Interestingly, Auguste Bertholdi's design for the statue of liberty was originally intended to compliment the completion of the Suez Canal. Drawings from the eighteen sixties that he had done, one entitled "Egypt Bringing Light to Asia", depict our familiar torch-bearer sans scripture overlooking Ferdinand de Lesseps' collosal middle-eastern earthwork. As Darcy Grigsby explains in a recent article for October journal entitled "Geometry / Labor = Volume / Mass?", the statue (interpretable as an egyptian peasant woman) was denied consumation by the leader Ismail Pasha.
Of course Bertholdi's work was very much enamored of monumentalism, and should have been quite at home with the pyramids, but it found its place as a symbolic keystone over the entrance to a not-so-New World that immigrants were always reinvigorating with mythologies. The funny thing is that Bertholdi couldn't build the damn thing, and had to enlist the help of engineering genius Gustave Eiffel to hold the shell of liberty together with a competent hidden framework. Perhaps because this project brought home the general ignorance of modern steel construction techniques, Eiffel was driven to design the Eiffel tower: a monument without the pretty folds.
The circle completes itself when Lesseps' atttempt at greater greatness, this time in Panama (then Columbia), showed visible signs of yielding little more than cute palindromes. Lesseps was forced to hire the more down-to-earth Eiffel, whose lock solutions would make the Panama Canal possible. The monies failed anyway (not least because of the stiff fee Eiffel was charging and then feeding back into his pet Tower). U.S. interests, as they are wont to do, manipulated some geopolitical angles to start a country more in tune with their program, took over the project and saw it through to completion.
And so an edifice of ideas, bourne from the middle-east as a statue that wasn't ours, caused much more beauty and also trouble to come into the world. The ghosts of these ideas live on today, the Promise of Liberty and the Geometry of Steel, as irreconcilable as ever, and we probably still think that both were ours to begin with.