The Quarry and The New Deal
In the early 1930’s, a worldwide economic downturn known as the Great Depression put more Americans out of work than any other time in United States history. During 1933 through 1938, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt created a series of programs through acts of Congress and executive orders for the purposes of job creation. Significant amounts of development occurred at Dinosaur National Monument during this time. Development of the Carnegie Quarry was undertaken by New Deal agencies, the Civil Works Administration (CWA), the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), and the Works Progress Administration (WPA).
In late 1933, Dr. Albert Boyle, formerly a geologist for Union Pacific Railroad, began supervising the Civilian Works Administration (CWA) at the Carnegie Quarry (Boyle, 1938). National Park Service (NPS) engineering records indicate that in 1931, over 11,000 cubic yards of overburden needed to be removed (Boyle, 1938). This initial estimate would be dwarfed by the actual amount of rock moved by the New Deal workers. In 1933, the CWA removed overburden from the southern wall of the quarry area, opposite the bone layer, and removed rubble that had begun to slump onto the ground of the quarry from the previous two decades of excavation.
The CWA work at the quarry was terminated in the spring of 1934 (Demaray, 1934); however, by mid-June of that year, Dr. Albert Boyle was supervising the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA), which remained involved with development of the quarry until the end of 1935 (Beidleman, 1956).
Dr. Albert Boyle Becomes Custodian
During Dr. Albert Boyle’s oversight of the overburden removal project, he showed immense foresight for preservation of fossil material for scientific analysis while strictly following National Park Service policy. He sought to stop illegal removal of fossils by visitors, saved recognisable fossil material from the overburden to be donated to public schools (Boyle, 1938), and worked closely with the NPS Director to change policy regarding retention of scientific and culturally valuable objects (Boyle, 1934). In July of 1935, Dr. Albert Boyle was named “Acting Custodian of Dinosaur National Monument” by National Park Service Director Arno Cammerer.
Dr. Barnum Brown Makes A Visit to the Quarry
Renowned paleontologist Dr. Barnum Brown of the American Museum of Natural History visited the quarry in July of 1937 and recommended that the excavation floor of the quarry be lowered, which required the talus piles at the east and west ends of the quarry be moved down slope, and a significant amount of overburden from the southern portion of the quarry area to be taken down, so the distance between the south wall and the fossiliferous layer would be increased. Dr. Albert Boyle estimated that 80,000 cubic yards of rock was removed from the quarry during this process (Boyle, 1938).
Dr. Barnum Brown also instructed the workers to remove a mass of rock overhanging at the top of the north wall of the quarry, previously left there from the Earl Douglass excavations funded by the Carnegie Museum. Dr. Barnum Brown suggested the structural stability of the quarry would benefit from the removal of the mass of rock. The fossils the mass of rock might contain were “worthless and could be ignored” (Boyle, 1938).
The Quarry Visitor Center Becomes Possible
Although the quarry visitor center would not be built for another twenty years, without the tremendous effort from the CWA, FERA, and the WPA, the prospect of exposing the fossiliferous layer for the modern in-situ exhibit would not have been possible.
The overburden removal effort at the quarry, like many public works programs funded by the New Deal, put people to work during the worst economic hardship in United States history. Without the efforts of these public works employees, one of the most celebrated places in the world to see the remains of dinosaurs might not have ever been created.
A diagram from 1936 of a bird’s eye view of the quarry at Dinosaur National Monument drawn by Dr. Barnum Brown, during the process of overburden removal undertaken by public works programs funded by the New Deal. The proceeding diagrams are labeled A through G, and represent cross sections of the Carnegie Quarry from the west to east end.