Ask Abe: Statue of Liberty

An Alum

What happened to the original Statue of Liberty that appeared on Lake Mendota?

Abe

Surely, you have heard of the Pail and Shovel party, or you are at least familiar with its colossal pranks and parties (some hints: the first flamingos on Bascom Hill — 1,008 of them, to be exact — and Toga I and Toga II). Led by the late Leon Varjian and Jim Mallon ’79, the Pail and Shovel party made a slew of campaign promises while up for student elections in the late 1970s. Although some of these promises never came to fruition upon the party’s victory (last we checked, Camp Randall has yet to be flooded for mock naval battles), others did. One such promise was to purchase the Statue of Liberty and move it to Lake Mendota. Perhaps not on these exact terms, the party followed through on its word. On a cold February day in 1979, students were surprised to find what appeared to be a partially submerged Lady Liberty on Lake Mendota, displaying the statue’s head, crown, arm, and torch above the water’s frozen surface. Varjian and Mallon spent $4,000 to recreate the famed copper statue (nearly kicking them out of office), but it paid off — not only could it have been mistaken for the statue at Liberty Island, but its legacy also continues today. The original Lady Liberty on Lake Mendota was, sadly, destroyed by arson its first year, but it was replaced with new versions and made multiple appearances on the icy lake since then. And who knows? We may see it again someday.