Besides Liberty, the Great Statue Also Means Profits
NEW YORK (AP) _ From G-strings to Tiffany watches, boxer shorts to Harley Davidsons, the Statue of Liberty and her centennial have spawned about 2,000 products.
″Everybody wants a piece of Liberty,″ said Etienne Philonenko, a French immigrant and co-designer of a trendy triangular pin depicting the statue’s head. ″She’s all dressed up and ready for the big party.″
She’s dressed in various fashions. On one poster she’s a rock star, a huge green earring dangling from her ear. On a T-shirt, she’s a teddy bear with a torch. As a 3-inch Gumby doll, her demeanor is that of a stern mother. And as a 7-foot, green plexiglass statue, she resembles a pugnacious child, her face framed in French ringlets.
Officials estimate that by April, sales from Liberty-related souvenirs will reach $500 million.
About $20 million, a small percentage of sales from ″official″ souvenirs, will go to the Statue of Liberty-Ellis Island Foundation Inc., while a lesser undisclosed amount will go to the French-American Statue of Liberty Centenary, which is sponsoring a traveling American exhibition on Lady Liberty and sending the rest of its proceeds to a private museum in Paris.
About 1,200 companies, including a whip and chain manufacturer, approached the foundation, asking for the official seal. Of these, approximately 800 products from 100 manufacturers were designated official commerative items, said Cheryl Peralta, spokeswoman for Hamilton Projects, the licensing agent for the foundation.
″We were very selective,″ she said. ″We wanted things with class.″
The foundation has taken several businesses to court, alleging that they stole the logo and falsely claimed they were helping the restoration project, said Bernice Yu, a foundation attorney.
About $475 million will go to profit-minded manufacturers and middlemen. Such interests have been after the Statue of Liberty’s money-making prospects almost since 1886, when Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the statue’s designer, attempted and failed to copyright the image of Lady Liberty.
The statue has been in the public domain and open to use by anyone.
Ms. Peralta said the use of the statue as a money-making device is one of the things that makes this country great.
″That’s part of the celebration,″ she said. ″We live in a free-market system that rewards creativity.″
Her remarks were echoed by Philonenko.
″The festival presented a challenge to do something sharp, something that would catch on,″ said Philonenko, who along with his partner, Daniel Lonergan, an immigrant from Australia, designed the pin. ″It makes strong the entreprenurial spirit.″
Hawkers on the street also supported the claim.
″She’s putting food in my mouth,″ said Narayan Hendre, an Indian immigrant, who along with his wife, Jayar, sell foam rubber replicas of the statue’s spiked crown. ″You can make $100 a day, but you have to work,″ he said.
Regardless of historical precendents, there are those who disagree with the statue’s commercialization.
″I felt like I was robbing people blind,″ said Billy McMullen, who worked for six months licensing statue-related products. ″None of these manufacturers or licensing agents really cares about the centennial celebration. They just want to bilk the bucks from an unsuspecting public.″
But Ms. Peralta said, ″You have to look beyond the products to their meaning. What we’re selling today will be tomorrow’s heirlooms. People want to buy souvenirs to support the monument and to remember. Patriotism is in.″