Lady Liberty: A Journey to New York

Today, The Statue of Liberty and New York are indelibly linked. The City Reliquary’s collection of statuettes, renderings and liberty inspired trinkets remind us how fully she has permeated New York’s material culture. Since 1886, the statue has shaped New York’s public image and stood as important symbol of freedom in America more broadly. Few remember though, that the statue began its relationship with New York as an unsolicited and relatively unpopular gift from France.

Statue of Liberty Memorabilia at The City Reliquary

Statue of Liberty Memorabilia at The City Reliquary

From conception to construction, finding and financing a permanent home for Lady Liberty proved difficult. She was designed to stand in New York Harbor, but New Yorkers were slow to secure funding for a suitable pedestal. When the Federal Government refused to pay for a pedestal in New York Harbor, cities across the nation vied for Lady Liberty and it seemed the statue might not make it to New York at all. Thanks to a collective of a few passionate liberty proponents and publishing magnate Joseph Pulitzer, New York secured the necessary pedestal funding and a future for the statue that has come to symbolize the city.

The statue’s twenty year fundraising struggle reminds us that Lady Liberty embodies a lot more than freedom. Her story offers insight into 19th century aesthetics, Franco-American relations, American philanthropic norms, inter-American competition and the fluidity of symbolism.

So what exactly is the story? How did the New York icon actually end up in New York?

Next page