On October 28, 1886, the city had scheduled a day of festivities for the official dedication of the Statue of Liberty.
Things mostly went off well, but not without plenty of hitches that turned the celebration into a comedy of errors.
First, there was the cold, miserable rain, which poured down on marchers during the morning parade from 57th Street to Madison Square Park to the Battery.
President Cleveland (a former governor of New York State) was to lead the parade and then watch from a reviewing stand at Worth Square—which he did, umbrella-less, with sheets of rain pouring down on him for two hours.
In the afternoon, after the city’s first-ever ticker-tape parade, an official dedication ceremony took place on what was once known as Bedloe’s Island—with thousands of New Yorkers watching from the Battery.
Interestingly, no regular citizens were allowed on the island, and few, if any, women were invited. A group of suffragists rowed out close, though, and held their own ceremony, hoping the day would come when women had the liberty to cast votes.
The 2,500 or so French and American dignitaries invited to the ceremony were treated to music, prayers, gun salutes, speeches, and finally, the unveiling of the copper-colored statue, which had been shrouded in a French flag.
The wet flag was lifted prematurely, however, in the middle of a speech by New York Senator William Evarts, cutting Evarts off.
After President Cleveland accepted the statue from France, a flotilla of ships began setting off alarms in celebration, drowning out the rest of the speeches.
The boats also released plumes of smoke, which along with the clouds and mist made it even harder for crowds on shore to see the copper-colored statue.
A huge fireworks display had to be cancelled that night because of the rain. And the actual lighting of the statue?
It didn’t go off well, mainly because no one could figure out how to light Lady Liberty properly—odd, as she was supposed to be an official lighthouse for New York Harbor.
Finally, on November 1, the city did a do-over of the fireworks and illumination. According to the New York Times, at least the phyrotechnics went of splendidly.
“Land and sea alike were teeming with glories. The vast fleet added not a little to the scene—the distant city with its million lights and flame-tipped spires was a sight to be remembered itself.”
“When the last rush of rockets from the island had scattered their showering gold and the wonted darkness settled again, the great figure grew brighter and huger and gleamed ghostly but beautiful, the new Anadyomene, Liberty rising from the sea.”