The Statue of Liberty: America's Crowdfunded Torch
18 October 2023
A Gift from France, but a Challenge for America
France's gift to the United States in 1885, the Statue of Liberty, symbolized the enduring friendship between the two nations (Moreno, 2004). However, there was a catch: America had to fund and build the pedestal on which Lady Liberty would stand. With the government hesitant to fully finance the project, it became clear that public fundraising would be paramount.
Kickstarting the Pedestal: Campaigns and Contributors
Newspapers Leading the Charge: Joseph Pulitzer, the renowned newspaper magnate, spearheaded the fundraising campaign through his publication, The New York World. His newspaper ran articles, stories, and contests, urging readers to contribute, even if it was a mere penny (Khan, 2003).
The Power of the Masses: While wealthy donors did contribute, the majority of the funds were amassed from small donations by everyday citizens. From schoolchildren to shopkeepers, thousands came together, contributing more than $100,000 in total, a staggering amount for that time (Trachtenberg, 1977).
Creativity in Fundraising: Benefit events, auctions, and art exhibitions became commonplace. One notable fundraising event involved the auctioning of prized items, including a rare photograph of Abraham Lincoln (Harris, 2010).
Societal Impacts of the Crowdfunding Endeavor
A Truly Democratic Monument: Given its wide base of contributors, the Statue of Liberty stands as a monument not just for the people but also by the people. This fundraising effort epitomized America's democratic spirit (Moreno, 2004).
Strengthening National Unity: The campaign fostered a sense of collective achievement and national unity. Citizens, irrespective of their socio-economic status, felt a personal connection to the statue, having played a role in its erection.
Moreno, B. (2004). The Statue of Liberty Encyclopedia. Simon and Schuster.
Khan, B. Z. (2003). An Economic History of the Statue of Liberty: Innovation, Trade, and Political Economy. European Review of Economic History.
Trachtenberg, A. (1977). The Incorporation of America: Culture and Society in the Gilded Age. Hill and Wang.
Harris, N. (2010). Building Lives: Constructing Rites and Passages. Yale University Press.