Thursday, October 6, 2011


One of the more interesting aspects of delving into [my] genealogy, is trying to link  family lore with facts. For as long as I can remember, I heard a great uncle by marriage was a stone cutter. Dad said Uncle Manny worked in marble and granite. Sure enough, I found in the 1910 and 1920 census, Uncle Manny's occupation is listed as a stone cutter. Family lore claims Uncle Manny was one of the artisans that carved the lions at the Boston Public Library.

" Guarding the landing at the turn of the stairs are the two regal couchant lions carved from solid blocks of unpolished Sienna marble, the work of Louis Saint-Gaudens, brother of Augustus; each is a memorial to the men of the two Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry regiments who fell in the Civil War.",  A Handbook to the Art and Architecture of the Boston Public Library

I contacted the BPL and asked if there were any records of the artists who would have worked with Saint-Gaudens. A day or two later, I received an answer from the Fine Arts Reference Librarian. Sadly, they could find no reference to Uncle Manny. I still want to believe the family story that Uncle Manny worked on the lion crew.

So if you find yourself at the McKim Building, (the old building as opposed to the new building which was built in the 1970s) of the BPL go on the art and architecture tour of the library.  It's free! As you walk up the grand staircase, between the two lions, you'll notice the lions are unpolished except for the tail of one of the lions. The lion's tail has been polished by millions of hands. The docent will tell you patting the lion's tail will bring you good luck. Pat the lion and think of my Uncle Manny and the other faceless artisans who helped create such a beautiful work of art.

Any interesting lore in your family history?

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