[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index][Subject Index][Author Index]
Paleosongs and Paleopoems at the Dinner in the Iguanodon and Beyond
With the approach of New Year's Eve, it seems like a fitting time to
revisit the famous "Dinner in the Iguanodon," held on December 31,
1853, on the grounds of the rebuilt Crystal Palace in Sydenham, South
London. The unusual banquet was presented by artist Benjamin
Waterhouse Hawkins (1807-1894) in the mold for a life-sized standing
Iguanodon created under his direction. The dinner remains one of the
legendary events in the history of paleontology, highlighted by the
presence of Richard Owen (1804-1892), founding father of the
Dinosauria and consultant on the Hawkins dinosaur models. The occasion
is also remembered for verses (supposedly sung) about the Iguanodon,
inviting a broader look at verses and songs about prehistoric
creatures written for adults during the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Again, any errors (including missed typos) are my own and corrections
Myths and Puzzles About the Dinner in the Iguanodon
Crystal Palace Dinosaurs historian Joe Cain provides some of the major
details known about the "Dinner in the Iguanodon":
(I think some issues mentioned can be cleared up based on historical
sources cited below. For example, the famous dinner almost certainly
took place in the Iguanodon mold mounted in the work shed, not on the
island where the finished standing Iguanodon model now stands.)
A report in the London newspaper The Morning Post, January 2, 1854,
pg. 5, entitled "A Novel Dinner Party," quoted here in part, sets the
"The animal to be constructed is first modelled in clay, a cast is
then taken of it, and this cast becomes the mould, in which, if we may
be allowed to use the expression, the animal is built up — as it
afterwards appears to the public when the mould is knocked away. Mr.
Hawkins has already completed 10 or 15 of these animals, and amongst
them an Iguanodon, already in the grounds. It stands 12 feet 6 inches
high, and measures from the snout to the tip of the tail 30 feet — the
extreme length of the body 18 feet. Mr. Hawkins, having just completed
the mould for another Iguanodon of similar dimensions, conceived the
idea of giving a dinner in it to a number of his friends at the close
of the year. Accordingly, a platform was built up round it,
accommodation made in the inside of the animal for the guests, a
handsome tent erected over it to protect the company from the cold,
and on Saturday, 21 gentlemen sat down in the belly of the Iguanodon,
as it were, to partake of a most excellent dinner, served up under the
direction of Mr. Higginbottom, of the Annerly Tavern."
For Mr. Higginbottom's dinner menu, see:
Hawkins himself provides these details about the attendees (see Cain
"The Restoration of the lguanodon was one of the largest and earliest
completed of Mr Waterhouse Hawkins’ gigantic models measuring thirty
feet from the nose to the end of the tail, of that quantity the body
with the neck contained about fifteen feet which when the pieces of
the mould that formed the ridge of the back were removed the body
presented the appearance of a wide open Boot with an enclosed arch
seven feet high at both ends. The arch in the head of the animal was
occupied by Prof R Owen the celebrated Palaeontologist who with Prof
Edward Forbes liberally aided Mr Waterhouse Hawkins with counsel and
scientific criticism during the whole time occupied by his unique,
arduous and successful undertaking. The wider arch at the opposite end
was filled by Mr Francis Fuller the Managing Director of the Crystal
Palace with Prof Edward Forbes on his right and a musical friend on
his left whose delightful singing greatly increased the pleasure of a
memorable evening. The two sides contain nine seats each that in
centre of left was occupied by Mr Hawkins as host and Chairman, was
supported on his right by Mr Joseph Prestwich one of his earliest
pupils & constant friend during the previous twenty five years. Mr
John Gould FRS was on his left."
For a summary of Owen's toasts and speech, see the account from
Routledge's Guide to the Crystal Palace and Park, pages 20 to 22, "A
Terrific Banquet in an Iguanodon."
McDermott , Edward (1854) Routledge's Guide to the Crystal Palace and
Park at Sydenham. G. Routledge & Co. London 235 pp.
