American Committee Models

American Committee Model (ACM)

Beginning in April of 1885, advertisements appeared in The World, the principal advocate for Liberty among New York’s newspapers, announcing the sale by subscription of a “miniature statuette six inches in height” and another twelve inches high. Described as “a perfect facsimile of the model furnished by the artist”, the statuettes were sold through the American Committee of the Statue of Liberty. Models in both sizes were inscribed on the underside of the figure which is removable from its accompanying pedestal. “AMERICAN COMMITTEE MODEL”.

The American Committee was the American half of the Union Franco-Amercaine, with its principal mission the successful installation of the Status of Liberty in New York harbor. The Committee’s most urgent objective of the moment was the raising of funds to pay for the pedestal. Sale through subscription of the models manufactured in its name allowed the Committee to reach a very broad public who in purchasing the statuettes shared in a lofty purpose and at the same time, were made aware of the continuing need for funds to translate purpose into reality.

Led by its aggressive publisher, Joseph Pulitzer, The World escalated support for the project and on June 7, 1885, carried a full-page advertisement accompanied by a list of department stores in cities from Boston to St. Louis which “generously volunteered” to help the campaign by sale of the models to their customers without profit. Excerpts of letters from each addressed to the Committee placed orders for the “Lilliputian copies of this remarkable structure” with the largest an order of ten thousand models in the six-inch size from New York’s R. H. Macy & Company. Sale of the models continued and in November of 1886, press accounts reported Bartholdi’s “desire that representation of the great statue be found in every portion of the globe”, and that the models’ distribution had already extended to Mexico and Central America. Aside from their sale through department stores, subscription order through the American Committee continued at a brisk pace.

At the time of the statue’s fiftieth anniversary in 1936, interviews appeared in the press with Edward J. Layley who as a young man had processed subscription orders at the committee’s headquarters in New York. Then seventy-three, Layley recalled working as a clerk for Richard Butler, Secretary of the American Committee, who “sort of loaned me out to the Committee”. Layley was busy from eight o’clock in the morning until late at night and noted that “the subscriptions were coming in so fast that even with what help I could get it was hard for me to keep up recording them”.

That at least fifty thousand models in the six-inch size were made seems almost certain, with the possibility of a total quantity far greater. Less popular, doubtless owing to the higher cost-the smaller models sold for one dollar while the larger size cost five dollars – were the twelve-inch models. None of the department stores ordered the larger size, and it was probably produced in far less quantity. Layley, however, commented that “The largest size was really an important souvenir….and was a favorite with subscribers…”.

The question on quantity is no less elusive than the nature of the contractual arrangements under which the American Committee Model was manufactured. As Secretary of the American Committee, Richard Butler was the principal figure in every aspect of the Committee’s activity and chief supporter of Bartholdi throughout, support both moral and financial that extended almost to the end of the sculptor’s life. Bartholdi repeatedly received from Butler payments representing royalties, frequently amounting to three-thousand francs (over six-hundred dollars) at a time, presumably in part from the models’ sale which continued after Liberty’s inaugural in 1886.

Beginning in 1883 Bartholdi expressed concern over the sale of reproduction rights in the United States for models of the statue, rights at the time held by Bartholdi’s principal founder in Paris, Avoiron et Cie. Butler conducted protracted negotiations for purchase of these rights which were eventually concluded in the fall of 1886. Avoiron’s rights to reproduce Liberty under contract passed to a firm in New York, the Newton Bottle Stopper & Britannia Company. How the company exercised the rights cannot be determined as the American Committee Model was already in production and unrelated in design to casts reproduced by Avoiron. The model in both sized was, however, produced by the company (also identified as Brudage & Newton) and, at lease in the twelve-inch size, was cast after a foundry model made by Max Baudelot. Baudelot was a sculptor sent from Paris by Bartholdi who produced instead of a clay maquette, “a model of a nude figure…and on this the draperies were placed.”. Of the result, Bartholdi commented in July 1885, “I have just received the little statuette on its pedestal; it is very well made…it is only too bad the details are a bit defective (but) I think that will not strike others as it does me, for the general aspect makes a good impression.”. Whether or not Baudelot produced the foundry model for the six-inch case as well is unknown; also unknown is Bartholdi’s critical judgment of the smaller model in cast.

Casting details, especially those for the twelve-inch model are of surprisingly high quality given the circumstances of the models’ manufacture which represented volume production by a firm without experience in the reproduction of sculpture in cast. On the smaller of the two models, a platform base of sheet steel inscribed “LIBERTY ENLIGHTENING THE WORLD”, is attached to the pedestal while figure and pedestal are independent of each other. The figure is cast with a cylindrical extension which fits into a hole at the pedestal’s top, a feature common to all models in both sizes. Models in the six-inch size are sometimes without a platform base which is probably added subsequent to their initial manufacture to permit the inscription clearly identifying the model as a souvenir replica of the Statue of Liberty.

Two patents were issued to Bartholdi by the United States Patent Office: Design No. 10,893 dated November 5, 1878, and Design No. 11,023 dated February 18, 1879, Both dates in abbreviated form appear on the upper surface of the pedestal for both the six and twelve inch models. The first patent is for a “Design for Bust” which in accompanying illustration is identical to the small bust cast by Avoiron. The second patent, “Design for a Statue,” was granted, like the first, to “Auguste Bartholdi, of Paris, France” and is accompanied by a rendering of the full-figured Liberty over the title Liberty Enlightening the World.

