On this day 110 years ago, New Yorkers got their first peek at the New York Public Library @nypl and their twin lion guards.
When EC Potter was given the commission to sculpt two flanking animals for the New York Public Library’s main branch at 5th Avenue and 42nd Street in 1910, he found himself fielding several suggestions. Former President and avid hunter Theodore Roosevelt declared he’d like to see bison. This was not easy.
Others suggested beavers, but these were not noble enough for Potter, who settled on lions measuring 6 feet by 12 feet and sitting as sentries for the north and south sides of the steps. When plaster prototypes of the sculptures were unveiled in late 1910, Potter thought they would be a welcome addition to both his portfolio and the growing population of sculptures in the city. Folks hated them and it would take name changes, gender reassignment, and economic depression for Potter’s work to be appreciated and for people to figure out that he hadn’t done it alone. The lions are now named Patience and Fortitude.
It has now been years since then but I still believe in libraries enough to volunteer my free time offering lectures and teaching free classes to help the neighborhood patrons.