In 1865 an ardent “friend of America” in France, Édouard-René Lefebvre de Laboulaye, envisioned a monument to liberty and to the young American republic. He was inspired by the American people’s commitment to their nation’s founding ideals during the Civil War, and convinced that the form of government in the U.S. offered an example to people around the world seeking change from authoritarian rule. Laboulaye, along with many people in France who had been closely following the American Civil War, was especially relieved and hopeful now that slavery had formally come to an end in the United States.
Proud of the tradition of friendship established between the French and American people during the American Revolutionary War, Laboulaye suggested that the two peoples join together in crafting an American monument to liberty.
Little did he anticipate that his idea would lead to the creation of a record-setting, 151-foot-tall statue – the eighth wonder of the world, as some would call it.
The story told in Enlightening the World: The Creation of the Statue of Liberty follows the statue’s twenty-one-year journey from conception in 1865, through its temporary erection in Paris and the building of a pedestal in New York Harbor, to the unveiling ceremony in 1886 and the nation’s first ticker tape parade. This new look at the statue explores the details of the design and its sources and reveals the intriguing details of the lives of the people who built the statue: Édouard Laboulaye, whose influence and enthusiasm won public support for the project in France; Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the French sculptor who transformed Laboulaye’s idea into a stunning work of art and construction; Richard Morris Hunt, the highly respected American architect responsible for the statue’s monumental pedestal; and Gustave Eiffel, a leading figure in large-scale metal construction who designed the Eiffel Tower only a few years after completing the internal support structure for the Statue of Liberty. Others who figure in the story include Senators Charles Sumner and Carl Schurz, the artist John La Farge, the poet Emma Lazarus, and the newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer.
The statue was initially named “Liberty Enlightening the World”; thus the title for the book. Enlightening the World is published by Cornell University Press.