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Bartholdi Defends His Image of the Statue of Liberty against Unauthorized and Opportunistic Miniatures
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French sculptor Frédéric Bartholdi writes to an American adviser, probably Richard Butler, about how to stop unauthorized souvenir statuettes of Liberty Enlightening the World from being made and sold in the United States.

[STATUE OF LIBERTY]. FRÉDÉRIC BARTHOLDI. Autograph Letter Signed, in French, to [Richard Butler?], June 16, 1888, Paris. 4 pp., 5⅛ x 8⅛ in.

Inventory #24841       ON HOLD

Complete Translation

Paris, June 16, 1883

My dear Friend,

I am glad to have learned from all the news that reaches me and from the papers you send me that your work is proceeding well.

Please be so kind and thank your father-in-law for all he does and for the affection he expresses toward me both by his actions and by the wonderful letters addressed to me that he gives people.

If I were not distracted every single day by things that keep me busy and take up my time, I would already have <2> written to him. I will decide to write to him in French, and you can translate it, because I would not know how to put into English all the good and kind things I want to tell him.

I am so lucky to have found, in the middle of all the tribulations and banal sentiments that surround us in life, such a kind heart and sympathetic intelligence. I get this very warm feeling every time his name comes to mind. I was also very concerned when I heard of all the trouble he has had; I heard that he was facing it <3> with the courage and grace that he brings to everything he does, which made me happy.

I realize that I am about to write you this whole letter without talking to you about what made me reach for the pen in the first place.

You have the copyright papers of my statue. Would it perhaps make sense for me to have them, or at least the title with the date of the registration?

A Mr. Follmer has made a mold based on Avoiron’s [zincs?], and that mold is at this moment embarked for New York. Avoiron wrote me asking for instructions and what could be done. You can give me an idea about that, or in any case send me a brief note with the <4> necessary instructions.

This is what can happen: it sometimes takes extraordinary circumstances to get us to have done what we really want.

Please send me the latest about your family and the babies, etc. My wife also sends her fondest regards. We often talk about you and wonder when we will get together again.

I always feel grateful that Avoiron made me pick up my pen and I would start another page if I told you all the gossip in my pen full of ink. But that could not express any better my thoughts and best wishes for you and your family.

Your devoted friend,


Historical Background

As a sculptor, Frédéric Bartholdi depended on public commissions for sculpted works. He considered Liberty Enlightening the World to be his most important project. Bartholdi experimented with the design of the Liberty statue before formally registering it as U.S. copyright 9939-G on August 31, 1876. Bartholdi also obtained two patents from the U.S. Patent Office: “Design for Bust,” No. 10,893, dated November 5, 1878, and “Design for a Statue,” No. 11,023 dated February 18, 1879. Bartholdi may have applied for patents after receiving a copyright, because the patent office had better infringement procedures in place to protect designs.

To help fund his Liberty Enlightening the World statue, Bartholdi licensed rights to produce miniature reproductions of his statue to Avoiron et Cie, a Paris foundry established in 1844. Bartholdi retained all rights to make copies in bronze or terra cotta, while Avoiron and Company could make copies only in zinc, copper plate, or a less desirable imitation bronze substitute. In this letter, Bartholdi expresses concern over American reproduction rights. Bartholdi’s license to Avoiron, as well as his American copyright and patents, did not stop the “Mr. Follmer” mentioned here from pirating Bartholdi’s designs. Hermann Follmer (ca. 1839-1900) was a German-born manufacturer of church furniture in Jersey City, New Jersey. Follmer had likely copied miniatures from Avoiron and Company to sell as souvenirs. Follmer’s unauthorized copies threatened both Bartholdi’s and Avoiron’s monopoly of the reproduction market.

The American Committee of the Statue of Liberty, organized in 1877, had the responsibility of raising money to construct the pedestal on which the statue would be erected. In April 1885, advertisements began to appear in the New York World for miniature reproductions of the statue made available by the American Committee of the Statue of Liberty for the pedestal fund. Six-inch models cost $1, while twelve-inch versions cost $5. Richard Butler, the secretary of the American Committee, served as the recipient of orders, which came in by the thousands. Several department stores from Boston to St. Louis, including R. H. Macy’s in New York, also agreed to sell the models to their customers without profit. At least 50,000 copies of the six-inch statuette were manufactured, and perhaps many more.

Bartholdi presented the completed statue to U.S. Ambassador to France Levi P. Morton on July 4, 1884, and de Lesseps announced that the French government had agreed to pay for its transport to New York. The statue arrived in New York in June 1885, but the pedestal was not completed until April 1886. President Grover Cleveland, the former New York governor who vetoed an expenditure of $50,000 for the pedestal, presided over the dedication of the statue on October 28, 1886.

