The story behind New York’s library lions

Twin male lions have been guarding the entrance of the New York Public Library’s majestic main branch since the Beaux Arts building opened at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in May 1911.

They were called Leo Astor and Leo Lenox, after two NYPL benefactors, John Jacob Astor and James Lenox.

With their fortunes, Astor and Lenox built public libraries, which by the 1890s were to become part of the city’s new free circulating library.

New Yorkers took to the two Leos instantly. But in the 1930s, the lions underwent a name change.

With the Depression taking its toll on the city, Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia declared them to be “Patience” and “Fortitude.” He felt that these were the qualities city residents needed most to survive the horrible economic times.

[Above: Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street on Easter, 1913; G.G. Bain News Service]

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4 Responses to “The story behind New York’s library lions”

  1. chas1133 Says:

    which one is which….?

  2. wildnewyork Says:

    I looked into that while writing the post and couldn’t find the answer!

  3. geoff Says:

    Patience to the south (left as you face the steps); Fortitude to the north. I came across your post as I researched a for a Patience & Fortitude blog I’m considering. Keep an eye on my blogspot site.

  4. Snow lions flank the New York Public Library | Ephemeral New York Says:

    […] they didn’t clear away the snow from the two library lions, Patience and Fortitude, who have been guarding the main entrance of the New York Public Library since […]

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