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Joseph Pulitzer Crowd-funded Statue of Liberty

Joseph Pulitzer crowd-funded the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal. Without this campaign, America might not have the Statue.  And without Josef Pulitzer’s New York World Newspaper, Lady Liberty just might have ended up in Baltimore, Boston, Philadelphia or San Francisco.  Thanks to his keen sense of innovative marketing, Joseph Pulitzer crowd-funded the Statue of Liberty as we know her today.

The Statue of Liberty was originally the brainchild of French law professor and politician, Rene de Laboulave as a 100th birthday gift to America. He believed that a monument to American Independence and the abolishment of slavery should be a joint venture between France and the United States.

Enter sculptor Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi who had a vision of the statue welcoming him when he sailed into New York Harbor in 1870. He sketched his idea, patented it,  and the promotion engines began.

In truth, Bartholdi was determined to create a famous statue somewhere.  Anywhere for that matter.  His original Statue of Liberty was designed for the Suez Canal.

Funding Lagged on Both Sides of the Atlantic

Like all great ideas, this one needed funding.  It was determined that money for the Statue of Liberty must come from both sides of the Atlantic. In 1875, the French promoters formed an organization, the French American Union. They asked for donations from the French public for the statue itself. Funding for her pedestal would come from the American public.

In France, funds came in from approximately 180 cities, towns and villages, plus swarms of school children. With funds still short, the French-American Union held lotteries offering prizes, but they still fell short.

Her Torch Arrives at  Philadelphia Exposition

In 1876, Bartholdi sent Lady Liberty’s hand and torch to the Philadelphia Exposition to raise interest. Meanwhile, he and Gustave Eiffel (as in the Eiffel Tower) engineered the rest of her body.

Bartholdi sold personalized miniature versions of the statue. Finally, in July of 1880, they had finally raised enough money to complete the statue. The statue was completed in 1884 and displayed in Paris while Americans were still lagging on the funds to build the pedestal.

Rekindling a Rivalry Between Cities

Bartholdi rekindled the rivalry that burned when the torch had first been displayed at the Philadelphia Exposition in 1876. Some New Yorkers worried that  Philadelphia might come up with the funds for the statue.  It was believed that Bartholdi floated rumors that if New Yorkers didn’t want the statue perhaps another city would.

Fearful of losing the statue, New Yorkers kicked into action, determined to raise the estimated $250.000 needed for the pedestal. Eventually even the New York Times dropped its opposition to the statue. Still, donations lagged. Art shows, auctions and a rally was held on Wall Street. Still they fell short.

Joseph Pulitzer Crowd-Funded Lady Liberty’s Pedestal

Joseph Pulitzer had purchased The World, in the early 1880s.  With a key eye for promotion he he saw gold in  the statue’s pedestal. Promising to print the name of each donor, no matter how small the amount, Joseph Pulitzer crowd-funded the pedestal, placing his newspaper at the center.

Millions of people across America contributed to the fund, including schoolchildren. One kindergarten class in Iowa sent $1.35 to the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal. In August of 1885, Pulitzer’s paper finally announced that they had raised the final $100,000.

The Statue of liberty Arrived in 350 Pieces

Construction work on the stone structure began.   She arrived from France 130 years ago today, on June 17, 1885. Like so many of us after a big move, she was  in pieces (reportedly 350) and packed in 214 crates.

The Statue of Liberty was Standing tall in 1886 when Nellie Bly came to New York City and finally landed her first assignment from Joseph Pulitzer for the New York World Newspaper.
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2 Responses

  1. Pulitzer “promised to print the name of each donor, no matter how small the amount.”

    Where might one find lists of those who donated money for the pedestal?

    1. Hello Paul. The names were published in the New York World newspaper. By August 11, 1885, the World collected over $100,000 in donations – most donations being about $1 or less. Roughly 125,000 people contributed. The list of names would appear in editions after that date. If you need a specific edition, let me know. Thanks so much for your interest.

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