A highlight of the evening were three stanzas of verses composed
specially for the occasion by the geologist/naturalist Edward Forbes
(1815-1854), included in the Guide (pages 21 and 22). The first stanza
is the best known, alluding to the dinner in the Iguanodon, with the
line in the chorus, "The jolly beast is not deceased." What is not
clear is whether these verses were sung by Forbes (probably not, as
explained below) or recited (much more likely), and if the "chorus"
part was sung by the guests, or whether the gathered gentlemen merely
provided the boisterous roars in imitation of an Iguanodon (more
likely) as reported in the Guide:
"...the 'roaring' chorus being taken up by the company in a manner so
fierce and enthusiastic, as almost to lead to the belief that a herd
of iguanodons were bellowing from some of the numerous pit-falls in
Penge Park, in which they had been entrapped." (pg. 21)
The traditional idea that these verses about the Iguanodon were
performed as a "song" by Forbes and this guests is not confirmed by
any original sources I can find. A common practice would have been a
borrow a familiar tune and add new verses. No tune is indicated for
Forbes' verses. In fact, unlike a typical song, each stanza has a
different chorus on a different topic, although repeating the theme of
something having life in it again.
1. "The jolly old beast is not deceased, There's life in him again."
[guests inside the Iguanodon mold]
2. "To spread sound knowledge near and far, They've come to life
again!" [Hawkins' reconstructed saurians on the grounds of the Crystal
3. "The People's Palace rears its head, With life in it again."
[rebuilding of the Crystal Palace at Sydenham]
Edward Forbes was well known for composing verses and songs that were
read or performed at meetings such as the Geological Survey dinners.
Some of his humorous verses were published in popular magazines.
"[I]t was then resolved that every year thereafter the [Geological]
Survey should hold its anniversary dinner, with Sir Henry [de la
Beche] as perpetual chairman. Forbes and others used to write
serio-comic scientific songs for the occasion, and these were
inscribed in the album of 'The Royal Hammerers.' The pages of this
volume are adorned with sketches by Sir Henry himself; Forbes wrote
out some of his songs in it, with borders of funny elves and gnomes,
and creatures that never existed save in his own fertile imagination."
(Wilson & Geikie, 1861: 411)
However, Forbes was apparently not renowned for his singing voice:
"He was wont, too, to delight the company by chanting in his own
peculiar intonation songs composed for the occasion, the subjects
being usually taken from some branch of science (as in the song quoted
on the preceding page), and treated with that humour and grotesqueness
in which he so much delighted." (Wilson & Geikie, 1861: 248)
Since Hawkins indicates that at the dinner Francis Fuller (Managing
Director of the Crystal Palace) had brought along a skilled singer to
entertain the gathering, and newspaper editors were present, I suspect
that Forbes may have been content to read or recite rather than sing
his verses, given that he was not performing for close friends alone.
The main participation by the guests likely were the roars for the
chorus of the first stanza.
In 2014 a modern rendition of the verses to the first stanza was
recorded as a song, accompanied by a banjo. (Fun, but clearly not
authentic to the original event, which had no musical instruments for
Cambridge University Sedgwick Museum of Earth Sciences
On a sad note, Forbes would die in November of 1854 at age 39 after a
brief illness, shortly after taking up a professorship at the
University of Edinburgh in Scotland. Although his scientific work was
seen as important at the time, his philosophy of nature was at odds
with widely accepted ideas.
Thomas Huxley's obituary for Forbes, a personal friend
Mills, Eric L. (1984) A view of Edward Forbes, naturalist. Archives of
natural history. 11 (3) : pp. 365-393 doi: 10.3366/anh.19220.127.116.115
Wilson, G. & Geikie, A. (1861) Memoir of Edward Forbes. MacMillan and
Edmonston Co., Edinburgh, 589 pp.
A few additional points of confusion about the dinner that are found
in different sources:
There were TWO Crystal Palaces. The first one was built at Hyde Park
in 1851 for the Great Exhibition and taken down in the autumn. There
were NO dinosaur sculptures at the 1851 event, although Hawkins
exhibited some of his other earlier work inside the pavilion. The
building parts and some of the contents of the original Crystal Palace
were moved to a site in Sydenham in South London and rebuilt, along
with added fountains and other new features on the surrounding
grounds. One of the notable additions were the life-size models of the
prehistoric animals created by Hawkins. The second Crystal Palace
officially opened in 1854.
The suggested inspiration for Hawkins' dinner in the Iguanodon mold is
often said to be a dinner given by Charles Willson Peale in
Philadelphia in 1802 for his reconstructed mastodon, attended by
Hawkins' father, John I. Hawkins.
