Two marble lions have been guarding the entrance of the New York Public Library since it opened in May of 1911. These days, the lions are usually called Patience and Fortitude. But over the years they’ve had various nicknames, including a number of male/female nicknames (despite the fact that both lions are clearly male). Some examples:
Ainsley and Rollo
Leo Astor and Leo Lenox
The NYPL was created by combining the Astor and Lenox libraries.
Lord Lenox and Lady Astor
Leo and Leonora
Peter Cooper and Horace Greeley (famous for their whiskers, among other things)
Plato and Lily
Pyramus and Thisbe
Uptown and Downtown
The NYPL attributes the “Patience” and “Fortitude” to former NYC mayor Fiorello LaGuardia, who was in office from 1934 to 1945.
Mayor LaGuardia…nicknamed The New York Public Library’s lions Patience and Fortitude for the qualities he felt New Yorkers needed to survive the Great Depression.
While it’s a nice story, I can’t find any record of LaGuardia suggesting that the library lions be called by those particular nicknames. He did, however, use the phrase “Patience and Fortitude” repeatedly in his weekly WWII-era radio talks (1942-1945) on WNYC. So LaGuardia may be the ultimate source of the names, but it’s more likely that his radio audience began associating the two words with the two cats during the 1940s — after the Depression was over.
Speaking of Fiorello…the lions were carved by the Piccirilli Brothers, immigrants from Italy. The six brothers were named Ferrucio, Attilio, Furio, Masaniello, Orazio, and Getulio, plus they had a kid sister named Iola (according to the census).
Do you like the nicknames Patience and Fortitude for the lions? If not, what names would you prefer?
Eikel, Vera, Susan Lardner, and Brendan Gill. “Recovered.” The New Yorker 3 Sept. 1960: 20.
Larkin, Susan G. Top Cats: The Life and Times of the New York Public Library Lions. San Francisco: Pomegranate, 2006.
Dolly Titanic Ranshaw was born in Iowa on Jun. 27, 1912, to Tom and Karla Ranshaw.
Mary Catherine Titanic Marcotte was born in Ontario on Apr. 30, 1912, to Albert and Delvina Marcotte.
Paul Titanic Maloney was born in Massachusetts on Apr. 8, 1912, to Mark and Catharine Maloney. (Like Edwin, he was born a few days before the disaster, so clearly his parents didn’t choose his name right away — a common practice during that era.)
Sara Carpathia Aks was born in Virginia on March 12, 1913, to Titanic survivor Leah Aks and her husband Samuel (who was not aboard). She was named after the rescue ship RMS Carpathia.
Titanic Grissom was born in Arkansas c.1912 to Edward and Teary Grissom.