Today, the Statue of Liberty Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin remembers the ceremony of placing the first rivet in the monument’s left foot on October 24, 1881.
In The Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World, published in 1885, the artist, Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, provided insights into the progress of the monument:
The plan of the French-American Union was not launched upon the public until the end of the year 1874.
Up to that time it had been organized, the means had been prepared, and I had made the first models.
Subscription lists were circulated throughout France at that time. They bore at the head the following, prepared by Mr. Laboulaye:
The Monument of Independence will be executed in common by the two peoples associated in this fraternal work, as they were of old in establishing Independence. In this way we declare by an imperishable memorial the friendship that the blood spilled by our fathers of old sealed between the two nations. It is a treaty of friendship which should be signed by all hearts which feel the love of their country.
The appeal had a considerable response. The birth of the work was celebrated on November 6, 1875, in the Hotel of the Louvre by a banquet which has remained memorable.
The arts, letters, the press, politics, sent there illustrious representatives both from America and from France.
In that hall, whose echoes repeated again and again the names of Franklin and of Washington, were seen near each other the representatives of the names of Lafayette and of Rochambeau.
Near Mr. Washburne, Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States, near Mr. Forney, Commissioner-General in Europe of the Universal Exposition of the same States, were seen the members of the originating committee: Messieurs Laboulaye, Henri Martin, Dietz Mounir, Oscar de Lafayette, Jules de Lasteyrie, Paul de Remusat, Waddington, Count Serurier, Cornelis de Witt, Jean Mace, Victor Borie, Caubert, A. Bartholdi, de Lagorsse, de Tocqueville, Viollet-Leduc, Volowski.
That banquet brought together men of all opinions; the chief Ministers, Deputies, the Aide-de-camp and the Secretary of the President of the Republic, the President of the Municipal Council of Paris, American and French Generals, Academicians, Authors, Savants and Journalists representing all varieties and all shades of politics.
The success of the work was assured. To raise the necessary funds there were festivals and exhibitions.
The illustrious author of “Faust,” Gounod, had composed a hymn for the Statue of Liberty. It was sung at the opera, and M. Laboulaye held a conference.
Going upon the stage he said to his friends: “See how much I love the Americans! At my great age I mount the platform for them.”
To give at that time in America an idea of the work, the right hand of the statue was executed in its colossal proportions and sent to the Exposition at Philadelphia.
I returned to the United States at that period as a member of the French Jury.
In the same year took place in New York the inauguration of the statue of Lafayette, with the execution of which I had been entrusted by the French Government, and which was presented to the city in acknowledgment of the sympathy New York had testified to France by her numerous shipments at the time of the sufferings caused by the siege of Paris.
These circumstances, which awaken patriotic feelings, gave an opportunity for getting the American public earnestly interested in the grand project of their French friends.
A preparatory meeting was organized at the Century Club upon the call of W. M. Evarts, S. D. Babcock, John Jay, W. H. Wickham, William H. Appleton and Richard Butler, Secretary.
At that meeting a committee was organized and a memorial was addressed to the Government of the United States, asking approval and support for what had been done by the French concerning the site of the monument.
Congress on the 22d of February, 1877, voted in favor of accepting the gift of France and setting apart Bedloe’s Island for the site, in terms most flattering to the work and to the French nation.
When I came back to France the taking of subscriptions was going on actively. I executed the head of the statue for the Paris Exposition of 1878.
In the following year all the funds necessary for the execution of the statue were obtained.
On July 7, 1880, the sending of the official notification to the American Committee of the progress of the work and of the date when the labors upon it would be completed, was celebrated by a fete given to General Noyes, the United States Minister at Paris.
This notification was sent to the United States upon an illuminated parchment signed by the members of the Committee and all the Frenchmen who were present.
The work of execution made rapid progress. On October 24, 1881, the anniversary of the battle of York- town, all the pieces of the framework and of the base were put in place.
The Committee invited Mr. Morton, who was the new United States Minister at that time, to come and drive the rivet of the first piece which was to be mounted. It was the left foot of the statue.
Mr. Morton was cordially greeted by a numerous assemblage, and M. Laboulaye bade him welcome.
This ceremony left a strong impression on everyone, and it echoed through the country.
The work on the statue was carried on from that time without slackening and with a numerous force.
It was constantly visited by the public, who showed a lively interest in it. It is estimated that about 300,000 persons visited the workshops.
The statue was nearly finished in 1883; but as the work on the pedestal was not far enough advanced to permit of its erection, it was decided to leave it for some time exposed to view in Paris.
On June 11, 1884, at a great dinner given by Mr. Morton to the Committee of the French-American Union and to the Ministers of the French Government, M. Ferry, President of the Council, announced that the Government had followed with the liveliest interest the progress of this work, which had been accomplished completely outside the range of its influence and by the energy of the private persons who had initiated it.
He found that it was time for the Government to associate itself with the undertaking, and the colossal Statue of Liberty presented to the Americans would be transported to New York on a State vessel under the official banner of France.
M. de Lesseps, who had been called to the presidency of the Committee after the death of our dear and illustrious friend, M. Laboulaye, replied in most happy terms.
He finished his address by proposing to appoint the official delivery of the Statue of Liberty to the United States Minister for the Fourth of July, and to deliver it in the presence of M. Ferry and the Ministers of the French Government.
The President of the Council willingly accepted the suggestion, and thus the ceremony which brilliantly crowned all the work of the Society of the French-American Union was decided upon.
After the date of that ceremony, the statue remained exposed to public view, and the people continued to pour out to visit it until January 1, 1885.
At that time the work of taking it down was begun. This was performed with great care, all the pieces being marked according to a classification which was simple and easy to follow.
At the present hour the whole work is packed up in 210 cases which in a few days are to be put on board the State vessel Isére at Rouen. They will arrive in the United States toward the end of May.
The Statue of Liberty Commemorative Silver Dollar Coin shows with an image of the ceremony placing the first rivet in the monument’s left foot, circa 1881.