By William Thibodeaux, History columnist
An interesting article appeared on the front page of the Opelousas Courier on May 9, 1885. It reported that the Statue of Liberty was being loaded on the French transport Isere and once loaded; it would be shipped across the Atlantic to New York. The statue had officially been presented to the United States minister to France in Paris on Independence Day 1884. Afterwards it was dismantled and packed into wooden creates—all 214 of them. The Statue of Liberty was the new wonder of the world as it was the largest statue of the world. Forty people could comfortably fit into the goddess’s head. A six-foot man standing level on the statue’s lips could only reach up to an eyebrow and it was said that fifteen people could sit around the flame of the torch. The Statue of Liberty was the idea, creation, and gift of the great French sculptor, Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, who not only devoted eight years of his life to the project, but most of his fortune. He was inspired to create the statue by a French law professor, and it was said that Bartholdi modeled the statue’s face after that of his mother. It was said that the statue’s “pose, stride and gesture, with its classic face, are pronounced perfect; the drapery is both massive and fine, and in some parts are as delicate and silky in effect as if wrought with a fine chisel on the smallest scale.” The statue was titled: Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World.
The statue was a joint effort between France and the United States to commemorate the lasting friendship between the two nations. The statue was constructed in the yard at Rue de Chazelles in Paris, France, where it took eight years to construct. The weight of the gigantic status was 440,000 pounds, of which 176,000 pounds are copper and the rest was wrought-iron. The most famous statue of the world was said to stand a total of 305 feet above tidewater. The statue alone stands 151.2 feet, the pedestal is 91 feet, and the foundation is 52.10 feet high. Lady Liberty had been expected to arrive in New York sometime in May but actually didn’t arrive until Friday, June 19, 1885. It was erected on Bedloe’s Island, now named Liberty Island. The site was chosen by General William Tecumseh Sherman, who had been appointed by the president to find a suitable location. The statue was dedicated by President Grover Cleveland in 1886. It was a shining beacon to millions of hopeful immigrants that arrived in America via nearby Ellis Island. The imposing statue stood higher than the enormous towers of the Brooklyn Bridge and the steeple of Trinity Church, which were the tallest structures at the time in New York City. It was said to be “…higher than any of the colossal statues of antiquity.”
In 1885, the committee in charge of the construction for the base and pedestal were in need of funds to complete the project. According to the article, miniature statuettes were made in the Statue of Liberty’s exact likeness except they stood only six inches tall. All someone had to do to purchase one was to send $1.00 to Richard Butler, Secretary American Committee of the Statue of Liberty, #33 Mercer Street, New York. The lasting souvenirs were made of bronze while the pedestal was made of nickel and silver. The prized miniature keepsakes were being delivered to subscribers throughout the United States for $1.00 each. But wait, there’s more! The committee also constructed a twelve-inch model for only $5.00 each! They were made of the same materials as the smaller version. It was a fitting and lasting testament to the recipient’s contribution for the completion of the world’s most recognizable statue.