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Liberty Enlightening the World – Part 1: The Egyptian Connection

In 1855, a young French sculptor named Frederic Auguste Bartholdi visited Nubian monuments at Abu Simbel in Egypt. He became fascinated by the gigantic colossus figures which guarded the tombs and set about learning how they were constructed. When the Egyptian government expressed their intention to build a lighthouse at the new Suez Canal, Bartholdi jumped at the chance to submit a proposal. He designed a colossal statue of a robed woman holding a lantern, which he called Egypt (or Progress) Carrying the Light to Asia. Standing 86 feet high, with a pedestal rising to 48 feet, she was to preside over Port Said, the new city at the northern terminus of the canal in Egypt.

Artist’s rendering of original statue

He pitched his design to Ferdinand de Lesseps, the builder of the canal, and met with Isma’il Pasha, the Khedive (ruler) of Egypt and Sudan, at  the Paris International Exposition of  1867.  Ultimately, his proposal was turned down due to cost concerns, and in 1869 the Port Said Lighthouse, designed by François Coignet, was built in the same location.

Not to be deterred from making his mark, Bartholdi began to search for another home for his project.    He focused on the United States, which was gearing up to celebrate 100 years of independence. He chose a government-owned island in New York Harbor on which to build. It was well-positioned to put the monument at the gateway to America when viewed from the sea.

Bartholdi changed the woman that was originally dressed in Arab garb into a Greco-Roman goddess of liberty, and the Statue of Liberty was born.

In Part 2: How two World Expos helped finance the statue’s construction

Joan Thompson, Expo Sales Executive
Ya’lla Tours USA

Posted on October 14, 2019

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