Statue of Liberty a beacon of freedom

Stepping straight out of movies, magazines and the net, this Grand Lady impresses RUARI REID

Of all the things for an Australian to do in New York, one of the most surreal is to see Lady Liberty in New York Harbour. Because it feels she should only exist in movies, magazines or on webpages. Not right there, in front of you.

The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French Republic to the American people to celebrate the centenary of the War of Independence against the British. Facing south-east, it welcomes ships to the harbour. Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the man responsible for the design of the statue, wanted to build a structure to rival the ancient world’s colossus at Rhodes.

After active service in the Franco-Prussian war, Bartholdi desired to honour French soldiers’ heroism through sculpture and eventually made his way to America where he decided to put his friend and mentor Edouard de Laboulaye’s idea for the gift of a symbolic statue representing liberty and freedom into action.

Turning to Gustave Eiffel for his structural engineer, Bartoldi found the man with the ideas he wanted, and Eiffel delivered: a strong yet light central frame with flexible connecting arms that would move with Bartoldi’s planned thin copper skin of the statue during high winds.

Laboulaye had made it known that the French people should pay for the statue. But he felt that the Americans should pay for and construct the pedestal in a joint venture.

While sections of the completed statue were exhibited, funds were not forthcoming for the base until publisher Joseph Pulitzer ingeniously decided to promote the names of donors in his newspaper. The money flowed in.

This is an edited version of the original, full-length story, which you can read here.

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