Her arm reaches to the heavens. Lighting the world. The living symbol of freedom. The Statue of Liberty left Paris for Ellis Island, the creative genius of Frenchman Auguste Bartholdi. Much copied, her torch shines brightly all over the world.
Glatigny, Moselle, France, 21st April 1865. Édouard de Laboulaye, politician and professor at the prestigious College de France in Paris, delivered a rousing speech celebrating the abolition of slavery in the United States. Six days later, Lincoln was assassinated. History was written and with it a plan for a giant statue intended to seal the friendship between the two nations, united through the values of tolerance.
Auguste Bartholdi, a friend of Laboulaye, inherited this colossal project; he had in fact already completed a first draft of a similar work, destined to decorate the entrance of the Suez Canal. A second Lighthouse of Alexandria, the statue would be his greatest work. The launch was planned to celebrate 100 years of American Independence in 1876, but would take another decade to come to fruition.
The two nations dreamed of greatness and glory in the wake of the turmoil that had shaken their history; five years of civil war for the US, and a precarious political regime for France. The project was set to galvanise national sentiment and morale.
New York was selected to receive the statue in 1871. Erected on Bedloe’s Island, the statue would face Europe. Other than its pedestal set on an ancient star-shaped fort destroyed to clear the way for the statue, whose eleven branches are still visible, the statue is French through and through.
For ten years, workers and politicians worked tirelessly, and raising the capital remained a major concern on both sides of the Atlantic. Private individuals, patrons and businesses were all solicited, and even the statue’s head became a display on the Champ-de-Mars in Paris at the Universal Exhibition in 1878. And with the entry fee set at around 5 centimes, the exhibit was open to all. The Americans used similar strategies to raise funds, and sold the first promotional merchandise, or gadgets(1), which were basically small replicas and photos of the statue.
The Americans were initially somewhat confused and unnerved regarding the financial outlay, but gradually warmed to the French project. In 1886 the statue was completed, weighing 254 tonnes of copper plate. The structure was assembled at Levallois-Perret in the workshop of Gustave Eiffel, using wrought iron, a pliable material able to stand the test of time. This last phase took three years, before its official launch on French soil on 4th July 1884, in Paris.
In return, as a gesture of gratitude, the American community presented France with a replica statue, erected on the Île aux Cygnes on the river Seine. The original statue was dismantled in preparation for its passage by boat to New York and was officially launched by President Cleveland on 28th October. An inevitable access point for immigrants arriving on American soil, a symbol of freedom and hope of a brighter world, the statue has never failed in its intent. A haven, at times, from the plight of suffragettes, and later trade unions and even today defenders of human rights, it remains a universal symbol of freedom.
(1) The word “gadget” is thought to have originated at the time, derived from “Gaget, Gauthier & Co”, the Parisian workshop where the statue was built, which also fabricated replica statues popular in the period, on which their name appeared. “Gadget” was the American pronunciation.
It all began back in the 60s when Nicolas Feuillatte became the first importer of African coffee to the United States. In a short period of time, he had forged a place among the New York glitterati. On the death of his father, Nicolas Feuillatte returned to France, where he then bought a vineyard in Champagne with his brother. He created the “Réserve Particulière” which became the preserve of his entourage of friends, as numerous as well-known, including the Kennedys and Aristote Onassis. It was an immediate success. In 1986, the Nicolas Feuillatte brand entered the top 10 US-imported Champagnes. Around the same time its founder identified the Centre Vinicole as a worthy partner capable of fulfilling his ambitions, that would produce, commercialise and promote the brand accross the world. Thirty years later, boosted by its international success, the brand is now listed worldwide and continues to grow steadily on the American market, where it has risen through the ranks to become the 4th Champagne brand in the US. The brand’s personality is firmly asserted, expressed with freedom and audacity, not unlike its founder in fact.