The Carnegie’s Colossal Collecting
Excavations continued from 1909 on with semi-regular shipments being made to Carnegie Museum. Carnegie Museum was interested in pursuing patenting on the ‘Carnegie Quarry Placer Claim.’ The case which Douglass filed to the General Land Office was unusual as fossils were not officially listed as a placer deposit nor as a mineral entry, thus the case was denied.
Relentlessly, Douglass appealed, citing the General Land Office’s policy that mineral entries must have “economic value for use in the sciences,” which he argued described the fossils being excavated. Despite this clever tactic, the Carnegie Museum would again be denied the claim (Beidelman, 1956).
However, after the land surrounding the quarry was designated as a National Monument by Woodrow Wilson in 1915, the Carnegie was granted a permit to continue excavations at the quarry. The Carnegie would request the renewal of this permit annually, until the cessation of their excavations in 1923 (Beidelman, 1956).
The Carnegie Museum added an unprecedented amount of dinosaur fossils to their vertebrate paleontology collections during the excavations at the Carnegie Quarry of Dinosaur National Monument. Bones of Late Jurassic dinosaurs excavated from the Carnegie Quarry can be seen in museums throughout the United States and even the world. A right femur of Diplodocus longus excavated by the Carnegie Museum, is on exhibit in the South African Museum in Cape Town (McIntosh, 1981).
Although Carnegie Quarry would eventually be molded into a completely novel in situ exhibit, the now mounted skeletons that were found excavated from the quarry have fueled the imagination of generations of museum visitors who have felt dwarfed by these “terrible lizards” in exhibit halls. The Carnegie excavations were not only revolutionary to the field of vertebrate paleontology, but they also illuminated the cultural icons that are dinosaurs.
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
McIntosh. Annotated Catalogue of the Dinosaurs (Reptilia, Archosauria) in the Collections of Carnegie Museum of Natural History. 1981. Available through Carnegie Museum