What do you give a country for its 100th birthday? When the US reached its centenary in 1876, France decided that the obvious gift was a 151-foot/46.5-metre copper statue. The young French sculptor Auguste Bartholdi was commissioned to design the 225-tonne figure. According to legend, he based the face on his mother’s and the body on that of a prostitute. It was left to the Americans to build a suitable pedestal.
As a result of fund shortages on both sides of the Atlantic, the project overran considerably. ‘Liberty Enlightening the World’ was finally unveiled, 10 years late, on Bedloe’s Island in New York harbour on 15 October 1886.
Bartholdi was shrewd enough to secure a US design patent for his iconic creation (D11023, registered 18 February 1879).