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).
September 3, 2013
Bartholdi had volunteered to design a liberty statue for America several years before his trip to the U.S. in 1871. The political situation in France and war in Europe had delayed the start of the project, and when he was finally ready to begin work on the design he realized that he must first get to know more about America – her people, her art, her natural landscape. It was important that this liberty statue, while having broad, universal meaning, celebrate the life and achievements of the United States.
As a statue representing a “grand idea” Bartholdi felt from the start that it should be large. What he experienced in the United States not only confirmed his inclination but also encouraged him to think in even grander terms. Shortly after he arrived, in June 1871, he wrote to his mother from a beach resort in New Jersey, “Everything is big in these hotels, even the petit pois.” And then he traveled west. Walking among redwood trees in California, he immediately referred to them as “colossal.” “These colossi are superb,” he wrote, “to say nothing of the magnificent trees around them.”
It had become clear to Bartholdi, in a personal more than an abstract manner, that the scale of America is large – and the liberty statue could be, as well. Moved by the beauty and magnificence of the forest in California, he made a sketch of the redwoods to send to Édouard Laboulaye, the central sponsor of the statue. The natural grandeur of these colossi seems to have made a lasting impression. Announcing the fundraising campaign in France a few years later, Laboulaye and the Franco-American Union described the statue of Liberty Enlightening the World as a “colossal statue.”
August 29, 2013
As August draws to a close, I have been thinking of another summer, that of 1871, and Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi’s first visit to America. Bartholdi, the French sculptor who would design the Statue of Liberty, spent four months in the United States that year, meeting with people in cities along the East Coast to discuss the idea of a liberty statue and then traveling west across the country, to California. From the window of his train he looked out on the plains of the Midwest, on high plateaus, mountains and valleys, and an abundance of wildlife that is difficult to imagine today—one herd of buffalo, he estimated, numbered around one thousand. He spotted an Indian woman with a child on her back, he recorded in his journal shortly after leaving Omaha, and marveled at scenes that were like “something out of a fairy tale.” Bartholdi was mesmerized by the scale and beauty of the land he traveled through; it lifted his soul and colored his imagination. By the time he was heading back east his journal entries, previously brief, had become poetic. “For some time we passed through superb forests, to which the autumn has begun to give the most lovely tints. The bindweed and Virginia creeper, in autumnal colors, stretch from one tree to another as if to enclose the forest recesses, which are already being invaded by the woodman’s axe. These plants, like a band of voluptuaries, with their feet in the rich, swampy earth and their heads bathed in sunlight seem to indulge in gestures of the wildest extravagance.”
Bartholdi’s experience of America that summer convinced him to pursue the idea for a liberty statue, and established an enduring personal commitment to the project.
October 27, 2012
This Sunday, October 28, visitors will once again be able to climb the steps inside the Statue of Liberty (now 393 steps) to reach her crown. The statue has been closed for interior renovation since the 125th anniversary ceremonies last October. Scheduled for this Sunday, the statue’s reopening will commemorate her unveiling in New York Harbor 126 years ago.
On the morning of October 28, 1886, people filled New York City sidewalks, crowded around windows and onto balconies, gathered on rooftops, and even perched themselves on lampposts and telegraph poles. A spectacular event was planned for the day to celebrate the unveiling of the Statue of Liberty in New York Harbor, beginning with a parade down Fifth Avenue, leading to lower Manhattan and Battery Park. The several-mile-long procession moved past Madison Square and the reviewing stand erected for U.S. President Stephen Grover Cleveland, who presided over the day’s ceremonies, then past Wall Street, where young men at the Stock Exchange leaned out the windows and inaugurated what has since become a tradition of the “ticker tape parade.”
Following the parade in Manhattan, attention shifted to the grand statue in the harbor as spectators prepared for speeches at Bedloe’s Island and the unveiling of the statue’s face. As the light raised by this magnificent statue shines on these shores, President Cleveland proclaimed, it will reflect on the shores of our sister Republic across the Atlantic and “pierce the darkness of ignorance and man’s oppression until Liberty Enlightens the World.”
This Sunday the 126th anniversary of the statue’s unveiling will be marked by the reopening of her crown to visitors. Unfortunately I cannot make the climb myself, due to my health. But I encourage anyone who is able to do so. The exhilarating view is unmatched. And, as you look out over the water, you may even sense the expansive vision of enlightenment that shaped this unique national monument, the Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World.