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Liberty Enlightening the World – Part 2: Help from Two World’s Fairs

Work on Lady Liberty began in 1875. Bartholdi enlisted the help of architect and mentor Eugène Viollet-le-Duc  and began fabricating the right arm bearing the torch, as well as the head.

 It had been arranged that the French would pay for construction of the statue and Americans would pay for the pedestal.  But not everyone saw the need or value of such an endeavor, and fundraising proved to be difficult on both sides of the Atlantic.  In an attempt to generate interest and increase cash flow, Bartholdi arranged to have the torch arm exhibited at the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia. Fairgoers paid admission to climb up into the torch and take in the view from the top. The arm was very popular, remaining on display in Madison Square Park for several years before it was eventually returned to France.

By 1878, Bartholdi’s team had completed Lady Liberty’s head and shoulders. The head was moved to Paris’ Garden of the Trocadéro Palace in conjunction with that year’s International Exposition.  Visitors to the Expo could buy a miniature replica of the statue.  Tickets to view the construction activity at the Gaget, Gauthier & Co. workshop were also offered and the French government authorized a lottery; among the prizes were a terracotta model of the statue.

When Viollet-le-Duc died unexpectedly on September 17, 1879, Bartholdi recruited Gustave Eiffel to re-design the Statue’s internal structure. Incorporating some of Viollet-le-Duc’s ideas into the new design, Eiffel and his structural engineer, Maurice Koechlin devised an innovative and flexible iron skeleton which would allow the statue to shift in the  winds of New York Harbor without cracking.   Bartholdi decided to build the statue in France, and have it disassembled and transported to the United States for reassembly in place on Bedloe’s (later named Liberty) Island. It was formally completed and presented to the American ambassador to France on July 4, 1884.

Construction of the statue in France

On June 17, 1885, the French steamer Isère arrived in New York with the crates holding the disassembled statue on board. After a flurry of last-minute fundraising, the pedestal was completed in April 1886. Immediately thereafter, reassembly of the statue began. The statue, formally called Liberty Enlightening the World, was ceremonially dedicated on Oct. 28, 1886.

Joan Thompson, Expo Sales Executive
Ya’lla Tours USA

Posted on October 18, 2019