Think you know your New York trivia? Who are Stuff and Guff? Give up?
They are the bronze printers (I hate it when they are called "blacksmiths") in their leather printer's aprons on the James Gordon Bennett Monument in Herald Square. Wielding their bronze hammers and striking the huge bell hourly, these mechanical sculptures are a part of one of the strangest and most-recognized memorials in the city -- the James Gordon Bennett Monument.
What may be even unique about the monument is that it started out life as something else. The great bronze animated sculpture originally crowned the New York Herald building, the 1894 home of Bennett's newspaper. Its triangular site faced 35th Street, just above what is now Herald Square, a beautifully landscaped urban garden oasis.
The sculpture served a dual purpose; tolling the hours on the giant clock on the building's south face and symbolizing Bennett's ideals of the newspaper: wisdom and industry.
Athena, goddess of wisdom stands over the two blue-collar bell-ringers, extending her right arm while holding a shield and spear in the other. Along the roofline of the Herald Building, she was attended by great bronze owls, also symbols of wisdom -- two with their wings spread at the corners, two standing guard midway on either side and, as seen in the vintage photo, an army of owls along the eaves.
|photo NYPL Collection|
Today tourists flock to Herald Square, waiting patiently for the two bronze printers to swing into action, banging the huge bell on the hour. Well, they don't actually bang the bell; they come very close to doing so. Mechanized clappers inside the bell are synchronized with the movements of the 7-foot tall figures, thus preventing damage to the sculpture.