Crowdfunding lessons from history - The Statue of Liberty

The story of the Statuettes of Liberty and the Media tycoon

The Statue of Liberty was a gift from the French for America’s centennial in 1876 to celebrate the French ideals of the republic; the friendship between the countries and the American democracy. France provided arms, ships, money and men to help America win independence from Britain.

The French designed the Statue and the United States provided the pedestal and the site.

The French financed the statue by public fees, a lottery and entertainment.

But as the price for the pedestal soared funds ran out half way through. In 1885 Joseph Pulitzer and his newspaper The World raised the rest in a six month campaign. $102,000 was given by over 120,000 donors (the equivalent of $2.3 million) was donated in 5 months - much of it came in amounts of one dollar or less.

Fundraising activities included prize fights, art exhibitions and theatre. There was a celebrated donation of a poem by Emma Lazurus “The New Colossus” written in 1883 and which appears in bronze on the pedestal. The sonnet was auctioned for the fund.

Pulitzer also publicised the stores which sold statuettes at no profit at $1 (6 inches high) or $5 dollars (12 inches high). These were sold on behalf of the American Committee of the Statue of Liberty.

Lessons for us crowdfunders now

Half the fund had already been raised before the campaign started

Pre-launch pledges are important for any campaign. If you can get 20% immediately this gives great impetus for other donations as people like to back a winner.

Role of the media

Not just social media but websites, blog, TV, radio and newspapers. Publicity will help gather in donations but also publicise your cause or business.

Involvement of celebrities, artists and anyone else

This will get you noticed and lend glamour or credibility to your campaign

Make an emotional cross-generational appeal to the public - to make them feel proud to donate 

If you appeal to children - they can bring in the parents.

Use many different ways of reaching your target - not just promotion online 

Use standard fundraisers such as raffles, meetings, community events etc. These will help build your community and encourage people to spread the word as well as increase donations.

A tiered rewards system

The most popular statue was the one for $1. They did produce a bigger statue as a gaslight but this did not sell as well.

The design of the statue and pedestal was protected by patent

If you are crowdfunding an invention or innovation protect your IP or be willing to open the idea to the crowd.


2 Responses to “Crowdfunding lessons from history - The Statue of Liberty”
  1. Tina Ruskin says:


    Firstly I want to thank you for compiling so much great information and links on your website I found it very useful and helpful for my research purposes. However, I just stumbled across two broken links labeled Statue of Liberty etc. If you are still updating the site I wanted to suggest a additional resource. The site is:

    Hope your future visitors benefit out of it as much as I did. Thank you for your time and take care.

    Tina Ruskin
    American Immigration Center.

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