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The Statue of Liberty was Originally Pitched to the Khedive of Egypt as a Muslim Peasant Woman

2015-12-24

Check out this web post from Jack the Lad: the sculptor who created the Statue of Liberty originally pitched the full-sized version of the statue to Egypt as a Muslim peasant woman who would stand guard over the Suez canal.  Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the French sculptor of the original small-sized statue, asked the Khedive (viceroy) of Egypt, Isma’il Pasha, who was beholden to the Sultan in Istanbul, for sponsorship of a large version of his statue that would be built in Egypt.  The Khedive turned him down in the late 1860’s and Bartholdi took his plans to the United States.  A 180 foot tall lighthouse was built at Port Said as a less costly alternative; it was said that the cost of the Suez Canal had drained the Egyptian treasury, making a colossal statue too expensive.

Gustave Eiffel, the creator of the Eiffel tower, built the full-sized version in the harbor of New York City and called it “Lady Liberty.”  A poem was added to the base of the statue, reading in part, “Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me.”  The statue was dedicated on Oct. 28, 1886, close to the centenary of the French revolution, as a gift to the people of the United States.

Jack the Lad sourced this information from an article in the Smithsonian magazine, which was preceded by a notice in the Daily Beast.  These described the statue as the “New Colossus”, referring to the fabled Colossus of Rhodes, which was supposed to represent the sun-god Helios.  The original Colossus was erected in 280 BCE on the island of Rhodes.  It was to celebrate a victory over Cyprus, which had besieged the island unsuccessfully.  It stood over 98 feet in height, and was built with money and materials left behind by the Cyprians from the siege.  The statue was destroyed in an earthquake in 226 BCE.  The ruins were sold off by the Arab conquerors of Rhodes in 653 CE(AD).

The Statue of Liberty is said to represent the Roman goddess Libertas, who bears a torch and a tablet representing the law, which is inscribed with the date of the American Declaration of Independence.  Broken chains lie at her feet.  The site of the statue was determined by Eiffel while he was on the Staten Island ferry; he noticed an island which would be perfect for the statue and later designated Bedloe’s Island (owned by the federal government) as the place.  The statue was designed to be just over 151 feet in height.  Public fundraising efforts resulted in the collection of over $100000 for the statue.

The final statue took almost twenty years from conception to dedication; it was to represent freedom for the slaves, among other things, to which the black newspapers bitterly dissented, calling the present administration “a howling farce.” (The Cleveland Gazette)  The Gazette suggested that the lamp in the torch not be lit until true freedom for the former slaves had been achieved.  President Grover Cleveland ignored these objections and participated in the dedication, which was preceded by a parade in New York that attracted as many as a million spectators.  (all of this from Wikipedia.)

 

 

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