If Money Could Buy Anything: Carnegie’s Diplodocus
What would you purchase if you had more money than you knew what do with? A private island? A fleet of personal jets? A sports team? Gilded Age industrialist Andrew Carnegie purchased a dinosaur skeleton.
Carnegie became interested in dinosaurs in 1898 after reading an article in the New York Journal that detailed the discovery of the largest dinosaur species to date. He became excited at the sight of a sketch showing the sauropod peering into the 11th story of a building and mailed a $10,000 check to the director of the Carnegie Museum, which opened in 1895, with orders to purchase the skeleton.
“My Lord — can’t you buy this for Pittsburgh — try. Wyoming State University isn’t rich — get an offer — hurry. – AC,” the instructions read.
In reality, the great find was only one bone.
Paleontologists continued to search for additional bones. In 1899, the most complete diplodocus skeleton was discovered in Sheep Creek, WY, and named D. carnegii in 1901 after the expedition’s patron.
The specimen, comprised of nearly 300 bones, measured 84 feet long and was so large it couldn’t be displayed in the museum until 1907. Eventually, it was nicknamed Dippy the Dino.
Displaying dinosaurs in the early 20th century was as much art as science.
“At that point in time paleontology was in its infancy as a science,” Phil Fraley, founder of Phil Fraley Productions which restored the Carnegie’s Museum’s dinosaurs, told The Minerals, Metals and Materials Society.
Carnegie had a decades-long interest in evolution and science. He felt funding paleontological digs – and subsequently displaying the finds – was an excellent way to educate the public.
The museum would later display the first specimens found of numerous dinosaur species including Tyrannosaurus rex, Camarasaurus, Camptosaurus, Dryosaurus, and Stegosaurus.
Copies of the skeleton were sent to museums throughout the world between 1905 and 1929. Work took two years, and the casts cost $30,000.
The first presentation of bones was at the British Museum of Natural History in London.
The model presented “an alliance for peace seems to have been affected … jointly weaving a new tie, another link binding in closer embrace the mother and the child lands,” Carnegie said.
Today, you still can visit Carnegie’s dinosaur. The original remains on display at the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh alongside Apatosaurus louisae, named after Carnegie’s wife Louisa.
Where to Purchase the WWI Trilogy
This post is a companion piece to Melina Druga’s WWI Trilogy: Angel of Mercy, Those Left Behind and Adjustment Year. The trilogy focuses on Hettie and her family as they navigate the challenges and heartbreak World War I brings.
Angel of Mercy: A nurse reluctantly sacrifices her career for marriage. An impending war will change her, and her husband’s, life forever. Available in eBook, paperback and hardcover. Click here for a full list of retailers.
Those Left Behind: The brewing winds of war will soon rip the family apart. Available in eBook, paperback and hardcover. Click here for a full list of retailers.
Adjustment Year: A war nurse returns home. Society expects her to carry on as if the Great War never happened. But how can she? Available in eBook, paperback and hardcover. Click here for a full list of retailers.