By Kevin Grace
The University of Cincinnati community is well-schooled in the story of its lions, Mick and Mack, perhaps ad nauseam. Here in the Archives & Rare Books Library, the subject is a frequent one: we relate to the inquirer how they stand as sentinels in front of McMicken Hall, once facing each other but now facing away (Mick is on the left, Mack on the right), how occasionally lipstick marks will be found on them, and that they supposedly roar whenever a virgin walks by. The fact that they have never roared should not trouble the demure – non-roaring lions are a hoary tale on many campuses. And, that Mick and Mack took up their posts in 1904 when UC was a municipal university and city officials needed to find an appropriate home for them. And, that the lions are copies of larger versions in the Loggia dei Lanzi in Florence, Italy (not Kentucky). And, that even one of those “originals” was a copy of ancient Roman statue.
But what of the lions’ owner and the university’s benefactor, Jacob Hoffner? Who the heck was he and what was he doing with marble lions? We’ve always known a bit about him, that he was a Cincinnati real estate man and business speculator who enjoyed traveling in Europe. He maintained a nice little estate in Northside and decorated his gardens with a variety of statuary, some of which he had copied from what he saw abroad. Hence, the lions. Hoffner died in 1894 at the age of 96, leaving everything for the use of his wife, Maria. On her death in 1904, following a part of Jacob’s will, his statuary was donated to the city. And that was that.
But it’s always nice to put a face with a statue. Here, then is one of Mr. Jacob Hoffner. The photograph of his Northside home, which is now the site of Hoffner Park, shows a few statues such as the eagles that were placed in Eden Park. For more story context, we also present a photo of the plaza in Florence, Italy (not Kentucky) which has the more worldly Mick and Mack. Interestingly enough, copies of the statues have also been spotted in Germany and in Florida. There is also the story related several years ago that in a certain adult film from the 1980s, the opening scenes show the “actors” entering a California mansion that is fronted by our beloved lions. Don’t ask – we have no way of verifying this.
To add to our gallery, and to the continuing story of Mick and Mack, we welcome any photos of UC students, faculty, staff, and alums who happen to go to Florence, Italy (not Kentucky).