Clyde, my little dimetrodon pal, is here to help review a very beautiful children’s book that I spotted at Goodwill. It deals with a subject I was always fascinated about but never could quite remember the names of people involved and so it was always hard to look up.
Waterhouse Hawkins, a nineteenth-century artist, thrilled spectators in his native England and later New York City with his life-sized models of dinosaurs–the very first.
Queen Victoria even saw his dinosaur models and gave them her blessing–but the real test was to come when Hawkins invited a group of leading British scientists to a dinner party–one that was held inside the model of his iguanodon!
The dinosaur was a success, inspiring his guests to make up a song it which they merrily sang all evening:
THE JOLLY OLD BEAST IS NOT DECEASED
THERE’S LIFE IN HIM AGAIN!
All of his dinosaurs were heralded as the hit of the grand opening of Crystal Palace at Sydenham Park. Visitors gasped! They shrieked! Some even cried in both fear and wonder.
For the next fourteen years, Waterhouse traveled, giving lectures, designing small educational models and illustrating books and posters. Then, he was invited to build American dinosaurs for the museum in Central Park in New York City!
The museum was planned, dinosaurs modeled on fossils found in America were built, and then, two years of work were destroyed by a corrupt politician in New York City who said that dinosaurs were a waste of time. Vandals hired by this city official broke into Waterhouse Hawkin’s workshop, destroyed every single dinosaur, and buried them outside.
Hawkins’ spirit was still not broken, however, and he later traveled to Princeton University and The Smithsonian Institute to assemble skeletons and paint educational murals of dinosaurs.
Visitors to the Crystal Palace Park in England can still see his creations.
Despite periodic searches beneath the sod of Central Park, the sabotaged dinosaur models have never been found.