Meet Patience & Fortitude
Patience and Fortitude, the world-renowned pair of marble lions that stand proudly before the majestic Beaux-Arts building at Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street in Manhattan, have captured the imagination and affection of New Yorkers and visitors from all over the world since they were placed on their pedestals days before the building was dedicated on May 23, 1911.
During the Great Depression, New York City Mayor Fiorello La Guardia dubbed them “Patience” and “Fortitude”, after the qualities he felt New Yorkers needed to get through it. As the world has changed, our lions have been there to see it and be a witness to history—all while remaining a steadfast symbol for what the Library represents: a source of inspiration and strength for all.
Standing Guard Over NYC Since 1911
Fun Facts About Our Timeless Cats
- 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 a few days before the 42nd Street library was dedicated on May 23, 1911.
- The lions are larger than life, stretching more than 11 feet (not counting the tail), about three feet longer than their real-life counterparts.
- 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).
The Library is offering a special storytime to celebrate the birthday of our beloved lions on Monday, May 11 at 2 PM. We will read Lost in the Library: A Story of Patience and Fortitude, a picture book by Josh Funk and illustrated by Stevie Lewis.
Our lions have been guarding the Library since they were set on their pedestals in 1911. Which lion do you identify more with: quiet and diligent Patience or determined and courageous Fortitude?
These iconic lions can now make their home in your personal library. Check out The New York Public Library Shop.
The Library's 125th anniversary is a moment to celebrate and reaffirm the enduring power of libraries. Our values of trust, respect, and free and open access to knowledge and opportunity are as essential today as ever before.
Approximately every 10 years, our beloved lions take a brief retreat to the spa to get refreshed and restored. Watch this timelapse of Patience getting a deep clean.
This project was made possible by The New York Life Foundation and countless New Yorkers.