However, a more recent inspiration for the dinner in the Iguanodon
mold may have been dinners held in the bronze casts for the huge
Wellington equestrian statue, created by Matthew and James Wyatt in
the 1840s. "After casting, a dinner party for twelve was held in the
horse's bronze belly." (1965, Monuments, pg 15). Punch magazine (which
repeatedly lampooned the stiffly posed, oversized Wellington monument)
suggested that, in addition to dinners held in the statue, it could be
let out as rooms.
Punch 11 (1846): 41
Sharp, Paul & E. M. Hatt (1965) Monuments. Taplinger Publishing
Company, 128 pages
Conlin, Jonathan (2014) Evolution and the Victorians: Science, Culture
and Politics in Darwin's Britain. Bloomsbury Academic, 256 pp. (See pg
The Iguanodon dinner almost certainly took place inside the
studio-workshop shed, which had a solid floor (possibly brick(?),
based on the Illustrated London News engraving)--NOT on the final
installation site for the completed model on the island, which would
have been uneven muddy ground in the winter. Newspaper and magazine
accounts make this detail fairly clear (the other (sprawling)
Iguanodon was "already in the grounds" (quoted from the Morning Post
above) and the in-place construction of the standing Iguanodon did not
begin until the spring of 1854 (Hoggs Instructor, quoted below)). The
work shed location also matches the drawn invitation with the
pterodactyl wing sent out by Hawkins, which shows the inside of the
wooden shed around the mold and the tent. A tent was rigged (suspended
from the rafters?) to enclose the diners and protect them from the
winter chill (and maybe the rats) in the drafty structure.
Workshop as depicted in the Illustrated London News (1853):
The Iguanodon mold at the dinner as depicted by Hawkins and later
re-created in a famous engraving for the Illustrated London News
(1854) is not completely accurate. A quick sketch made by Hawkins
during the meal shows Richard Owen seated inside what was apparently
the cement cast of the head (Bramwell & Peck 2008: 24, fig. 27). The
sculpted head from the lip of the upper jaw upward is exposed, but the
lower jaw of the Iguanodon is still encased in a thick plaster mold.
The published illustrations of the dinner, though, show the entire
head (both upper and lower jaws) free of the mold--pictorially more
interesting, but not historically accurate it appears.
The wooden platform around the reassembled mold may have served two
purposes--to allow the food to be served to those seated inside the
Iguanodon and possibly to help hold the mold together, since it was
made up of separate plaster sections, apparently along with some parts
such as the head that were already cast in cement. The illustrations
show that most of the body of the Iguanodon mold had a featureless
outer surface. The book "The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins" and
various modern cartoons show the diners in a hollow model with scaly
skin over the entire body, but this would not be accurate.
The 1853 Illustrated London News engraving of the workshop shows the
original clay model of the standing Iguanodon that was constructed
over a wooden armature, built up with layers of clay that were then
sculpted in the final details by Hawkins himself. The process of
creating the individual sections of plaster molds of the dried clay
model is underway around the legs. These plaster molds were then used
to create cement casts (likely reinforced with iron) in sections that
were later transported to the final site and built on to a hollow
brick core for the body on the island. The dinner took place inside
the reassembled sections of the outer mold, apparently with some parts
that were already cast in cement (the head) as mentioned.
For a contemporary description of Hawkins and his workshop in the
spring of 1854, the intended geological program for the Crystal Palace
grounds, and an early survey of the saurians already installed, see
Anonymous (1854) "The Geology of the Crystal Palace," Hogg's
Instructor, 2nd series (April 1854): 279-286
The description makes it clear the parts of the standing Iguanodon
were still being cast in cement and prepared in the workshop at the
"Mr. Hawkins incidentally lets us into some of the secrets of his art.
All the larger restorations, he explains, such as would be
inconveniently heavy to remove from the workshop entire, are first
modelled in clay. A monster in this preliminary stage stands at our
side, weighing, we are told, somewhere about thirty tons. Time being
allowed for the clay model to harden somewhat, a composition mould is
formed upon it in several separate sections, from each of which a
portion of the restored animal is afterwards built —literally built,
and of bona fide bricks and mortar, as a section (a sort of ' spare
rib') of an Iguanodon now in progress before us reveals. The different
parts are held together in the end by a strong internal frame; and the
hollow monster, with its shell of brick, gets finished off with an
integument of plaster, that hardens to the consistency of stone."
