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I want to thank Barbara Lipke both for her workshop Open Imaginations! Help Your Students Find and Tell the Stories in History at Sharing The Fire ’98, and for her book Figures, Facts and Fables: Telling Tales in Science and Math, ISBN 0-435-07105-X. I used her approach to telling stories based in history when creating this fictional story.
I also want to thank my storytelling guild,
The Story Circle of the Capital District,
for their always supportive and helpful advise after hearing my preliminary stories, and in particular, for their help with the end of this story.
My name is Pierre. I am 90 years old and have lived in Paris all my life. Two months ago,
at the beginning of 1956, I read an article in the newspaper about The Statue. I helped make The Statue. And that newspaper article reminded me of the very first time I saw The Statue.
It was 1876, and I was 10 years old. It was a Thursday, our half day at school. And I had brought home a mathematics examination, not a very good one. When my Papa came home for our mid-day meal, he saw that examination.
"Pierre! Pierre!! You have made so many careless mistakes. You will never be hired as an apprentice where I work. We can’t make careless mistakes like these when we’re making a statue. Why, if we did, the statue’s nose would be crooked, or the statue might even fall over!"
"Papa, I know you have told me about making the statues and how careful you have to be. But, I don’t really understand how a statue is made. I would like to see a statue being made, Papa. Perhaps then I could understand why you have to be so careful."
"Pierre, that’s an excellent idea. You may come back with me to work after we finish eating."
So that afternoon I saw The Statue for the first time.
"Papa, you never told me she was so beautiful, and so big – as tall as a two-story building. But why do I see some wood sticking out over there?"
"This statue is made of plaster, Pierre. First we make a wooden frame. You can think of that frame as the bones of the statue, but these bones are quite close to the outside of the statue. Then we put plaster over the wooden frame, for the flesh of the statue."
"Oh, I understand, Papa. Look, over there! There are two smaller copies of this statue."
"Actually, Pierre, this is a copy of those statues."
"What do you mean, Papa?"
"You see that smallest statue. It’s the first version of the statue that M. Bartholdi, the sculptor, made, a 4 foot high statue out of clay. Then we made that 9 foot plaster statue over there, based on the 4 foot clay statue. And now we’re making this 36 foot plaster statue, based on the 9 foot statue."
"But Papa, how do you make one statue based on another, smaller statue?"
"Do you see those ropes hanging down from the ceiling?"
"Yes, Papa, there are 4 ropes around the 9 foot statue and another 4 around the 36 foot statue."
"Those are plumb lines, Pierre. There are heavy weights hanging on the end of each rope and gravity keeps the ropes straight. We use them as our reference points for our measurements. Let’s say we wanted to check if the waist of the 36 foot statue is at the right spot. First we measure to see how high above the floor the waist of the 9 foot statue is. If the waist of the 9 foot statue is 3 feet above the floor, how high above the floor should the waist of the 36 foot statue be?"
"Hmm. The 36 foot statue is 4 times bigger than the 9 foot statue, so its waist should be 4 times higher too. So 3 feet times 4 is 12 feet. The 36 foot statue’s waist should be 12 feet above the floor, Papa."
"Excellent, Pierre, excellent. That is exactly right. Now let’s say we made a mistake measuring the 9 foot statue’s waist and measured 4 feet. Then we’d think that the waist of the 36 foot statue would be at 16 feet, 4 feet too high. The statue would look awful. That’s why we have to be careful, Pierre."
"I understand now, Papa. Thank you for explaining it to me. Papa, may I come back next Thursday? I would like to see The Statue again, Papa, when all the plaster work is done."
"Yes, Pierre, you may come back next week, IF you bring home a good mathematics examination."
"I will, Papa, I will."
And I did bring home an almost perfect examination. There were a few mistakes, things I didn’t really understand yet. But there were no careless mistakes. But when I saw The Statue that week,
"Papa! Why have they put tiny dots all over The Statue? They’ve ruined her!"
"No, Pierre, this isn’t the final statue. The final statue will be 4 ½ times larger than this one."
"A plaster statue that large, Papa?"
"Oh no, Pierre. It will be a copper statue, made of 300 different pieces."
"Why so many pieces, Papa?"
"The Statue is going to another country, Pierre, and it must be made in pieces for shipping."
"How will that copper statue be made, Papa?"
"We will make full-sized pieces of The Statue, out of plaster. Then around each piece we will make strong wooden molds, sort of wooden gloves for plaster pieces. Then we will take the wooden molds off the plaster pieces, and put thin copper sheets on the inside of the molds. Then we’ll hammer the copper into the molds."
"Oh, Papa, that sounds very interesting. May I come back and watch the copper pieces being made?"
