Bone Wars: The Excavation and Celebrity of Andrew Carnegie's Dinosaur

Overview

For more than 100 years, we have been fascinated by dinosaurs. What did they look like? How did they live? Why did they die out? And how do we know so much about them?

Bone Wars presents a fascinating cultural history of the early years of paleontology at the turn of the last century. With the help of contemporary newspaper stories, early scientific articles and essays, and letters found in scattered archives, Tom Rea re-creates a remarkable ...

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Overview

For more than 100 years, we have been fascinated by dinosaurs. What did they look like? How did they live? Why did they die out? And how do we know so much about them?

Bone Wars presents a fascinating cultural history of the early years of paleontology at the turn of the last century. With the help of contemporary newspaper stories, early scientific articles and essays, and letters found in scattered archives, Tom Rea re-creates a remarkable story of hubris, hope, and late Victorian science.

Twenty years after E. D. Cope and O. C. Marsh were hunting frantically for any and all fossils they could find, a team of paleontologists, amateur bone hunters, and manual laborers discovered the most complete fossil of one of the largest dinosaurs discovered to date. Named Diplodocus carnegii in honor of Andrew Carnegie, the expedition's patron, it was eventually mounted and displayed in a dozen museums around the world and viewed by millions of people. It also fueled ongoing debates about what these beasts ate, how they walked, where they lived -- debates that continue today.

In revealing how a fossil unearthed in the badlands of Wyoming in 1899 helped give birth to the public's ongoing fascination with dinosaurs, Rea takes us through the byzantine corridors of Wyoming politics, examines the causes and consequences of Carnegie's philanthropy, and shows how natural history museums became dinosaur-centered shrines to science. He touches on the rebuilding of the Union Pacific Railroad, the notorious Wilcox train robbery, Pittsburgh's polluted water supply, European politics, and the golden age of Antarctic exploration. He also traces changes in scientific thought that have led to our current opinions of how the giant sauropods, including Diplodocus, lived.

Rea focuses on five men: Wyoming fossil hunter Bill Reed, who worked with the famous Marsh, but was more interested in making a living than in science; headstrong paleontologist Jacob Wortman, boss of the expedition that discovered Mr. Carnegie's dinosaur; John Bell Hatcher, the brilliant paleontologist whose theories on continental land connections were decades ahead of their time; William Holland, imperious director of the recently founded Carnegie Museum in Pittsburgh; and Carnegie himself, smitten with the colossal animals after reading a newspaper story in the New York Journal and Advertiser.

What emerges is the picture of an era reminiscent of today: technology advancing by leaps and bounds; the press happy to sensationalize anything; huge amounts of capital ending up in the hands of a small number of people; and some devoted individuals placing honest research above personal gain.

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Editorial Reviews

Children's Literature
In keeping with the tradition set by books such as Dirt and Latitude, Rea takes a dinosaur once named Diplodocus carnegii and spins around it a tale which encompasses the late nineteenth-century world of paleontology, fledgling museums, big industry, the mogul Andrew Carnegie, the railroads and the Wild West. It's a fascinating story. Rea, a longtime journalist with ties to Pittsburgh and Wyoming, is strongest when he explores the many characters involved in finding and preparing for Carnegie his heart's desire¾the biggest dinosaur in the world. Carnegie then parlays exact copies of this creature into personal status in the capitols of Europe. It is another small footnote to history, true, but one which casts light on greater issues of the period. Upper school libraries would do well to make this book available to its students interested not only in the cutthroat beginnings of the science of paleontology, but also in American history. Along the way, they'll learn more about fossils and the passions of driven scientists than they ever expected. 2001, University of Pittsburgh Press, $25.00. Ages 14 up. Reviewer: Kathleen Karr
Library Journal
When Pittsburgh steel tycoon Andrew Carnegie opened the Carnegie Institute in 1895, he hoped that his friend O.C. Marsh would provide a dinosaur for his new museum. However, Marsh died in 1898, leaving Carnegie without a dinosaur. Then the New York Post published a story about a colossal sauropod skeleton found in Wyoming by a man named Bill Reed. Carnegie was determined to get the fossil for his museum, but the University of Wyoming was just as determined. Carnegie's fortune eventually won the prize. When the dinosaur was excavated, it was named Diplodocus carnegii in his honor, and casts of the fossil were displayed around the world. Journalist Rea researched the tale of the Diplodocus fossil from original correspondence. He begins his book where the famous feud between Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope ended, skipping the earlier history of fossil discoveries in the Western United States, which has already been covered in David Wallace's The Bonehunters' Revenge (LJ 9/15/99) and Mark Jaffe's The Gilded Dinosaur (LJ 1/00). Recommended for academic and public libraries. Amy Brunvand, Univ. of Utah Lib., Salt Lake City Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
From The Critics
Relying on correspondence, contemporary articles, and other archival material, Rea, a free-lance writer, tells the story of the 1899 discovery and subsequent fame of , unearthed in Wyoming in an expedition funded by Andrew Carnegie. The bones were mounted and displayed in a dozen museums around the world and fueled debates that continue today about how dinosaurs walked and lived. Focusing on the personalities of five fossil hunters, paleontologists, and Carnegie himself, Rea explores Victorian science, the causes and consequences of Carnegie's philanthropy, and how natural history museums became dinosaur-centered shrines to science. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780822958468
  • Publisher: University of Pittsburgh Press
  • Publication date: 5/2/2004
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 288
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 9.00 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments
1 Diplodocus carnegii 1
2 The freehearted frontier hunter 12
3 The most colossal animal 29
4 Culture in the iron city 42
5 A lizard in Wyoming politics 52
6 Uncle Sam's land 59
7 Hewn into fragments 68
8 Some good luck at last 87
9 The ample fossil fields 99
10 Noble champions of truth 118
11 Patagonia 123
12 No more Reeds, no more Wortmans 135
13 Southern dreams 144
14 When the flag drops 158
15 Heads and tails 179
16 Celebrity 198
Epilogue 212
Milestones 217
Notes 218
Bibliography 259
Index 271
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