On whose advice Bartholdi applied for the two patents is unclear-although it was probably Butler to whom as in everything else Bartholdi turned. Also unclear is why the patents were acquired at all in view of the copyright granted in 1876. A possible explanation lies in the peculiarities of practice that distinguished copyright from patent procedure. A claim for copyright could be registered for a design closely related to one already registered, and copyright granted, without interference. Only the Patent Office provided for interference procedures in which a patent might not be granted for a design that in essence was already on record. Ever concerned for protecting his rights, Bartholdi doubtless preferred to take whatever precautions were available, looking to the day when not only Liberty herself would grace New York harbor, but also to the continued sale across the United States of the “miniature statuettes”. Royalties for the hoped-for sales would help in part to ease the financial pain that was never quite overcome by the international acclaim accorded him, or even his personal joy upon the finalization of his lifelong passion.

Apart from casts in the six and twelve-inch sizes, the American Committee Model was also made in a version that measured three feet and “… so arranged to be utilized as a gas light or lamp”. In none of the advertisements of the subscription sale of the models is the three-foot cast mentioned, [except here] and the single descriptive reference to the version is brief mention in press coverage of Liberty’s inaugural in October of 1886. Moreover, in contrast to examples of the model in the smaller sizes, only a very limited number of the three-foot casts have been identified.

Primary to any consideration of the model’s origin is an account offered by the present day owner of the documented casts, an account which in the integrity of its intention there can be no question. Sometime before 1890, perhaps in 1886 a silver platter and designer of objects for manufacture in silver named Robert McMullen, was asked by the company unidentified but located in Brooklyn, to make three models replicating the Statue of Liberty: one model as a gift for then President of France, one for the President of Mexico, and one for the “Statue of Liberty Foundation”. According to the account, McMullen was permitted to make for himself a fourth model after which “the pattern was destroyed”. The fourth model was inherited by McMullen’s daughter, its present owner.

Although a gift intended for the President of France in 1886 was not at all unlikely, the President of Mexico seems a less apt recipient. However, the President of the American Committee was William M. Evarts, who as Secretary of State during the late 1870s actively courted Mexico’s President, Porfirio Diaz, in the hope of improving the unstable political relations between Mexico and the United States. Conceivably, Evarts saw the gift as a suitable reminder of his earlier efforts. As for the “Statue of Liberty Foundation”, it can be clearly identified as the American Committee.

While more than four casts, each identical and unquestionably from the same mold, have been documented, they are so few in total number that the account cannot be rejected in its entirety, and McMullen may in fact be the maker of the three-foot model. An alternate possibility is that the large-size version was cast after a foundry model designed by Maxx Boudelot, the identified sculptor of the twelve-inch model. In design is a clear echo, seen particularly in facial features, of the twelve-inch model which in any event, probably served as a working guide.

In technical manufacture and assembly, the large-size casts differ from smaller versions with figure firmly screwed to pedestal, although cast separately, with inscriptions of patent dates differently rendered, and without the identifying inscription, “AMERICAN COMMITTEE MODEL”. At the bottom rim of the model’s pedestal, centered and cast in the mold, is inscribed “PATENTED” with three dates; the first two those for the patents granted to Bartholdi in 1878 and 1879. The third inscription, “July 16, 1886”, incorrectly identifies the date for Patent Design as No. 16,167 dated July 14, 1885, for a “Design for a Pedestal or Stand for a Statue” granted to “Richard M. Hunt, of New York, N.Y., Assignor to Richard Butler, Secretary of the American Committee of the Statue of Liberty, of Same Place”. In the narrative description for the patent, over Hunt’s name, is no mention of whatever of the Statue of Liberty. Instead, the patent is for a “new and original design for … pedestals and stands for statues, monuments, gas and electric lights, thermometer holders, clock cases, cigar lighters, cigar cutters, lamps, ink stands, paper weights, bottles, card receivers, and various other articles of manufacture”. What follows, however, is a description of physical features that are identical to those of the pedestal provided in design by Hunt for the Statue of Liberty, and which was adopted as the final design for the monuments erection.

With sale never aggressively pursued, in contrast to the small models’ promotion, and with origins of their technical manufacture unclear, the three-foot casts remain a mystery; their association with the American Committee Model is based solely on a lone descriptive reference and, however slender, the visible evidence of similarities in design. Brooklyn, however, was a likely location for the workshop foundry owned or used by the Newton Bottle Stopper and Britannia Company, a location identified in the McMullen account. Without evidence to the contrary, it may be identified as the probable scene of origin for the three-foot casts as well as the smaller-size models produced in quantity as the American Committee Model.

In the three-foot size, the American Committee Model share with casts in the “A” and “B” sized by Avoiron a torch fitted for gas or electrical illumination. Like Avoiron et Cie., the Newton Bottle Stopper & Britannia Company carried Liberty’s design beyond the confines of sculptural convention into areas of technology new to the period, an extension entirely apt as a reflection not only of the structural innovations of the statue itself, but also as a physical attribute that marks Liberty’s original symbolic intention.

Copied with permission from Images of Liberty, Models and Reductions of the Statue of Liberty, 1867-1917