Ladies With A Past
Circling the Square
On a balmy spring afternoon sometime in the early 30's a young woman sat on the grass at Bronx Zoo sketching a female rhinoceros. The rhino had been making "silly squeaks," something which had particularly impressed the artist, when suddenly the broad beast charged to the bars and tried to drag the young woman into the cage.
A few years after the Bronx Zoo incident the artist, Miss Katherine W. Lane, received a commission to decorate the projected Biological Laboratories, and a further commission to execute two animal figures, each to rest on either side of the new building's front steps. Miss Lane instinctively chose rhinoceri as her subjects.
She returned to the Zoo to sketch again, keeping this time an adequate distance between herself and the horned quadruped. When she had completed the drawings, Miss Lane sent them to the Corporation, which approved. Several years of casting followed, amounting to nothing when the foundry executing the work went broke. Finally in 1937 the rhinos, one wegihing 230 pounds more than the other, arrived for their unveiling at the University. Miss Lane had baptized them in the foundry, naming one Queen Victoria and her companion Queen Bess.
The slightly comical rhinos, which took the assemblage largely by surprise, must have evoked strong words both pro and con. Only two statements have survived these fifteen years. George B. Agassiz, Chairman of the Corporation in that year, was reticent at first, but finally said, "they are perfectly stunning and make a most impressive entrance to the building."
The other man--President emeritus Lowell--had unveiled the figures himself, but refused any comment. He wistfully advised the press "I don't say anything nowadays. I just look on from the sidelines."
Both men would have had even less cause for comment had two students succeeded that morning in placing white porcelain bedpans underneath the figures. An alert University policeman apprehended the students while they were trying to slip the objects under the canvas coverings.
Since the unveiling the rhinos have suffered a dull existence. The young men of the Ivy League who arrive periodically with cans of paint always head for John Harvard; as a matter of record no one has molested the beasts since the bedpan attempt was squelched. That is, not until the time last week a bio student dropped his box lunch on the steps, covering Victoria's big toe with egg salad.