Library Lions

It’s National Library Week, April 8th – April 14th!

NYPL lions

Patience and Fortitude on 42nd Street

So perfectly fitting to give my “L” love to those lovable literary lions that flank the regal steps of the New York Public Library.

Have you ever seen one of these signs on the Thruway?

Highway sign

Ever wonder what spot in New York City determines this mileage? Supposedly, it’s measured from 42nd Street and 5th Avenue. That’s considered the heart of the city: the home of the New York Public Library (now called the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building) and the foundation for our felines, Patience and Fortitude.

These noble creatures celebrated their 100th birthday last year. Here are some fun facts:

  • The pair were originally called Leo Astor and Leo Lenox, after the NYPL founders John Jacob Astor and James Lenox. They were also called Lady Astor and Lord Lenox (even though they are both male lions). They were re-named Patience and Fortitude by Mayor LaGuardia during the Depression – qualities he said would get New Yorkers through the bad times. The names have stood the test of time.
  • They’ve worn holly wreaths at holiday time, floral wreaths in spring, top hats, graduation mortarboards and even Mets and Yankees caps. In 2001 they were adorned with red, white and blue ribbons.
  • They are sculpted from pink Tennessee marble.
  • Their commission cost the Library $13,000 – about $300,000 in today’s market.
  • The cats finally got a bath in 1975 to wash away pollution, then major restoration in 2004. It was then determined that due to their fragile condition, no more decorations should be placed on them.
  • They are modeled after African, not Indian, lions. Although they are still taller and longer than average African lions.
  • After people complained early on about the lions appearing “too hairy”, their sculptor, Edward Clark Potter, came and trimmed their manes.
  • The lions have received their own fan mail over the years, dating back to the time when stamps cost 3 cents.
  • Fortitude

    Fortitude

    When I was a young librarian, I *may* have posed for on top of Patience for a photo op. Sorry, dude. Shh, don’t tell the library police.

Patience

Patience

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7 thoughts on “Library Lions

  1. Marie Landry says:

    Very cool! I’ve seen pictures of them, of course, but I actually didn’t know their names or anything about them. Thanks for sharing, this was really interesting!

  2. tmycann says:

    Excellent post; I had no idea those beasties had names–and, apparently, a lot of them! 😀

  3. I like cats, big and small, so this was a fun, educational read for me.

    Thanks for your visit to my blog and straightening my facts out!
    Alex

  4. They are some AWESOME lions!

  5. Cool indeed. It has inspired me to go off and find out about the lions in Trafalgar Square, London. I hope that they have names too.

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