Today, the New York Public Library lions, Patience and Fortitude, turn 109 years old! Newly restored last fall, the lions have long sat on pedestals in front of the New York Public Library’s “main branch,” officially the Stephen A. Schwarzman Building on 5th Avenue and 42nd Street. In February, they started “reading” giant, lion-sized library books featuring some of the 125 most-checked out books in NYPL history, an initiative that has continued through the coronavirus pandemic. Today, the lions will takeover the NYPL Twitter account, sharing historic photos and images of what they’ve witnessed in the last century, plus.
The New York Public Library calls the lions “symbols of New York City’s resilience and strength,” and the popularity of the lions amongst New Yorkers is a testament to their role in the city. The lions were named by the always-entertaining Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia in the 1930s when he believed New Yorkers needed something to uplift them during the Great Depression — and in particularly, that New Yorkers needed both patience and fortitude to get their the economic crisis. “That certainly resonates today,” writes the NYPL.
Photo by Jonathan Blanc / NYPL.
“For over 100 years, Patience and Fortitude have stood calmly at the center of a bustling city, proudly poised regardless of circumstance,” said Anthony W. Marx, president of The New York Public Library. “It doesn’t matter how scary and uncertain the world feels, the lions stand strong, somehow both protective and welcoming. That certainly resonates today. On their birthday, we hope the lions and all they stand for provide some calm, inspiration, and hope for the people of New York
Designed by the sculptor Edward Clark Potter, who was paid $8,000 for the commission ($222,295 in 2019 dollars), Patience and Fortitude were carved out of Tennessee marble by the Piccirilli Brothers in a studio in the Bronx. This makes them born and bred New Yorkers! They made it to their home in front of the library on May 11, 1911, twelve days before the library was officially dedicated.
In addition to the Twitter takeover, you will find among today’s birthday celebrations, book recommendations from each lion, a Patience and Fortitude related online storytime of Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude at 10 AM, activities for kids and quizzes about the lions. The public can also share their birthday wishes for the lions with the hashtag
Next, discover the Top 10 Secrets of the NYPL.