Yucky The Bear

brown bear statue Can I report a statue to the SPCA? It’s bad enough that this poor guy is wearing a collar like those wretched Russian circus bears, but he is clearly quite ill. The statue was donated to Brown University by Theodore Francis Green and is tucked away on Magee Street for fairly obvious reasons.

2 thoughts on “Yucky The Bear”

  1. Thanks for the history. Now I feel kind of bad, except it really is so unpleasant to see water pouring out of a mammal’s nostrils. And the tongue is the length of his forearm. Another thing is it is so muscle-y like it had been shaved smooth. Bears are supposed to be furry and cuddly.

  2. By Mark Nickel

    Theodore Francis Green, an 1887 Brown graduate, was at various times a state representative, lieutenant in the Spanish-American War, governor of Rhode Island, four-term U.S. senator, and a member of the Brown faculty. He was also the person who first floated the idea that Brown University should adopt the bear as its mascot. (To make the point, he hung a stuffed bear’s head in the trophy room of the brand new Faunce House in 1904.)

    Green studied law at Harvard and in Germany after graduating from Brown. In the summer of 1930, he was in Breslau, Germany, giving lectures in economics. There, in front of the medieval town hall, he found the bronze statue of a bear, a fixture in Breslau since 1904. The animal was perched on a tree stump, stretching out its tongue as if lapping water. In fact, the statue was a public drinking fountain – a Bärenbrunnen – with aluminum cups hanging on chains from the bear’s paw so passers-by could help themselves. Pull on the bear’s collar and streams of drinking water would charge out of the bear’s nostrils. Green was convinced Brown University needed to have this bear.

    After much correspondence and significant red tape, Green tracked down the sculptor, Ernest Moritz Geyger, a German then living in Florence, secured multiple permissions from cities and states, and convinced Geyger to cast another copy of the fountain, complete with its stone foundation. The finished piece arrived in New York within the year, and Green made it a personal gift to the University. It was installed in the sunken courtyard at Faunce House in 1932 with all the necessary plumbing.

    Then came World War II. In 1945, when the Poles occupied Breslau, they demolished nearly everything that was German and remade the city into present-day Wroclaw. Whether during the war or during the occupation, the little drinking fountain bear was lost. No one knew how or when. The world’s only copy was sitting outside Faunce House.

    The former Breslau town hall is now the Wroclaw museum. There is a little bear statue in front of it, but it is an inexact reconstruction done by a local sculptor in 1998.

    Brown’s little bear moved on as well. It was removed from the Faunce House courtyard in 2001 to make way for the current glass fountain there. The University gave the bear a badly needed restoration, corresponded briefly with residents of Wroclaw, who were happy to hear that the bear was safe and well cared for, and installed it in its new home just north of the Faculty Club entrance on McGee Street.

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