A laissez-faire capitalist can find copious amounts to condemn in the legislative actions of Herbert H. Lehman, who died 40 years ago today. As Governor of New York from 1932 to1942, he pushed through massively expensive social and economic legislation that paralleled his mentor Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s New Deal: relief for the unemployed, aid to farmers, public housing, minimum wages, unemployment insurance, and social security.
But let’s consider the lighter side of Lehman. In honor of his fiftieth wedding anniversary, he and his wife donated funds for the Central Park Children’s Zoo, which opened in 1961. The Children’s Zoo has since been revamped, but the bronze Lehman Gate by noted sculptor Paul Manship still stands at its entrance. Across the top of the Gate, frolicking with astonishing agility on coiling vines, are three boys, two goats and a selection of unidentifiable (to me, at least) birds that always remind me of Ogden Nash:
Manship's most famous work in New York is the gilded Prometheus at Rockefeller Center, but he also produced the Paul Rainey Gates at the north entrance to the Bronx Zoo, the beloved Group of Bears in the playground just south of the Metropolitan Museum, and the little-known Governor Alfred E. Smith Flagpole (Governor Smith Memorial Park, intersection of Catherine and Cherry Streets), a charming conglomeration of bear, deer, beavers and owls.
For the complete Ogden Nash poem, “Up From the Egg: The Confessions of a Nuthatch Avoider,” try here - but I suspect that since the work is copyright, someone will notice and make the site remove it. (And so they should.)