Frédéric Auguste Bartholdi (1834-1904) was born in Colmar, France, to a family of Italian and German Protestant heritage. After his father died when Bartholdi was two years old, his family moved to Paris, where Bartholdi studied painting, sculpture, and architecture under well-known instructors like Eugène-Emmanuel Viollet-le-Duc. The family continued to visit Colmar, often for extended visits. Bartholdi graduated from the Lycee Louis-le-Grand in Paris in 1852. Following his service in the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, Bartholdi became increasingly interested in sculpting monumental works celebrating resistance against oppression, and Enlightenment ideals like Freedom. In his first visit to the United States in 1871, he promoted the idea of the gift of a massive statute from France to the United States in honor of the centennial of American independence in 1876. Also in 1871, he began work on the Lion of Belfort, commemorating the heroic French resistance against the Prussians. That sculpture of red sandstone was completed in 1880. After a decade of fundraising and work, Liberty Enlightening the World (the Statue of Liberty) was finally installed in New York harbor in 1886. Bartholdi also designed the Bartholdi Fountain in Washington, DC (1878), among other works.

Richard Butler (1831-1902) was born in Ohio and moved to New York City in 1846, where he worked at an import company. In 1851, he became a partner in William H. Cary & Co. and continued with that business until it ended in 1879. That year, he became president of a hard rubber company, which in 1883 was reorganized as the Butler Hard Rubber Company, with manufacturing in Butler, New Jersey, and a warehouse in New York City. He also assembled a fine gallery of paintings, mostly by American artists. He was one of the founders and a trustee of the Metropolitan Museum of Art and a member of the Chamber of Commerce. Butler served as secretary of the American Committee for the Statue of Liberty from its formation in 1877 until his death in 1902. For his services, the French government made him a Chevalier of the Legion of Honor. He married Luenna Flavilla Clough (1832-1883), with whom he had several daughters.


Fine, with expected paper folds and diagonal creases at gutter of bifold. Minor toning along some page bottoms.

Complete Transcript

Paris 16 juin 1883

Mon cher ami

Je suis bien aise d’apprendre par toutes les nouvelles qui me parviennent et par les journaux que vous m’adressez, que votre  œuvre est en bonne voie.

Je vous prie de remercier votre cher beau-père de tout ce qu’il fait  et des sentiments si affectueux qu’il me témoigne autant par ses actes que par les excellentes lettres qu’il donne aux personnes qu’il m’adresse.

Si je n’étais journellement débordé par toutes les occupations qui se suivent et me prennent mon temps, je lui eusse deja <2> écrit; je me déciderai à lui écrire en français et vous lui traduirez, car je ne saurais lui rendre en anglais tout ce que je voudrais lui dire de bon e d’affectueux.

C’est un si grand bonheur, de trouver, au milieu des tribulations et des sentiments banals dont on est entouré dans la vie, un cœur si bon et une intelligence si sympathique; il y a une impression entièrement douce qu’il me cause toutes les fois que son nom se présente a mon esprit. Aussi j’ai été bien affligé quand j’ai appris les peines et les soins qu’il a eus; j’ai su qu’il a pris le dessus de tout cela <3> avec le courage et l’aménité qu’il sait apporter à tout ce qu’il fait et je m’en réjouis.

Je m’aperçois que je vais vous écrire toute ma lettre sans vous parler de la chose essentielle qui m’avait mis la plume à la main.

Vous avez mes papiers de copy right de ma statue, il serait peut-être utile que je les eusse, ou au moins que j’en aie le titre avec la date de l’enregistrement.

Il y a un Monsieur Follmer qui a fait fabriquer un moule sur les [zincs?] d’Avoiron et le susdit moule navigne en ce moment vers New York. Avoiron m’écrit pour me demander des renseignements et ce que l’on pourrait faire. Vous pourriez me donner une idée à ce égard en tout cas envoyez moi les renseignements <4> nécessaires avec deux lignes.

Voila comme il en arrive il faut des circonstances extraordinaires parfois pour nous faire faire ce que l’on désire le plus.

Donnez moi quelques nouvelles de votre famille des bébés etc. Ma femme vous prie d’être l’interprète de ses pensées les plus affectueuses; on parle bien souvent de vous, quand nous retrouverons nous?

Toujours est-il que j’ai à remercier Avoiron de m’avoir fait agiter ma plume et pour un peu, je recommencerais bien sur un autre feuillet si je vous dirais tout le bavardage qu’il y a dans le bec chargé d’encre. Cela ne vous en dirait du reste pas plus comme sentiments que ce que j’exprime en vous serrant la main bien du cœur à vous et aux vôtres

Votre ami tout dévoué


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