We may think of crowdfunding as a contemporary innovation of our social media age, but in their impressive nonfiction picture book Saving Lady Liberty: Joseph Pulitzer’s Fight for the Statue of Liberty, author Claudia Friddell and illustrator Stacy Innerst celebrate the 19th-century campaign of Hungarian immigrant and self-made publishing icon Joseph Pulitzer to raise more than $100,000 for the Statue of Liberty.
Friddell traces Pulitzer’s early life and struggles as a newcomer to America, but focuses mainly on his efforts to use the pages of his newspaper, the New York World, to launch a public awareness and fundraising campaign for Lady Liberty. In 1884, when funds for the statue’s pedestal ran dry, Pulitzer scolded wealthy New Yorkers for their lack of support and used the New York World to make an appeal to the masses. More than 120,000 people responded, and Pulitzer fulfilled his promise to print all their names in his newspaper. Over a million people attended the dedication and unveiling ceremony of the statue in October of 1886.
Innerst’s sepia-toned illustrations evoke the book’s late 19th-century setting and make effective use of design elements, including newspaper headlines and examples of delightful handwritten letters that accompanied small donations from children. A boy named Mark sold “two pumpkins and one squash at the market this morning” and sent along 10 cents. There’s even a humorous note from the dog, a forerunner to today’s trend of canine social media stars.
Historians young and old will appreciate the book’s extensive back matter, which includes an afterword, timeline, a wonderful selection of historical photographs, facts about Pulitzer and the Statue of Liberty, a bibliography and online resources.
Inspiring and well executed, Saving Lady Liberty is a timely reminder of the power of ordinary people to exemplify the best American ideals.