Found: Letter From the Sculptor Behind the Statue of Liberty

October 21, 2021

Letter in French, written in Newport by Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, sculptor of the Statue of Liberty, 1871. Box 83, Folder 19, NHS ID 311.

Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi, the French sculptor of the Statue of Liberty, was a frequent visitor to Newport, as evidenced by this letter from the NHS archives.

It is clear from his letter that Bartholdi greatly enjoyed his time in the city, taking the opportunity to meet members of Newport’s intelligentsia, such as Alexander Agassiz, the renowned marine biologist and engineer who developed a state-of-the-art marine laboratory attached to his summer home in Newport, now Castle Hill Inn. Agassiz introduced Bartholdi to “Mr. Longfellow”, possibly the poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. Of the two gentlemen, Bartholdi writes:

“I have been received with great cordiality. This visit leaves with me the most agreeable remembrances. I have spoken about our projects with these gentlemen, they are very enthusiastic about them, have promised me their assistance, and decidedly I’ll be able to take with me to France excellent experiences.”

The correspondence is likely addressed to Vincenzo Botta, husband of poet Anne Lynch Botta, hosts of literary salons in New York City that were regularly frequented by writers, political dignitaries, and international artists, including Bartholdi. The letter, dated to August 4, 1871, was written four years before construction began on the Statue of Liberty; from the start of its construction, it would be another 11 years before the monument was officially unveiled to the public.

Bartholdi isn’t Newport’s only connection with the Statue of Liberty; the monument’s substantial pedestal was designed by Richard Morris Hunt, the architect behind an impressive number of Newport’s mansions, including The Breakers, Ochre Court, Belcourt, Marble House, and Chateau-sur-Mer, among others.


Banner: Durkin, John, Artist. The Bartholdi Statue of Liberty, 1884. Photograph.