In another article based on a May 1854 talk, Hawkins himself described
the building materials used:
"In the instance of the Iguanodon is not less than building a house
upon four columns, as the quantities of material of which the standing
Iguanodon is composed, consist of 4 iron columns 9 feet long by 7
inches diameter, 600 bricks, 650 5-inch half-round drain tiles, 900
plain tiles, 38 casks of cement, 90 casks of broken stone, making a
total of 640 bushels of artificial stone.
These, with 100 feet of iron hooping and 20 feet of cube inch bar,
constitute the bones, sinews, and muscles of this large model, the
largest of which there is any record of a casting being made."
(Hawkins 1854: 447)
Hawkins, B. W. (1854) On Visual Education as Applied to Geology.
Journal of the Royal Society of Arts 2: 444-449
For photos of the installed models on the island from later in 1854, see:
Zoomify detailed images + downloads for photos of Hawkins models in
1854 from the British Library
Photographer: Delamotte, Philip Henry (1820 - 1889), photos taken in
1854, published 1855
Illustrated London News 23, December 31, 1853, pgs 599, 600, report on
extinct animal models at the Crystal Palace, with full-page
Illustrated London News 24, January 7, 1854, pg. 22, engraving and
report of the Dinner in the Iguanodon:
Punch. v.26-27 1854. pg. 24 "Fun in a Fossil":
A guide to the Crystal Palace models (reptiles and amphibians),
attributed to Richard Owen:
Owen, R. (1854) Geology and Inhabitants of the Ancient World. Volume
8. Crystal Palace Library, London. , 1854
General Info on the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs
The Friends of the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs website is the obvious
place to start. The sculptures were reclassified Grade I monuments in
2007 and restoration work has begun (posted on Twitter). Current
efforts have been focused on repairing the standing Iguanodon, whose
mold was used for the famous 1853 dinner.
Professor Joe Cain, an American teaching at University College London,
is the main historian for the Crystal Palace Dinosaurs organization.
Video talk by Cain about Crystal Palace dinosaurs
Podcast interview with Cain about Crystal Palace dinosaurs
Guide to the sculptures
Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins (1807 – 1894) biographical material:
Bramwell, V. and Peck, R. M. (2008) All in the Bones: a Biography of
Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins. (Special publication 23.) The Academy of
Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. 128 pp., 98 illustrations
Article based on the Brawell and Peck book:
Hawkins paintings of ancient life at Princeton University
Secord, James A. (2004) Monsters at the Crystal Palace, in Models: The
Third Dimension of Science, edited by Soraya de Chadarevian and Nick
Hopwood (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 2004): 138–169
Partial text preview (no illustrations)
The "Dinner in the Iguanodon" has been depicted in fictional works as well.
British poet Chrissie Gittins wrote a poem "Dinner in the Iguanodon
Mould" (later republished in a 2009 collection). She was then
commissioned to write a BBC radio play "Dinner in the Iguanodon,"
based on the poem, which aired as an afternoon radio drama in 2006 and
2007. Unfortunately, neither the script nor the program are archived
online. An important element in both the play and the poem is how Mary
Anning (who died in 1847) was not recognized for her contributions to
paleontology during the festivities.
"As flamboyant settings for dinner parties go you’d be hard pushed to
beat eating seven courses inside the mould of a life-sized iguanodon.
This drama is based on real events and captures the excitement and the
exuberance of Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins as he sees his superscaled
work take shape. It also conveys the frustration of a working class
woman from Dorset called Mary Anning. Without her years spent scouring
the coast for fossils, Hawkins and his fellow palaeontologists,
professional fossil collectors and scientists (including Darwin) would
never have seen the material that helped in the birth of evolutionary
theory, or, indeed, these beautiful plaster-cast dinosaurs."
The 2001 juvenile picture book "The Dinosaurs of Waterhouse Hawkins"
by Barbara Kerley (author) and Brian Selznick (illustrator) also
recreated the dinner, but with altered details. Hawkins is pictured in
Owen's place in the head of the Iguanodon, while the mold itself is
depicted as a fully detailed with scales and painted on the outside
like the final model.
