Leo the Lion, standing over Dayton since 1908

Bronze sculpture was the mascot for Steele High School


Highlights

Leo the Lion was the mascot for Steele High School.

Students donated 5 cents a month to help pay for the bronze statue.

Leo the Lion, the bronze sculpture that keeps watch from the Dayton Art Institute, originally was the mascot for a downtown high school.

The mascot, which stood guard over Steele High School at the corner of Main Street and Monument Avenue, was the brainchild of the school’s decorative arts department.

PHOTOS: Steele High School mascot through the years

According to a Dayton Daily News article published at the 1908 unveiling, it took 10 years and a combination of fundraisers, including a monthly five cent donation from the students, to come up with the funds for the statue.

Sculptor Anna Vaughn Hyatt, an animalier, was commissioned to create the icon. She studied and made sketches of “Sultan,” a black African lion housed at New York’s Bronx Park Zoo, before creating a one-fourth-sized model.

RECENT HISTORY EXTRA FEATURES:

Dispatches describe ruin of the 1913 flood

Pvt. George Washington Fair has stood watch over the city for 133 years

Protecting Dayton’s valuables: The Bimm Fireproof Warehouse

The artist, who donated her skills to the school, traveled to Naples, Italy in 1907, to supervise the bronze casting of the lion at a local foundry.

“I worked all that winter modeling the large lion and in March and April they cast it by the cire-perdu process exactly as it was done in the days of Benvenuto Cellini,” she told the Dayton Daily News in 1952.

“The place was lit only by oil torches. An image of the Virgin was conspicuous and during the crucial pourings of the bronze the excited workmen knelt to pray for the success of the pouring.”

Hyatt traveled to Dayton for the “heroic statue in bronze” unveiling held Dec. 11, 1908. She described her artistic process to an audience, the Steele High School band performed and numerous presentations were made.

“This splendid work of art, so suggestive of dignity, poise and latent power, will but prove to be another means of enhancing your loyalty and affection for your alma mater…” said John E. Eberhardt, chairman of the high school committee of the board of education.

The crowd of students and teachers, wearing red and black, the Steele High School colors, moved outside and into the street to view the campus scene as the new mascot was unveiled.

A rope tied to a tarp covering the sculpture was yanked, but it didn’t budge. A high school boy climbed up the pedestal and pulled the shroud clear displaying the lion to the throng.

»EXCLUSIVE CONTENT: Download our apps for real-time alerts on the news you care about 

»NEWS IN YOUR INBOX: Sign up for our email newsletters on the topics you love 

“The beautiful Lion over which our banner floated, stood looking down…” wrote student Carrie A. Breene in 1923. “There was absolute silence for one long moment. Cars had stopped, citizens had joined us, all traffic was still. Then broke tumultuous huzzas from hundreds of throats and the crowds surged nearer.”

In 1913, raging flood water knocked the lion from its pedestal, breaking his tail and destroying the base he stood on. The community rallied and raised funds to reinstate the statue and in the fall held another dedication.

The mascot kept watch over generations of Dayton students as they entered Steele High School. In 1955, after the school had closed, Leo was moved to his current home perched outside the Dayton Art Institute overlooking the skyline.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Rain returns during the work week
Rain returns during the work week

We’ll see a little bit more sunshine today but once again, passing clouds and filtered sun is expected, according to Storm Center 7 Meteorologist Brett Collar. It will be a notch warmer with highs in the middle 60s. A dry day today and milder Rain returns later Monday Rain expected Tuesday-early Wednesday Tonight: Partly cloudy skies are...
What is Earth Day? 5 things to know
What is Earth Day? 5 things to know

Sunday is Earth Day 2018, and more than one billion people across the globe are expected to celebrate with environmentally friendly events. But what exactly is Earth Day? Here's what you need to know: >> Read more trending news  The first Earth Day celebration took place 48 years ago, in 1970, after a devastating oil spill in America brought...
Two-vehicle accident causes I-75 shutdown for nearly 3 hours in Dayton
Two-vehicle accident causes I-75 shutdown for nearly 3 hours in Dayton

All of Interstate 75 is now open after a vehicle accident caused a nearly three hour shutdown. The left two lanes at northbound Interstate 75 are open between State Route 4 and Stanley Avenue after a two-vehicle accident shut the road down for nearly three hours. The right lane remains closed. Northbound Interstate 75 is closed between State Route...
Dayton woman loses 2nd Chihuahua to neighbor’s dogs 
Dayton woman loses 2nd Chihuahua to neighbor’s dogs 

A Chihuahua was mauled to death Saturday afternoon by a larger dog owned by a neighbor. The 1-year-old dog named Ace was chained outside shortly after 12:30 p.m. when a dog, also named Ace, came from across the street in the 5300 block of Dushore Drive and ripped the smaller dog off the chain and ran with it in its mouth. After the larger dog&rsquo...
Student of the Week Urbana High School
Student of the Week Urbana High School

Name: Cassidy James School: Urbana High School Grade: 12 Age: 18 Extra-curricular: Softball, soccer and basketball Claim to fame/honors: Art Words you live by: “Every little bit helps.” Toughest challenge: Getting through senior year Biggest influence: My mom School-day rituals: Get up, eat breakfast, learn, go to practice, then come home...
More Stories