Ancient Sites of New York City 2: Herodotus at the Post Office

The same architect firm who designed the penthouse Greek temple on Wall Street, McKim, Meade & White, also created the General Post Office on 8th Avenue. According to Meyer Berger’s New York (p. 202) it was William Mitchell Kendell, senior architect at the firm, who translated a passage from Herodotus to make the comparison between Persian couriers and New York mail-workers. Here is the resulting inscription:

NEITHER SNOW NOR RAIN NOR HEAT NOR GLOOM OF NIGHT STAYS THESE COURIERS FROM THE SWIFT COMPLETION OF THEIR APPOINTED ROUNDS

In the quotation in Goldsmith, Meyer relishes the process whereby Kendell reworks Herodotus, as he ‘chewed on his pencil, night after night’. He even discarded a Harvard Classics professor’s translation that he requested, presumable for only mentioning the couriers ‘going about their appointed rounds’, while Kendell wanted their ‘completion’.

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