The Statue of Liberty, as we know, was a gift from France that celebrated the United States’ centennial anniversary of independence. It also was a symbol of both countries’ commitment to liberty and freedom. Because it was a gift from France, most people assume that the majority of the work rested on the shoulders of the French people. Considering the $250,000 base on which the statue stood, that assumption would be incorrect. In 1884 President Ulysses S. Grant wrote to then owners of Tiffany and Company in New York asking a donation for the direly underfunded base. Grant worried that the American’s inability to fund the base on which the statue stood would draw negative comments from the world about their poor “patriotism and public spirit.”
Eventually with the help of the solicited owners and from a generous donation from the poet Emma Lazarus, the base was completed in time for the statue’s arrival. Below is Grant’s letter to the owners of Tiffany and Company.
“171 Broadway New York January 1884
You will no doubt deplore with us the marked indifference of the citizens of New York to the munificent gift of the French People to the People of the United States – A colossal Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World. It was presented on the one hundredth anniversary of our National Independence, in commemoration of the ancient alliance and present friendship of the two Republics. The Statue is artistically admirable, and will prove an ornament of the harbor of New York of unequalled majesty and impressiveness. Out of $250,000 needed to erect a suitable pedestal less than half has been raised, after many and strenuous exertions. The threatened stoppage of work upon the Pedestal in consequence of this neglect would produce the most unfavorable comments upon our patriotism and public spirit, not only in our own country, but throughout the civilized world. It has therefore been suggested that twenty of the most prominent of our citizens could be named who would gladly contribute to avert so discreditable a result, and your name has been presented as one of the twenty. Will you be kind enough therefore to inform us if you will agree to pay $5000 towards the object, provided the others do; any previous subscription to be counted as part of the sum, and no publication of the list to be made until it shall be completed. We know that this is hardly a time to make an appeal for money, but the necessity is imperative. U. S. Grant to Mr. M. Evarts and Jos. W. Drexel of Tiffany and Company”