Victorian Verses About Geology and Prehistoric Animals
Victorian poetry is a hefty topic. Poems were written for major
events in the news or for ordinary occasions, and could be serious or
satirical. They were often published in journals or newspapers. Some
of the Victorian poems, however, may not seem very accessible (or
interesting) for modern readers, with their penchant for romanticized
medievalism and archaicized language.
The discovery of strange prehistoric creatures in the early 1800s
played into old tales of dragons and a fascination with vanished ages,
but the topic of prehistoric creatures also readily lent itself to
British geologist Charles Daubeny (1795 – 1867) put together a
collection of poems (partly serious, partly humorous) that was
published posthumously in 1869, entitled "Fugitive Poems Connected
with Natural History and Physical Science, collected by C.G.B.
Daubeny." Some of Edward Forbes' verses were included.
Among the collected poems was "A New Nightmare" by Horatio Smith from
1838 (pg. 123), an imagined account of spending the night in Gideon
Mantell's Brighton museum, whose contents were being packed up and
shipped to London after being sold to the British Museum.
In the poem, the visitor falls asleep and has a nightmare in which the
prehistoric creatures come to life to take vengeance on Mantell for
disturbing their bones. Despite the visitor's protest that he is not
Mantell, the antediluvian creatures vent their fury on the hapless
A poem that was not included in the Daubeny collection and that may be
of some modern interest is "To Mary Anning" by John Kenyon
(1784-1856), a minor Victorian poet. The 1838 poem celebrates the
pioneering female paleontologist and her discoveries.
(Mary Anning survived a lightning strike as a child that killed three
For biographical material on Mary Anning (1799-1847), including a poem
written by Mary Anning herself for geologist Roderick Murchison , see:
Punch magazine often found strange prehistoric animals a source of humor.
Examples in verse include "Ballad of the Ichthyosaurus" from the
February 14, 1885 Punch, page 82:
Verses and songs about prehistoric creatures were obviously not
confined to English authors. A few of the better known examples from
German and French are offered here.
The 19th century German poet and novelist Joseph Victor von Scheffel
(1826 – 1886) wrote a short humorous poem in the 1850s known as <<Der
Ichthyosaurus>> [The Ichthyosaurus] or as <<Der letze Ichthyosaurus>>
[The Last Ichthyosaurus], which was later quoted in Williston's Water
Reptiles of the Past and Present, as well as in other books. The poem
appeared in a popular collection of German student song and verse by
Scheffel entitled <<Gaudeamus!>> [Let us be joyful!], which also
contained the well known "Guano." Scheffel's collection has had at
least 159 editions in German and a number of English translations.
English translation 1872
The Ichthyosaurus poem has been sung to a number of familiar German
melodies, including <<Die Lorelei >> and <<Es hatten drei Gesellen>>
[There were Three Companions], both melancholy tunes with verses about
death and loss. Although supposedly about the tragic end of the Lias,
the rollicking humor of the Ichthyosaurus poem has made it a favorite
as a song or as a poem.
Text in German:
With illustrations (click to expand) and an English translation:
There are multiple rhyming English translations of the "Ichthyosaurus"
poem in addition to the non-rhyming one at the link above.
Less well know is Scheffel's Poem <<Megatherium>>...
Translated into English here:
La Complainte de l'Iguanodon [The Lament of the Iguanodon] 1887 and 1912
First, a bit of clarification. The French term <<complainte>> here
would mean a "lament" in the form of a poem or a song, not a
"complaint" in the English sense [which would be roughly similar to
<<plainte>> in French]. Traditionally, a <<complainte>> in French
could express grief or sadness about a person, a death, an event, a
place, or a situation, or might describe the misfortunes, sufferings,
or travails (or misdeeds) of a person (including the poet or the
singer), or of a place or of a thing. Originally a serious form dating
back to the Middle Ages, a <<complainte>> later came to be more often
humorous, ironic, or satirical. Note that the term <<complainte>>
applies more broadly in French than "lament" would in English, and can
include ballads about notorious criminals or local figures or legends.
(The song "Mack the Knife" [<<Moritat von Mackie Messer>> in the
original German] from the Three Penny Opera by Kurt Weill and Bertolt
Brecht is called <<La Complainte de Mackie>> in French.)
For a discussion of <<complainte>> as a popular literary form in French:
Meaning of <<complainte>> explained in English:
It appears there are TWO songs called <<La Complainte de
l'Iguanodon>>, one from 1887 and another (the famous one) from 1912.
