Liberty Enlightening the World. That’s the title of patent #USD11023 granted to one Auguste Bartholdi on February 18, 1879. You might know it better as the Statue of Liberty.

The Statue of Liberty is 130 today. But that anniversary marks its arrival in New York, not its actual creation, which goes back as far as two decades before 1885. You probably remember from grade school that the statue was a gift from France, right? The construction of this massive present, which was originally proposed by a political activist named Édouard René de Laboulaye, had trouble raising cash on both sides of the ocean.

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In fact, people who donated $1 would receive a 6-inch replica of the statue, designed by the French sculptor Auguste Bartholdi (yep, those ubiquitous touristy statues of Lady Liberty have been around since the statue was even finished). Bartholdi even filed for a design patent, as the US Patent and Trademark Office pointed out today.

NYPL on Flickr.

The patent was actually filed three years after Bartholdi was commissioned to design it, and it includes a really lovely verbal description of his design. For example: The head, with its classical, yet severe and calm. features, is surmounted by a crown or diadem, from which radiate divergingly seven rays, tapering from the crown, and representing a halo. It also included a beautiful engraving of the unfinished design on the front page.

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But the real important stuff seems to come at the end, where he describes how this design could be reproduced: Terra-cotta! Plaster of Paris! Bassrelief! Have you considered plastic? Or even just “pictorially in print from engravings on metal, wood, or stone?” Bartholdi’s patent included a slew of possible ways to reproduce Liberty—perhaps, as some blogs have suggested, since replicas of her were being given to donors.

In the end, the partially finished statue did make its way to New York. But it still took a long, protracted effort to raise the cash to finish it. Pieces of her body were even sent around the country to help the effort—her arm, for example, lived in Madison Square Park for six years.

You can see the full patent here, plus a few great construction photos below.


Here are a few shots from inside Bartholdi’s workshop, ranging from around 1880 to 1884. Source: NYPL on Flickr.

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From 1884, this photo shows the left hand of Lady Liberty. Hulton Archive/Getty Images.

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Her head, seen here in 1884 on display in France. AP Photo.

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Contact the author at kelsey@Gizmodo.com.