Official Report from France to The United States Committee for the Statue of Liberty on the Status of the Building of the Statue Itself
French agent William Evarts Writes the Committee: “I have been greatly impressed with the manner in which Mr. Bartholdi has executed his noble conception. Its magnitude as a structure, immense as it is, is not disproportionate to the grandeur of the design…I hear, much to my satisfaction, that its regular and rapid...
French agent William Evarts Writes the Committee: “I have been greatly impressed with the manner in which Mr. Bartholdi has executed his noble conception. Its magnitude as a structure, immense as it is, is not disproportionate to the grandeur of the design…I hear, much to my satisfaction, that its regular and rapid completion is now assured.”
William Maxwell Evarts was incoming as Secretary of State in President Hayes’s administration when he was asked to serve as chairman of the American Committee for the Statue of Liberty, an organization dedicated to raising funds for the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal. Evarts quickly said yes. He was then named chairman of the Committee and held the position from 1877 to 1886. Evarts was the key figure in ensuring the success of the fundraising campaign; it was his years of commitment to the project and his willingness to exert his social and political influence that legitimized the campaign before the press and the public. Even more important than his fundraising efforts was Evart’s political influence in Congress and with Presidents Ulysses S. Grant and Hayes. After much persuasion from Evarts, a joint congressional resolution that officially accepted the Statue as a gift from France passed on March 3, 1877, the day before the Grant administration yielded to Hayes.
One of the most prominent rubber manufacturers and art collectors of the 19th century, Richard Butler, was the secretary of the American Committee for the Statue of Liberty. When the American Committee for the Statue of Liberty was formed in 1877, chairman Evarts selected 22 members to sit on it. Butler was one of those chosen and served as the committee’s secretary from 1877 to 1902. With his entrepreneurial capabilities and wealthy contacts, Butler was an indispensible, driving force during the committee’s struggle to raise money for the construction and completion of the Statue’s pedestal. He worked tirelessly planning fundraising events and even mobilized his New Jersey factory to ship statuettes to financial contributors.
Autograph letter signed, Paris, May 5, 1881, to Butler. “I avail myself of Mr. Pinchot’s return to New York to express very briefly the opinion I have formed as to the progress of the work in the magnificent Statue of Mr. Bartholdi and in respect to the statue itself.
“I have been greatly impressed with the manner in which Mr. Bartholdi has executed his noble conception. Its magnitude as a structure, immense as it is, is not disproportionate to the grandeur of the design. I imagine there is no diversity of opinion among competent judges respecting the statue itself.
“I hear, much to my satisfaction, that its regular and rapid completion is now assured. The money is already provided and no delays are found, even, in the progress of the structure except such as the nature of the task improves. Mr. Pinchot, am sure, will confirm this opinion and will give you the details both as to accounts and dates with due particularity.
“In this position of the work on this side of the water, it becomes the Committee in New York to be moving with promptness and energy towards raising the necessary funds for the pedestal, to receive this noble contribution of French genius, friendship and enthusiasm. The opinion you expressed to me as I was leaving New York, that no difficulty and no delay would be met with in raising funds in our country, I do not doubt was correct. I bet to suggest, with some emphasis, that the moment has arrived for putting this to proof.
“It seems to me also important that we should be prepared with the plans and estimates for the work, and that the work itself should be put forward so that no considerable [distance] should occur between the readiness of the statue for erection and of the pedestal to receive it.
“I have ventured to say this much in justice to my estimate of this enterprise as statue, carried forward on this side of the Atlantic by the sculptor and the french admirers of our great city and of country. While I am in Europe I shall be glad to be the means of communication between our own and the French committee.”
This group comes with several letters from prominent men, including Jacob Schiff, accepting or declining the invitation to serve on the committee. The Pinchot mentioned is J.W. Pinchot, who is considered the father of forestry in America; his son was the noted conservationist and friend of Theodore Roosevelt, Gifford Pinchot.
It was not until 1885 that enough money was raised to erect the Statue in New York Harbor. After months of assembly it was dedicated on October 28, 1886. Now 3 million people visit it each year.
Letter Signed, prominent publisher George M. Baker, December 9, 1881, accepting the position to serve on the committee.
Letter signed, Andrew D. White, November 21, 1881, regretting that his duties as President of Cornell University make service on the committee impossible.
Autograph letter signed, William Waldorf Astor, Nov. 20, 1881, regretting that he cannot serve on the committee.
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