National Geographic : 1986 Jul
T ST~JLI 3er ^ TI^ -^di LJ LL 1tIC L lamp Once More By ALICE J. HALL ASSISTANTEDITOR t once the world's largest metal statue, a tangible pledge of French-American friendship, and a beacon to immigrants, the great lady rising from New York Harbor is much more. In one stunning image recognized around the world, the Statue of Liberty says America. And in this country that so often places its celebrities on a pedestal, citizens have over the years taken Liberty from her lofty perch and into their hearts. That feeling of familial affection was evident among the workers putting up the scaffolding for much needed restoration in anticipation of the statue's 100th anniversary. Tony Soraci (right) summed up their accord, "It's a historic job, something to tell my grandchildren." Likewise, the improbable tale of the statue's birth is something to remember and pass on. She was conceived by French intellectuals during after-dinner conversation near Paris in 1865. Chafing under the despotic rule of Napoleon III, host Edouard Rene Lefebvre de Laboulaye proposed a monument to American independence that French men and arms had helped achieve. It would be a gift of the French people for America's Centennial in 1876 and would reinforce ideals of equality and liberty still held by many Frenchmen. One guest, 31-year-old sculptor Frederic-Auguste Bartholdi, began to plan a design. In 1871 he traveled the United States from coast to coast and spotted Bedloe's Island in New York Harbor: "Here ... my statue must rise; here where people get their first view of the New World." He would spend the next 15 years turning idea into reality.