"Yes, you may, Pierre, IF you…"
"I know, Papa, I know, if I bring home a good mathematics examination."
"That’s right, Pierre."
I kept doing well on my mathematics examinations so I kept coming back, week after week. Once the wooden molds were completed for the first piece, there were 50 workers hammering on sheets of copper – such a noise. We had to go outside for me to ask Papa my questions.
"How will the pieces be put together once they get to the other country, Papa? Will they be ah welded together?"
"No, Pierre, this statue will be in a windy harbor, so The Statue must be supple. And this harbor is cold in winter, and warm in summer. The copper pieces must be left as pieces that can expand in the heat and contract in the cold."
"So how will all those pieces form The Statue if they’re not connected to each other, Papa?"
"M. Bartholdi has hired a bridge builder to make the bones for the copper statue. These bones will be something like a bridge tower. First there will be the strongest part of the tower, the inner part. There will be 4 large steel angle irons, shaped like the letter L, each over 100 feet tall. These pieces of steel will be secured to the platform The Statue will stand on with bolts 5.5" wide and 65’ deep. So they will be firmly attached to the platform. But since their tops could still move about, the four pieces of steel will be connected by both with horizontal pieces of steel and diagonal pieces. This will be a very strong inner tower. Then the outer framework, near the surface of The Statue, will be built out from that inner tower. Each copper piece will be attached to the outer framework. Look, Pierre, over there, you can see the bridge builder, M. Eiffel."
I kept coming back, week after week. That summer, the first piece was finished, the arm with the torch, and it was shipped to United States. It was exhibited at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition, to help raise money for the platform. You see, the French people were giving money to pay for The Statue, but the Americans had to pay for the platform.
When I was 12, the head was finished and exhibited Paris Universal Exposition 1878 on the other side of the Seine River. The head, 20 feet high with its spiked crown, was put on a cart and pulled across Paris by 12 horses. Lots of people, including me, climbed up the stairs inside the statue and looked out the windows in the crown.
When I was 14, I did start working there, as an apprentice. Mostly I cleaned up and fetched tools. But occasionally, because the workers had seen me for 4 years, they let me hammer easy pieces. So I started to help make The Statue.
Then, when I was 17, they started erecting the statue in the courtyard. To help raise money to finish the statue, M. Bartholdi had a luncheon, inside The Statue, at The Statue’s knees, for reporters. We created a temporary floor there and it was big enough for a number of tables. Imagine, 50 people eating luncheon inside a statue.
I think this was my favorite time, working on The Statue. As The Statue grew taller and taller in the courtyard, she started growing higher than the 4 story buildings around her. The Statue’s waist was taller than those buildings. As I was walking to work, I could catch glimpses of The Statue. Then, one day, The Statue was so tall that I could see her as soon as I walked outside.
When I was 18, The Statue was completed. Well, M. Bartholdi and M. Eiffel still had us making small adjustments on The Statue and her inner frames, but The Statue looked complete from the outside. She was even more beautiful than when I first saw her. She was as shiny as one of your new pennies, gleaming in the sunshine, towering over the buildings all around her.
I was 19 the last time I saw The Statue. M. Bartholdi and M. Eiffel declared that The Statue was done and ready to be shipped to the United States. Se we dismantled her, putting her into over 200 crates which filled 17 railroad cars. I had spent 9 years with The Statue, the tallest statue in the world.
That was 70 years ago. But I still remember The Statue. That newspaper article reminded me of so much. I decided I wanted to see The Statue again.
So with the help of my grandson, Jean-Pierre, we came over to the United States on this ship. We have been standing at the rail since dawn, waiting for the ship to enter New York harbor.
Other people are coming up on deck now. Oh, there she is, she’s now pale blue-green, she reminds me of the first time I saw the plaster statue. But now The Statue is standing proud on her pedestal, no longer hemmed in by buildings. She is still so beautiful. After all these years, I am seeing The Statue again: Liberty Enlightening the World. Oh, I forgot. While M. Bartholdi named her Liberty Enlightening the World, she is now known simply as The Statue of Liberty.
Copyright 1999 Kathryn Eike Dudding. All Rights Reserved.
James B. Bell and Richard I. Abrams,
In Search of Liberty, Doubleday & Co., Inc., 1984.
Christiian Blanchet and Bertrand Dard,
Statue of Liberty: The First 100 Years, American Heritage, 1985.
A Statue for America, Four Winds Press, 1985.
Sylvai C. Montrone,"The Lady with the Green Skin,"
Cricket Magazine, Volume 25, Number 11, July 1998.
National Park Service's web site on the Statue of Liberty