Huge Bones Displayed in York, PA
What do you think they were?
I just ran across an advertisement for an exhibition of really, really big bones in York in 1828. One bone was said to be 20 feet long. See below for the whole ad, quoted from the February 26, 1828 York Recorder newspaper.
“TO THE CURIOUS AND SCIENTIFIC.
E. Dailey & Co. Respectfully inform the ladies and Gentlemen of this place and its vicinity, that they have arrived with a large collection of
BONES OF THE NON-DESCRIPT.
Lately discovered by Mr. S. W. SCHOFIELD, near New Orleans, which can be seen at the Courthouse, in this borough, during three days, commencing on THIS DAY, (TUESDAY, February 26.)
One Bone is 20 feet in length, 3 in width, and weighs upwards of 1200 POUNDS.
The Vertebra, of Backbone, is 16 inches in diameter; the passage for the Spinal marrow, 9 by 6 inches, the ribs 9 feet long, and all the other bones in proportion.
Hour of exhibition from 9 A.M. until 9 P.M. Good order will be kept for the accommodation of Ladies and Gentlemen.
Admittance 25 cents–Children half price.”
(Non-descript, when used as a scientific term, can mean not easily described or belonging to any identifiable class.)
Not knowing much about natural history, I first thought of dinosaurs. Their bones were just beginning to be discovered in this period. In fact, the term Dinosaura wasn’t coined until 1842. After some internet searching I realized that the biggest single dinosaur bone discovered to date is about six feet long. There went that theory.
The only other creature that might fit is the whale. According to many sources, by the 1840s many fossils of whale-like teethed mammals were found in the area of Louisiana, Alabama, and Mississippi. These bones could be some of the earliest fines. In 1843 the animal was named Basilosaurus. They could be up to 60 feet long, so their jaw bones especially could be quite substantial. Still, 20 feet seems large for one bone.
Even if dimensions were exaggerated, the exhibit would have been quite impressive. Science was capturing the imagination of the public, so it’s good to know that Yorkers were keeping up with the latest scientific discoveries all those years ago.
Click here to read about Yorkers’ interest in science.
Click here to read about a Lower Windsor Township inventor.
Click here to read about a York man’s idea for a flying machine.