I can't find much about the 1887 version, which was written a decade
after the discovery of the Bernissart Iguanodon skeletons. The verses
appeared in a Belgian newspaper (presumably humorous) called
<<L'Iguanodon: organe et saurien>> [The Iguanodon: official opinion
publication and saurian]. The contents are listed as:
Histoire de l'Iguanodon racontée par lui-même. — Complainte de
l'Iguanodon (sur l'air du jupon de Madelon). — Sonnet iguanodescent. —
Faits divers. — Feuilletons
[Story of the Iguanodon told by [the creature] itself -- Lament of the
Iguanodon (to the tune of <<Le Jupon de Madelon>> [a popular polka
tune from 1882]) -- Iguanodescent Sonnet - News in brief - Supplement]
Much better known is the song with words and music by Belgian composer
Marcel Lefevre (1863-1941). The lyrics are in the Walloon dialect
spoken in the French cultural region of Belgium. Each stanza begins
with << Pitié pour un Iguanodon>> ["Have sympathy for an Iguanodon" or
"Pity an Iguanodon"], and is sung in the third person (so the idea is
here more a lament on behalf of an Iguanodon, not that the Iguanodon
itself is making the lament).
Among the misfortunes that have befallen the Iguanodon were to be dug
up even though it had paid for a cemetery plot in perpetuity, to be on
display and looked at by loads of morons who think it's a werewolf or
a fake, to become the subject of idiotic remarks by loads of scholars
for 30 years, to upset the Flemish because the big Iguanodon fossils
had been found in the French-speaking Walloon territory, while only
some fish bones had been dug up in their region, and to have a name
(Iguanodon) that is half French and half Greek, whereas, had it been
dug up in Flanders, the Flemish would have slapped a name on it that
was so suave in Flemish that the poor beast would have up and left (in
Complete verses (in Walloon French):
With sheet music:
Kevin Padian provided an English version of some of the verses in his
translation of Philippe Taquet's book Dinosaur Impressions (pgs. 38,
Philippe Taquet (translated by Kevin Padian) (1998) Dinosaur
Impressions -- Postcards from a Paleontologist. Cambridge University
Press, New York 244 pp.
La Complainte du Grand Sauropode [The Lament of the Great Sauropod] 2013
A notable follow-up to the <<Complainte de I'Iguanodon>> was a parody
version inspired by the discovery of the huge sauropod remains in
Angeac-Charente in France in 2013. In honor of the fossil find, French
paleontologists formed the Confrérie du Grand Sauropode [Brotherhood
of the Great Sauropod] in the style of late Medieval guilds, and
celebrated with a dinner similar to the famous dinner in the Iguanodon
in 1853 and a dinner held for the Carnegie Diplodocus in Paris in
Based on the Iguanodon song, <<La Complainte du Grand Sauropode>> was
written to suit the giant sauropod. Although the sauropod suffers many
woes similar to the dug-up Iguanodon (minus offending the Flemish),
such as being subjected to all kinds of scientific indignities and
blather, the dinosaur also is reminded of its ancient love, a great
adventuress. The song ends with a warning to the ornithomimosaur
(Mimo) found in the same fossil beds about what's in store.
The song with music and text is available at the link, along with photos.
YouTube performance with harpsichord:
The Carnegie Diplodocus Comes to Paris in 1908--and Inspires Songs
In the first decade of the 20th Century, American steel tycoon Andrew
Carnegie (1835–1919) famously sent plaster replicas of the Diplodocus
carnegii skeleton dug up in Wyoming in 1899 to the capitals of Europe.
Nieuwland, I. (2010). The colossal stranger. Andrew Carnegie and
Diplodocus intrude European Culture, 1904–1912 Endeavour DOI:
The first Diplodocus was mounted in London in 1905. For William
Holland's account of presenting the first Diplodocus cast in London:
Holland, William J. (1905) The presentation of a reproduction of
Diplodocus carnegiei to the trustees of the British Museum. Annals of
the Carnegie Museum 3: 443-452
In May of 1908 another replica was mounted in Berlin, leading to a
dispute with Gustav Tornier about the upright posture vs. a
However, the Diplodocus replica caused the biggest sensation in France
in June of 1908.
