Liberty Enlightening the World

Written by Jasmine Grace,
High School Intern

 

Liberty Enlightening the World

The Statue of Liberty has become a symbol of freedom, democracy, and of America itself. But the statue wasn’t built here. It wasn’t even an American idea. The people of France sent it as a gift, and a symbol of friendship between the nations. 

The Gift

In the year 1865, the American Civil War was coming to an end, and the country was united once again. Across the Atlantic, French historian Édouard de Laboulange wanted to celebrate the expansion of freedom in America. His idea was to send a massive statue as a gift, and an enduring symbol of the Friendship between the two nations. 

The Statue

Construction of the Statue’s Hand

Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, a contemporary sculptor, created the statue. He used a technique known as repousse to create the ‘skin’ (exterior) of the statue. This technique involved hammering out massive sheets of copper by hand to create the desired shape. He named his creation ‘Statue of Liberty Enlightening the World’ although most of us today call it simply the Statue of Liberty. 

 

 

NY Harbor

The skeletal support of the Statue fell to Alexandre-Gustave Eiffel, famed architect of the Eiffel Tower. He constructed this skeleton to move independently from the statue’s skin, which would be essential in windy New York harbor. 

Eiffel and Bartholdi completed the statue in 1885, then disassembled it for the journey across the Atlantic. In nearly 200 different crates, it boarded the French frigate Isere.

The Pedestal

The Pedestal on Fort Wood

While the statue was being constructed in France, the pedestal was built in New York. Many helped to raise funds for this gigantic projects through contests, benefits, exhibitions, and other events.

Laborers built the Pedestal in the courtyard of Fort Wood. This fortress, built during the War of 1812, is on what would come to be known as Liberty Island.

In June, the Isere arrived and workers labored for four months to reassemble the statue. This iconic monument has stood tall on Liberty Island ever since. 

 

French All Around Us

Written by Kaleb Houle-Lawrence – High School Intern

The Book

The Book

Last March, a collection of stories about the French language and Francophone culture in the U.S. was published. This book, titled French All Around Us, has contributions from nearly two dozen Francophone authors. Many of these contributors are well-connected with both the FAC and the Francophone culture at large in New Hampshire. A list of authors, and their short biographies, can be found here. 

According to the book’s description, this anthology details a variety of perspectives on Francophone culture in the United States. The stories hail from second-generation French-Canadian immigrants to new immigrants into the United States. Each person offers a unique perspective on the anthology’s themes. The book details, through its several pieces, the experience of French speakers in the United States and how they feel Francophone culture has contributed to American identity. 

Phillipe Etienne

Since its publication, the book has already received critical success. Several figures have praised the book, including Phillipe Etienne, the Ambassador of France to the United States. Etienne said the book reflected “the reality of French and Francophone cultures in the United States.” Maine House of Representative Speaker Ryan Fecteau also commended the book. He says it serves as “a testament to the resilience of those who have preserved the language and traditions.”

The Event

The Franco-American Connection

On Wednesday, September 28th, the FAC will be hosting eight contributors on this book at the Dana Center at Saint Anselm. The event is free to the public and will last from 7 pm to 9 pm. While attending this event, the authors will explain their pieces and the work as a whole. The panel seeks to connect with regional Francophones and share experiences and stories with them.

Interested in this event? Check out this page on the FAC website and stay tuned for more contact!

Merci Train

Written by Jasmine Grace,
High School Intern


On February 3rd, 1949, a 40-boxcar train sailed into New York Harbor. Why would a train travel by boat? Well, this train had come across the Atlantic from France. It was a thank-you gift from the people of France.

The Original Gift

American Friendship Train

New York Harbor, 1949

A couple of years earlier, America had sent over 700 train cars to France in an effort to provide relief from World War II. Individuals who simply wanted to help out sent the majority of these items, not large organizations. This ‘American Friendship Train’ sent nearly $40 million in relief. 

 

Origins of the Merci Train

Soldiers Load into an Hommes 40-Chevaux 8 Boxcar

Andre Picard, a veteran of the war and a rail worker, originally had the idea of sending a thank-you gift to the US. He envisioned sending a boxcar loaded with gifts. His idea was very popular, and gained a great deal of support. Soon, a national organization had taken over the project. They would still send boxcars of gifts, but instead of one car, they wanted to send one to each of the then-49 states, plus a car to be shared between the DC area and the Territory of Hawaii. And it would be called the Merci Train.

The Train

Symbol of the Merci Train

The cars were just about antiques by the time they arrived in the States. This type of car was called hommes 40-chevaux 8. It was the same kind of car used to transport soldiers during WW1. Though very cramped, it could hold 40 men (40 hommes) or 8 horses (8 chevaux). 
Symbols of each French province decorated every car, along with a plaque holding the symbol of the Merci Train. This symbol featured poppies, reminiscent of Flanders Fields, among other flowers and a train engine. 

 

Pennsylvania Receives Their Car

 

Many of the Merci Train’s cars are still around. The states that received them still cherish them. New Hampshire’s car lives in Manchester to this day. On September 25th at 1pm, there will be a memorial event on Reed Street in honor of the car. 

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