People

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Edouard de Laboulaye

A Parisian born in France in 1811, he was a big supporter of Lincoln and a staunch abolitionist. He first proposed the idea of a monument in 1865, interpreting the close of the Civil War and passage of the 13th amendment abolishing slavery as important steps forward in reaffirming a commitment to freedom and democracy. Ten years later the project was officially announced with a sculptor and a Franco-American Union to raise funds. The French people would pay for the statue while the US would pay for the pedestal on which it would stand.

Auguste Bartholdi

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A French artist and sculptor born in 1834, he discovered his own passion for designing giant monuments when he saw the Sphynx and Pyramids in Egypt. Before Lady Liberty, he designed another large statue of a robed woman holding a torch for a Suez Canal lighthouse, but his design was not selected. But he got his second chance with Lady Liberty. On one of his trips to the US, he spotted Bedloe’s Island and knew it was the perfect location for his monument. He participated in the statue’s construction in France, assembly in New York and final dedication in 1886. He died in 1904.

Eugene Viollet-le-Duc

A Parisian architect born in 1814, Bartholdi hired him to design the internal structure of the statue. At one time Bartholdi was a student of le-Duc. He wanted to use sand-filled masonry structures to support the 62,000 pounds of copper making up the statue. He advocated for Bartholdi to use a particular technique with copper called repoussé. He was also helping Bartholdi with designing the torch and how the arm would be supported. His untimely death in 1879, however, forced Bartholdi to hire a new architect.

Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel

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Born in 1832, Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel was the renowned architect and structural engineer hired by Bartholdi to replace Viollet-le-Duc after his death. While he retained some of Viollet-le-Duc’s ideas (those related to the use of the repoussé technique for the copper), he had different and more modern ideas for the internal structure, namely a skeletal support system rather than Viollet-le-Duc’s weight-based system. He used a central pylon 92 feet tall to which pieces of the statue are bolted via metal bars, allowing a degree of flexibility for settling and responding to winds.

Richard Morris Hunt

Born in Vermont in 1828, this is the architect commissioned by the American Committee for the Statue of Liberty to design the pedestal on which the statue would stand. For two years he toyed with various ideas and suggestion from Bartholdi. Some of his designs were quite ambitious, soaring 114 feet high. Budget considerations, however, forced him to come down eventually to a height of 87 feet for his final granite design. He died in 1895.

William Maxwell Evarts

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Born in 1818 in Boston, MA, this lawyer and statesman served as US Secretary of State, US Attorney General, and a US Senator from New York. He also served as the Chairman of the American Committee for the Statue of Liberty, a position he held from 1877 to 1886, the year the statue was dedicated. His skills in politics and diplomacy were put to the test to get Congress and the President to jointly accept the statue as a gift from France, as well as appropriate $56,000 towards the cost of the pedestal. He died in 1901.

Joseph Pulitzer

In 1884 the American Committee for the Statue of Liberty was running depressingly short on funds to finish the pedestal. It was newspaper publishing tycoon Joseph Pulitzer (born 1847) who stepped in to save the day. He managed to raise $100,000 in just six months, which turned out to be more than enough to get the job done. He did this by writing an article in his paper, New York World, appealing for citizens to step up to the plate. More than 125,000 did so, with most donations being $1 or less! He died in 1911.

Emma Lazarus

Born in 1849, Emma Lazarus was the poet who wrote the sonnet The New Colossus as part of an art and literary auction to help raise money for the statue. Little did she know just how symbolic and important her words would become to the 12 million immigrants who passed beneath Lady Liberty’s welcome to be processed at Ellis Island. “Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

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