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Putting Liberty on a Pedestal

Most Americans know that the Statue of Liberty by Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi was a gift to the American people from the citizens of France. The deal was that the French people will pay for the statue but its pedestal had to be financed and built by the Americans.

Across the big water, the American Committee of the Statue of Liberty began raising the $250,000 required for the pedestal. Benefit events, auctions, sales of miniatures, and exhibitions of the hand and torch section brought in some donations but at a slow rate. Neither Congress nor the state or city of New York had any interest in helping. Many Americans couldn't understand why we'd want such a thing much less pay for it.

A Slow Start

The press in general was critical of the project but Joseph Pulitzer, publisher of the New York World, was outraged by the lack of support. He told his readers that "more appropriate would be the gift of a statue of parsimony than a statue of liberty, if this is the appreciation we show of a friendly nation's sentiment and generosity."

Pulitzer's constant appeals for donations over two months only managed to raise $135.75. (Of course, at that time, the circulation of The World was only a few thousand.) Meanwhile Boston, Cleveland, Philadelphia, and San Francisco began to push to have the statue relocated to their cities.

Tagged in: Fundraising History

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Just for fun, I've put together an incomplete survey of the various ways that fundraising and philanthropy have been represented in popular culture. We fundraiser's don't always get portrayed in a positive light and police procedurals sure do like to have a corpse at a charity gala!

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