The Discovery

I saw eight of the tail bones of a Brontosaurus in exact position. It was a beautiful sight…


Douglass had been travelling from his place of employment, the Carnegie Museum of Natural History in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to the Uintah Basin since 1908, in search of Tertiary age mammals. However, in 1909 his assignment changed, and he was instructed to search Jurassic strata for dinosaur remains by Carnegie Museum Director Dr. William Holland, who had read of dinosaurian remains in Jurassic deposits from a United States Geological Survey report by Ferdinand Vandeveer Hayden.

Upon arriving in Vernal, UT, on August 6th, 1909, Douglass purchased supplies and hired Mr. Goodrich and his team and wagon for transport. Douglass inspected several known Dinosaur bone localities surrounding Vernal but was not impressed by anything he found. On August 12th, Douglass started to get a bit disheartened describing in his journals ‘Once in a while one can get a good limb bone here and I do not doubt that there are good specimens to be had but hey don’t appear to be very common” (Douglass, 2009).

On August 17th, atlas Douglass got excited about a find, “I saw eight of the tail bones of a Brontosaurus in exact position. It was a beautiful sight… It was by far the best looking-dinosaur prospect I have ever found.” (Douglass, 2009). It is these eight vertebra, later identified as an Apatosaurus, that inspired Douglass to excavate at that location, which began promptly on August 18th. That site would become the Carnegie Quarry.

The word quickly got out regarding Douglass’s discovery north of Jensen, and on August 22nd the site had its first visitors “two loads of people came from Vernal to see the dinosaur and there were several loads from other places.” (Douglass, 2009).

By September, Douglass had settled in on the Neal Family Ranch, and had hired three men to help with the excavations Clarence Neilson, James McHugh and Joseph Hains. The four worked on excavating the vertebrae, ilium and femur in addition to building a road and trail up to the site. By the end of the moth, Douglass’s wife Pearl and son Gawin arrived and two more specimens were found, both of which greatly pleased Douglass.

One of the eight vertebra from Earl Douglass's original discovery. The vertebra is from Apatosaurus louisae.
One of the eight vertebra from Earl Douglass’s original discovery. The vertebra is from Apatosaurus louisae.

Douglass, G.E. 2009. Speak to the Earth and It Will Teach You: The Life and Times of Earl Douglass 1862-1931. Book available on Amazon

Information to be added as it becomes available

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