In 1886, the French government gave the United States the Statue of Liberty as a present to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the American Declaration of Independence. However, the gift served another purpose. During the 1880s, the French Third Republic was experiencing political difficulties, with many citizens wishing to return to a more authoritarian form of government. The gift of the statue was meant to highlight the virtues of republicanism and be a symbol for the French Republic’s ideals.
In 1870, French sculptor and artist Frederic Bartholdi was given the task of designing the statue. He first created a small-scale version that was placed in the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris.
A second small-scale version of the Statue of Liberty was also created in 1870 and sent to Maceio, Brazil.
Bartholdi’s vision for the Statue of Liberty was a slight reworking of a statue he proposed to the Egyptian leader for placement at the mouth of the Suez Canal in 1867. This proposal included a huge figure of the Roman goddess Libertas serving as a lighthouse. The proposal was not accepted because of financial issues in Egypt.
The French and Americans reached an agreement where the Americans would build the statue’s base and the French would build and assemble the statue.
To pay for the gift, the French government collected public donations and held charity lotteries.