Today, we have various online platforms for crowdfunding. These platforms are mostly about individual or commercial projects, not for public projects.
In a recent trip to NYC, it was fascinating to hear that the Statue of Liberty was crowd funded in two nations – France and the USA. So far, I had believed that the statue was a gift from France to the United States. However, it seemed to be a joint effort. The majority of the funding and technical expertise came from France, but America was also on the hook for funding. I have not done any research to determine if this is the first instance of crowdfunding for a public cause.