The New York Public Library’s beloved marble lions Patience and Fortitude—international symbols of free and open access to knowledge and information—are turning 109 on Monday, May 11. To mark the occasion and honor the lions, the Library is offering a series of online activities that day, including:
- Twitter Takeover: The “mane” event will be Patience and Fortitude’s day-long takeover of @nypl. The lions will share memories and photos of their century on Fifth Avenue.
- Birthday Wishes From The Public: Members of the public will be asked to share their memories and photos of the lions on social media with the hashtag #PatienceAndFortitude, or to share memories via a virtual online birthday card.
- Special Online Storytime: At 2 PM a special Patience and Fortitude related storytime will take place at nypl.org/storytime, with a children’s librarian reading Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude, a picture book by Josh Funk and illustrated by Stevie Lewis. The book was published in 2018 as part of a partnership between the Library and MacMillan Publishing.
- Patience and Fortitude Book Lists: The lions have each chosen their personal reading recommendations (all available to borrow digitally via the Library’s e-reader app SimplyE), and the Library will share.
- Lion Activity Pages for Kids: Kids can download various lion-related activity sheets and coloring pages to support remote learning.
- Quiz and more: A quiz and video about the lions will also be online.
Facts About The Lions
- Sculptor Edward Clark Potter obtained the commission for the lions, but the Piccirilli Brothers executed the carving—for $5,000.
- When they were first unveiled, some folks didn’t like them, including former President Teddy Roosevelt, who thought the library should have bison (as they are North American animals).
- In a similar vein, a small group of people thought beavers should flank the building in honor of Library co-founder John Astor, whose family had made a fortune in beaver pelts.
- They were placed on their pedestals on May 11, 1911, a few days before the 42nd Street library opened on May 23.
- The lions are larger than life, stretching more than 11 feet (not counting the tail), about three feet longer than their real-life counterparts.
- Both lions just received a thorough laser cleaning and restoration in 2019
- At first, the lions were called many names, including Leo Astor and Leo Lenox for the Library’s co-founders, as well as “Lady” Astor and Lord Lenox (even though they’re both male lions).