See La Lettre de Dinosauria 37 (2008): 5-11
Reminiscent of the Dinner in the Iguanodon, a dinner was held in honor
of the Diplodocus in the Galerie de Paléontologie at the museum, with
dishes given fanciful names based on fossils and paleontologists, such
as << Potage bisque aux Eryon jurassiques>> [Bisque soup with Jurassic
Eryon [a fossil crustacean]], <<Potage Albert Gaudry>> for the French
paleontologist Albert Gaudry (1827 – 1908), and <<Selle d'Entelodon
sauce Perrier>> [Saddle of Entelodon with Perrier sauce (biologist
Edmond Perrier was the director of the museum) ]. <<Petits pois à la
Holland>> (instead of "Hollande" the country) is a joke on William
Description of the ceremony at the Museum of Natural History in Paris
for the Diplodocus cast (in French):
Photographs from the mounting and the ceremony in 1908:
On seeing the mounted skeletal replica, French President Armand
Fallières notoriously blurted out, <<Quelle queue! Quelle queue!>>
[What a tail! What a tail!], which can also have a suggestive meaning.
In addition, he allegedly had difficulty pronouncing the name
Diplodocus (in particular the last syllable). [In this case, the final
"s" is pronounced in a scientific name such as Diplodocus, although in
French final consonants in words are often (but not always) silent.
The final syllable of Diplodocus with a silent "s" would sound like
the French word *cul* ("bottom, buttocks, bum"), which has a silent
"l" at the end.]
[Note that the famous remark <<Quelle queue!>> was used as a title
for a video about the discovery of the tail bones of the giant
sauropod at Angeac this last summer.
Press coverage of the Diplodocus was extensive, often in a humorous
and satirical vein as noted in the 1909 edition of the Annals of the
Carnegie Museum (vol. 5):
"The Diplodocus was for the time being the sensation of the French
capital and furnished the wise and the unwise, who thrive by pushing
their pens, an apparently unlimited field for the exercise of their
talents, as is evidenced by a collection of over six hundred clippings
taken from French journals... One of the funniest productions is that
of a writer, who alleges that the founder of the Carnegie Institute,
indignant at the manner in which wealthy Americans have been imposed
upon by the sale to them of bogus Rembrandts and Corots, secretly
resolved in conspiracy with the Director of the Carnegie Museum to
perpetrate upon the unsuspecting European public a gigantic hoax, and
accordingly had the Diplodocus fabricated, and actually succeeded in
palming it off upon crowned heads and the scientific men of Europe.
After that the two conspirators are represented as foregathering at
Skibo [Andrew Carnegie's castle in Scotland] and indulging in quiet
chuckles over the success of their wicked scheme. To what lengths will
not the journalistic fancy go?"
See Kevin Padian's translation of Philippe Taquet's book "Dinosaur
Impressions" for a translation of a part of a "speech" supposedly
given by the Diplodocus itself at the ceremony (pg. 117).
Original full Diplodocus speech in French (click to expand image):
Journal des débats politiques et littéraires. June 16, 1908, pg. 4:
The hoopla over the Carnegie Diplodocus at the Museum of Natural
History in France, spiced by the President's <<Quelle queue!>> remarks
and pronunciation flubs, inspired songs (some racy). Unfortunately,
the music and lyrics do not appear to be available online.
As one example, the popular composer Maxime Guitton (18..-1940) teamed
with A. Pajol and Saint-Gilles, comic lyricists for songs and plays,
in 1908 to produce <<Le Diplodocus! Chanson descriptive et
anatomique>> [The Diplodocus! A descriptive and anatomical song]. I
can't find the music or the lyrics online, although the sheet music is
listed in some collections. Many of Guitton's other songs are
available at the French National Library site Gallica.
Tracking down older poems and songs in different languages that are
about prehistoric animals presents a challenge. Since most have not
passed into the realm of great literature or great music, many remain
obscure or forgotten. (I'm sure there are plenty of poems and songs
about mammoths in Russian, for instance.)
And sometimes the distinction between verses and a song may matter for
The Iguanodon "song" supposedly sung at the "Dinner in the Iguanodon"
was more likely read or recited only as verses. However, the gathered
men of science, wealth, and journalism apparently DID roar and bellow
like Iguanodons when prompted by Edward Forbes--including possibly
Richard Owen himself, the honored guest of the occasion. Or maybe he