The American painter, John la Farge, was a friend of Bartholdi's and agreed to present Jeanne to local society as his La Farge cousin from Canada. Auguste and Jeanne were married in Newport, R.I., and he took the artistic license of making his mother happy by writing her that he had wed a beautiful girl from a most distinguished French-Canadian family.
Funds had to be raised in France to build the statue weighing 200 tons and measuring more than 160 feet from foot to tip of torch light. In America, financing was needed for the massive pedestal on what was called Bedloe's Island in New York Harbor. The poet Longfellow helped the cause in the United States. So did Joseph Pulitzer, editor of the New York World newspaper.
Fame Steadily Grows
Bartholdi's fame, already well established in France, grew steadily on this side of the Atlantic. His paintings of "Old California" and "New California," as well as some of his sculptures, were exhibited in Philadelphia and New York. The arm and the torch of Liberty were shipped to be exhibited at the Philadelphia International Exposition and later at Madison Square Garden in New York.
He created the statue of Lafayette for Union Park Square in New York. The Freemasons adopted the Liberty project as symbolic of their belief in human liberty. In France, where construction of the iron framework was directed by Eiffel, Victor Hugo came to pay homage to the new Lady of Liberty.
It was July 4, 1884, before the statue could be officially presented in Paris to the American ambassador. Then it had to be dismantled and shipped in 85 crates to New York. On Oct. 28, 1886, a centennial day to be commemorated this October, President Cleveland went to New York to preside over the dedication ceremonies attended by more than 2,500 distinguished guests, including Bartholdi and his beloved "French-Canadian" wife who had been the model for the statue. Bartholdi was then 52.
Jeanne was with him during the last moments of his life on Oct. 5, 1904. She told him again of her regret at not having been able to give him children. He smiled and said, "Children? But have we not already made a girl together? Her name is Liberty."
Jeanne Bartholdi spent the rest of her life, which ended with the outbreak of World War I in 1914, collecting her husband's works for what would become the museum in the family home she bequeathed to the town of his birth. She asked their friend, sculptor Hubert Louis-Noel, to work on the statue of her husband that stands near the old Water Tower in Colmar. Bartholdi is holding a chisel in one hand, and on the stool behind his shoulder is the Statue of Liberty.
100th Birthday Party
Lord Mayor of Colmar Edmond Gerrer will lead a delegation from the town to New York for the 100th birthday party of Lady Liberty beginning July 3, when President Reagan and President Francois Mitterrand of France, together with Chrysler Corp. chairman Lee Iacocca who headed the fund-raising campaign for restoration of the statue, will participate in the torch-lighting ceremony opening it once again to public visits.
When you visit Colmar, ask the tourist officer for a guide to the town. She is Lillian Braun, a native of New York who has studied the Colmar and Bartholdi story for 27 years while living here with her Alsatian husband.
The tourist office can also supply you with self-guided walking material and a list of accommodations in all price ranges.
For further information about Colmar and a list of accommodations, contact the French Government Tourist Office, 9401 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 840, Beverly Hills, Calif. 90212, phone (213) 271-6665.