugurated the statue on behalf of the people of the United States. A deity “greater than all that have been celebrated in ancient song,” he remarked of this unprecedented symbol of a vision of life founded on liberty, opportunity, and justice, “she holds aloft the light which illumines the way to man’s enfranchisement.”
Happy anniversary Lady Liberty!
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).
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.