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RE: Popularity of dinosaurs in the 1920s/30s? (King Kong question)



REPLY: What you are iterating is a partial outline of
19th century, isolated events of the "novelty" of
dinosaurs, not their "popularity" in the sense of a
keen, wide-spread interest in their taxonomy,
ecomorphologies, etc. Elizabeth Shor, in her fine 1974
collection of the newspaper articles on Cope/Marsh
(which is becoming increasingly difficult to locate),
clearly demonstrates that while the feud was real, its
wider ramifications were not on the same plane as,
say, the massive Universal Pictures publicity campaign
in 1993 of $65 million.
Dinosaurs, and paleobiology, and all of the ecological
questions of population dynamics, brooding strategies,
predator-prey analogs,thermoregulation, cardiovascular
systems, etc...viz., most were not discussed.
Dinosaurs were seen as enormous, ectothermic,
sluggish, stupid cows (some of whom ate meat), when
discussed at all in the "popular press", and in the
wider arena of public consciousness were not
especially relevant. Part of the latter derives from
the fact that education in the U.S. in the post-1868
years was class/race based: those wanting a good
scientific education went to France, England, or
Germany, and sons of working people could not do so,
in the main (women were breeding machines, could not
vote, and were largely excluded from scientific
research, along with other groups of people Henry
Osborn at the AMNH, among others, wanted either to
forcibly sterilize or deport or exterminate).
Moreover, the education system was haphazard, largely
ineffectual, often controlled by religious
organisations which, in Europe, had slaughtered
millions with burning stakes, pogroms, crusades,
ghettoization (enforced starvation).
There has been interesting work done recently on the
history of museums, in which dinosaurs had a role (the
AMNH, e.g., up until Ned Colbert taking over the
vertebrate palaeontology department, used dinosaurs to
reinforce not-so-subtle societal mythos...so that
Gertie was used for "humour" and Conan Doyle's work
[the original, unpublished large manuscript is at the
New York Public Library, and is far more episodic and
filled with dinosaurs than the published version] was
reinforcing colonialist paradigms.
Allan, you might wish to think the 1800s were
thrilling conjurations of public interest in
dinosaurs,  but the newspaper evidence belies the
assumption.
*******************************************************
--- Allan Edels <edels@msn.Com> wrote:
> Dinosaurs' popularity (in the USA at least) seemed
> to begin around 1868
> (at this time, the _Hadrosaurus foulkii_ skeleton
> was mounted at The
> Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia, at no
> charge, by Benjamin
> Waterhouse Hawkins).  The mount was an immediate
> sensation.  (ANSP _did_
> charge for admission, and made quite a bit of
> money!)  It was the first
> mounted dinosaur in the world, and Hawkins soon
> received orders for
> copies from Princeton, Chicago and the Smithsonian. 
> (The very same
> Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins who built the dinosaur
> sculptures for the
> Crystal Palace Exhibition of 1853-54, and the famous
> "Dinner in a
> Dinosaur" - which was an unfinished _Iguanodon_
> sculpture for the
> Exhibition).  
> 
> When Marsh and Cope began their feud, and began
> bringing back the
> tremendous specimens from the American West,
> American interest was
> extremely high.  I believe that there were front
> page, dueling letters
> in the New York Times.  (Jane Davidson or Thom
> Holmes can correct me, or
> further elucidate).  This was in the 1870's through
> 1890's.  
> 
> Around the 1890's through the turn of the century
> (i.e. 1900), people
> were not as interested in dinosaurs.  If I recall
> (and this is done with
> no reference material - along with a sinus infection
> being treated with
> antibiotics), there were a few major recessions, and
> of course the
> Spanish-American War (1898).  I'm not sure of dino
> popularity in 1900
> thru 1920, but bear in mind that America saw the
> assassination of
> President McKinley in 1901. 
> 
> Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote "The Lost World" in
> 1910 (it would be 1925
> before the silent movie came out).  The first
> dinosaur animated cartoon
> was "Gertie the Dinosaur" in 1914, but any
> resurgence in dino popularity
> was put on hold due to World War I, and the
> Influenza pandemic. 
> 
> Allan Edels 
> 
> -----Original Message-----
> From: owner-dinosaur@usc.edu
> [mailto:owner-dinosaur@usc.edu] On Behalf
> Of Richard W Travsky
> Sent: Wednesday, January 15, 2003 4:22 PM
> To: dinosaur@usc.edu
> Subject: Re: Popularity of dinosaurs in the
> 1920s/30s? (King Kong
> question)
> 
> On Tue, 14 Jan 2003, Stephan Pickering wrote:
> > REPLY: I am unsure as to the meaning of "popular".
> In
> 
> Ah, you know, popular. Like a movie star is popular.
> Like dinosaurs are
> popular now.
> 
> I'm not after the total development of the movie,
> but trying to
> ascertain
> the public's interest in dinosaurs in the late 1920s
> early 1930s time
> frame and whether this was a factor in using
> dinosaurs in the movie.
> Would
> they have used something else? Or not used anything
> at all?
> 
> > [...]
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 
> 


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