First review, in L.A. Times: ‘Liberty’s Torch’ reveals a statue with a storied past

by Janet Napolitano

libertystorch200Frederic Auguste Bartholdi is an all-but-forgotten figure in American history. He was, however, responsible for one of the most enduring symbols of the United States: the Statue of Liberty. A Frenchman from Alsace, he conceived, designed, sold and persisted until Liberty stood on Bedloe’s Island in New York Harbor. How this icon came to be is the fascinating subject of Elizabeth Mitchell’s new book, “Liberty’s Torch: The Great Adventure to Build the Statue of Liberty.”

An entire book about the creation of a statue runs the risk of being a terrible bore. Yet Mitchell uses Liberty to reveal a pantheon of historic figures, including novelist Victor Hugo, engineer Gustave Eiffel and newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer. The drama — or “great adventure,” to borrow from the subtitle — runs from the Pyramids of Egypt to the backrooms of Congress. Events such as the 1871 Siege of Paris are prominent.


  1. Adam J. Read
    July 6, 2014

    Dear Ms. Mitchell,

    I resonated greatly with your thoughts in the CNN Opinion article today when you said this:

    “It is hard to imagine anyone nowadays either demonstrating the patience to wait for an idea to strike or pursuing the goal of honoring a subject … a concept. Ideas are now considered important only if they are flypaper for money, not precious, heaven-sent gifts. Good ones are catchy or addictive. Few people try to invent something that will make the consumer say, “Look what humankind has achieved!” Our popular entertainments titillate or intoxicate.”

    However, there are still some of us out there that endeavor to bring a sparkle into the eyes of children…and a peaceful serenity to those of us that used to be children. Things that are timeless often take the most time to achieve because they must be done without money…and without glory.

    The pursuit of fame and notoriety detracts from truly timeless efforts. As power is inversely proportional to understanding, the less energy we spend on trying to look powerful, the more energy we can spend on understanding the world around us.

    Trust and control are also openly traded as we endeavor to make an impression on those around us. The less we trust people, the more we will try to control them, and the more fearful of strangers we become, the less trust our society will express.

    The Nobodies are the ones who truly hold this world together. They are the ones that get up everyday and diligently go about their tasks without any presidential procession or accolades. They dig deep for to find truth when it cannot be found in superficial conversations. They are the ones who endure and press on when no awards or trophies are being handed out.

    Those people, not the glorious, are my role models because they are the ones whose hearts glow with the insignia of empathy. No statue will ever be made in their honor, but without them, our entire world would collapse. But in the case of Bartholdi, perhaps we can make an exception, as without his own drive for fame and notoriety, there would have been no Lady Liberty.

    Thank you for telling his story.


    Adam J. Read
    Construction Superintendent

    • Biz
      August 18, 2014

      This was such a lovely response and I only just noticed that it had come in. Thank you for these wonderful thoughts. I agree with you. Best, Elizabeth

  2. Adam J Read
    September 29, 2014

    I just stumbled upon your response, Ms. Mitchell. Thanks very much.



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Hollywood, MD

September 27, 2017, TBDpm

Lecture: Great Adventure to Build the Statue of Liberty Historic Sotterley Plantation, Hollywood, MD

* Lecture and Q&A, with particular attention to the statue's relation to slavery and the Civil War. Click here for more information.

New York, NY

December 8, 2016, 8pm

Inventing Realities Scandinavia House, 58 Park Avenue, NY, NY

* Moderator of discussion with Susana Moreira Marques, Asle Skredderberget, and Matei Visniec for New Literature from Europe. Click here for more information.


July 7, 2014, 7pm

Books Beneath the Bridge Granite Prospect, Brooklyn Bridge Park

* Books sold by Freebird Bookstore Event details to come. Click here for more information.


July 15, 2014, 12:30 pm

National Archives at New York City
One Bowling Green

Talk and slide presentation on the great adventure to build the Statue of Liberty.


July 16, 2014, 7:00 pm

Barnes & Noble at 82nd Street 2289 Broadway, New York, NY, 10024

Reading and talk


August 30, 2014

2014 Library of Congress National Book Festival Walter E. Washington Convention Center 801 Mt. Vernon Pl NW

Talk and Q&A from 2:35 p.m. to 3:20 p.m. at the Special Programs Pavilion Signing from 4:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. Click here for more information.

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