|Statue of Liberty Presented (1884)
Edouard de Laboulaye first proposed the idea for the Statue of Liberty (officially named “The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World”), a colossal copper statue to be presented to the United States by France, in 1865. Originally conceived as a symbol of republican unity between the two nations in celebration of the Franco-American alliance, the statue was to be completed by sculptor Frederic Auguste Bartholdi for the 1876 centennial celebration in America. The production was delayed, with the project beginning in France in 1875 and being completed in early 1884. The French-American Union was founded to raise the money needed for the statue. The money for the statue itself would be raised in France, while the US Committee, headed by Rutherford B. Hayes’ Secretary of State William M. Evarts, would raise the funds for the statue’s pedestal.
The presentation of the completed statue took place on July 4, 1884. The ceremony was held outside the workshops of Gaget, Gauthier et Cie, the builders of the statue. The statue was formally “handed over” the United States by the French Republic in a ceremony that was relatively modest, partly due to a cholera epidemic in Paris at the time. The statue remained in Paris until January 1885, at which point its hundreds of copper plates were disassembled and shipped across the Atlantic to New York.
The colossal structure was reassembled on Bedloe’s Island and officially dedicated on October 28, 1886. Situated near Ellis Island, the arrival station for European immigrants, the statue would be the first glimpse the immigrants would have of America. Although conceived as a symbol of republicanism and unity between the United States and France, the Statue would become better known for its representation of opportunity and a new life in America for the rest of the world.
Sean Dennis Cashman, America in the Gilded Age (New York: New York University Press, 1993)
Mary J. Shapiro, Gateway to Liberty (New York: Vintage Books, 1986)