Public art ~ The Bronze Bruno ~ Providence

The Brown Bear by I {heart} Rhody

While walking through College Green at Brown University recently, I came upon this bronze statue of a large bear. I know that the Bear is the mascot of Brown, but nothing more than that, but I'd never walked through the green before.

My first bit of history about the statue came from a plaque nearby:
"The Brown Bear was originally cast in plaster by Eli Harvey. A fund-raising campaign to "put a hair on the bear" was led by Senator Theodore Francis Green, Class of 1887, and resulted in the commission of a bronze sculpture in 1923, the bronze bear was dedicated at a ceremony on the campus during Commencement.

For sixty-five years the bear stood in front of Marvel Gymnasium as a symbol of the strength, courage and endurance of Brown University and her extended family. Now, here on the College Green, the bear is re-dedicated to Alma Mater and to the men and women of Brown.

MCMXCII (1992)"

Judging by the "#relayforlife" shirt that the bear seems to be putting on, he probably is a popular target of student life marketing.

Wikipedia tells me that it's seven feet tall, and "was gifted to the university in 1923, paid for by $10,000 of donations from Brown alumni. It was sculpted and cast by New York City animal sculptor Eli Harvey."

The Brown Bear by I {heart} Rhody

The front side of the pedestal reads:

Given By Alumni And Undergraduates
To Brown University
To Symbolize Those Qualities Of
Strength Courage Endurance
Which Go Far To Make Men Invincible

I later learned (also from Wikipedia) that the bear stands on a pedestal containing a piece of slate rock supposedly stepped upon by Roger Williams in 1636 when he landed at what would become the city of Providence. On the back of the statue, below the slate, the pedestal is inscribed with:

This is a piece of the slate rock
on which Roger Williams Landed
when he came here in 1636
to hold forth his lively experiment
of independence with strength & courage.
May his spirit live in Brown men.

I wish I'd examined the statue from all sides and seen that inscription for myself.

From Encyclopedia Brunoniana:

"In 1922 at the fifteenth reunion of the class of 1907, the suggestion of a bronze bear as a class gift was brought up, but voted down in favor of the gift of a scholarship. Zechariah Chafee 1880, hearing of the idea, encouraged one of the class of 1907, Herbert B. Keen, to start a subscription among the alumni and was himself the first contributor. At the end of Commencement day $800 had been collected, and a spontaneous slogan “Put a Hair on the Bear” became the watchword of the campaign, encouraging alumni to subscribe a single hair for one dollar or a whole patch for one hundred. About $10,000 was needed. The Bronze Bruno committee selected Eli Harvey, animal sculptor of New York City, as sculptor of the bear. The committee proposed a life-size replica of the Kodiak Brown Bear.

At Commencement 1923, when the sculptor’s model was unveiled at the south end of the middle campus, Herbert B. Keen extolled the virtues of the bear as an example for the undergraduates, “because he typifies, in his magnificent strength, those qualities of fearlessness, hardihood and resistance to attack which make him a powerful opponent. We maintain that those of our young men who follow the example of the bear in these respects will make for better scholars than those who lack Bruno’s qualities.” Immediately after this ceremony the model was taken to the Gorham Company foundry. On August 18 it was cast in bronze in the presence of a large company which included Theodore Francis Green.

Some favored the site of the unveiling of the model as the permanent place for the bear, but it was decided that the statue would be placed in front of Marvel Gym on a pedestal containing a piece of slate rock said to have been stepped upon by Roger Williams when he alit from his canoe in 1636 at the place he was to name Providence. After Marvel Gym was closed, the statue was moved to the College Green."


  1. I am visiting Providence for the first time next month. Can you please tell me of other public art there? Thank you!


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