The Statue of Liberty is an iconic representation of immigration and freedom. The colossal copper statue was a gift from the people of France to the people of the United States. While France paid for the creation of the statue and assembly in New York, the US was responsible for funding and building the pedestal on which the statue would stand on Liberty Island.
Fundraising was slow. There were events held in an attempt to raise the necessary funds, like the Pedestal Art Loan Exhibition in 1883. Read at the event was the famous sonnet “The New Colossus” written by Emma Lazarus that would eventually be added to the pedestal in 1903.
To jumpstart the fundraising efforts, Joseph Pulitzer, editor of The World in New York, placed an ad in his own newspaper that encouraged people to donate. The response was incredible! The newspaper was flooded with donations and letters to the editor. All donor names were published, as well as some of the letters. These snippets in time from immigrants, young children, and hundreds of others show the patriotism of people all over the country. Pulitzer’s tactic paid off – more than $100K was raised through his efforts.
Other newspapers followed suit. The Versailles Republican published an advertisement to raise money with the addition of a model Statue of Liberty in two different sizes – 6 inches and 12 inches – with a donation of $1 or $5 respectively issued by the American Committee in Aid of the Pedestal Fund.
Liberty Enlightening the World, as she was initially called, arrived in pieces in New York Harbor on June 17, 1885. Her arrival was big news. The “scene of the century” commenced when the “Goddess” was greeted with a formal reception on June 19.
The Muscatine Saturday Evening Journal published an article entitled “Building the Statue,” complete with pictures made from photographs of the statue’s construction as told by the sculptor himself, Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi. In a December 1885 edition of the Nappanee News, “The Gift of France” article detailed Bartholdi’s busy schedule while working on the reconstruction and a timeline for its completion.
The long-awaited day of her unveiling finally arrived on October 28, 1886. News of the spectacle was everywhere! The Boston Globe heralded the event with front-page headlines that stated Lady Liberty would be “baptized by fireworks” and included a poem that would be read by famous American poet John G. Whittier and a “programme of the exercises.”
The Dubuque Daily Herald included the unveiling in a huge splash on the front page of their October 29, 1886 edition headlining that over one million people attended the exercises, almost stopping business in New York. Also published were President Cleveland’s acceptance speech, the banquet given in honor of the event and toasts made, and a lengthy description of the statue itself.
The Wichita Eagle published “scenes and incidents connected with the inauguration” of Bartholdi’s Statue. From the “handsome silk French flag” that was draped over the face of Lady Liberty to a detailed and timed account of the festivities, this article will leave readers feeling like they attended the event.
Would you like to learn more about Liberty Enlightening the World or read some of the hundreds of donation letters written by people all over the country for her pedestal? Visit NewspaperArchive.com for a 7-Day Free Trial.