Mark Mason

On this day: what was the Statue of Liberty’s original purpose?

On this day: what was the Statue of Liberty's original purpose?
Image: Getty
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Every weekend Spectator Life brings you doses of topical trivia – facts, figures and anecdotes inspired by the current week’s dates in history …

13 February

Peter Gabriel (born 1950). The ex-Genesis singer called each of his first four solo albums ‘Peter Gabriel’.

14 February

James Bond (died 1989). The ornithologist wrote the book Birds of the West Indies, a copy of which was owned by Ian Fleming, who stole the name for his most famous character: ‘I wanted the simplest, dullest, plainest-sounding name I could find, and “James Bond” was much better than something more interesting, like “Peregrine Carruthers”.’

Daniel Craig in Skyfall (Shutterstock)

15 February

Clare Short (born 1946). The politician’s mobile phone, which she had forgotten to turn off, once rang during a meeting of the Privy Council. Short hurriedly scrambled to silence it. The Queen asked: ‘Anyone important?’

Clare Short gives evidence at the Iraq inquiry (Getty)

16 February

In 1742 Spencer Compton, the Earl of Wilmington became Prime Minister. His family seat in Warwickshire, Compton Wynyates, appeared as a monastery in Carry on Camping, and was the inspiration for Croft Manor, the childhood home of Lara Croft in the Tomb Raider games.

17 February

In 1972, the Volkswagen Beetle became the most popular car ever, its sales beating those of the Model T Ford. When Domino’s Pizza was founded by two brothers in 1960, they used a Beetle for their deliveries. But Jim Monaghan didn’t want to give up his job as a postman, so sold his share of the business to Tom in exchange for the car. In 1998 Tom sold the company for $1 billion.

Image: Getty

18 February

In 1879 the Statue of Liberty’s sculptor, Frédéric-Auguste Bartholdi, was awarded the patent for his design. For the first sixteen years after its 1886 completion, the statue functioned as a lighthouse. But the light it managed to emit was never sufficient for shipping purposes, and in 1902 the idea was abandoned.

Statue of liberty (Getty)

19 February

Bon Scott (died 1980). The AC/DC singer’s body was embalmed by the same man who had embalmed George VI and Winston Churchill.