Posts Tagged ‘New York City history’

“When I have bad days, I just eat chocolate ice cream and dance to the “Lion King” soundtrack. It’s really odd, but it’s true.” Blake Lively

I discovered that this now out of print book about New York Cities Top Cats can be bought for $40 used.

Two Top Cats 


I recently started attending a writing group at my local library. It’s about the sixth group I’ve attended, searching for one that fit me, since moving to Tucson a few years ago. The others were all quite nice, but not exactly what I needed as a writer. This last one fits me perfectly. It’s a small group of serious writers who want to become both better writers and published writers.


That’s me — exactly.

During weekly meetings, up to six members submit a short piece for critique by the other writers in attendance. One of the more recent pieces was quite polished and excellent.  It was a section from an essay about the National Census, with a focus on counting the homeless in New York City.  The author used the two New York Public Library lion statues as an analogy, noting that they looked out and saw all. It was a piece of writing that I wished I had written, perhaps because of my long intrigue about the history of those two lions.

This native Texan, who has always lived well West of the East, has been blessed to have spent time in that magical – well you can’t be a writer and not think of it in that way – New York Library three times. And on each visit, I spent part of that time staring at those two killer felines, who are the stars in the book Top Cats: The Life and Times of the New York Public Library Lions published in 2006.  I would have bought the book when I discovered it had been written, except it is out of print and a used copy these days is selling for $40.  Instead, I tracked down what information I could about them from free website sources that included  Wikimedia, the New York Library, and New York City history pages.


What I discovered, briefly, first from Henry Hope Reed’s book, The New York Public Library, is that sculptor Edward Clark Potter was paid $8,000 to create the modeling for the two lions and the Piccirilli Brothers carved the statues for $5,000 using pink Tennessee marble. The lions were completed in time for the library’s official dedication in 1911.

Not particularly admired at first, The New York Times, which kept a close watch on the public reaction to the sculptures, reported that letter writers found the lions too tame. They were “mealy-mouthed,” “complacent,” and “squash-faced.” One critic compared their appearance to a cross between a hippopotamus and a cow and declared them “monstrosities.”

The lions were first called Leo Astor and Leo Lenox, after The New York Public Library founders John Jacob Astor and James Lenox. Later, they were known as Lady Astor and Lord Lenox – even though they are both male lions.

In the 1930s, they were renamed Patience and Fortitude for the qualities New York Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia felt New Yorkers needed to survive The Depression. These names stuck. Patience guards the south side of the Library’s steps and Fortitude the north.

After World War II, the two began to symbolize holidays – wreaths and floral arrangements accompanied seasonal changes and sports fandom, with Mets or Yankees hats sometimes perched atop their heads.

Decades of pigeon deposits, climbing children, and decoration eventually took its toll. In 2004, the city spent two weeks and $114,000 to steam-clean and scrub the lions with a toothbrush before applying mortar to expanding cracks.

I think a revisit to Patience and Fortitude, and that magical library, is back on my ever-growing bucket list, which for this wandering-wonderer never seems to get any shorter.

Bean Pat: Brevity https://brevity.wordpress.com/2019/02/13/how-to-be-a-writer-in-five-steps/ Good writing advice for those of us with words in our brains that cry to be let out. This is one of my favorite blogs for writers.

           Pat Bean is a retired journalist who lives in Tucson with her canine companion Pepper. She is a wondering-wanderer, avid reader, enthusiastic birder and is always searching for life’s silver lining. Check out her book Travels with Maggie, available on Amazon, to learn more. She can be reached at patbean@msn.com

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