February 8th

On this day in dinosaurs, a triple feature celebrating those who brought dinosaurs to life in the popular imagination…

1914 – Gertie Makes Her Debut

The first animated dinosaur was named Gertie. She was the brainchild of animator Winsor McCay. Gertie was part of McCay’s vaudeville act, but she became the very first dinosaur to be seen in a motion picture.

Winsor McCay

For the movie version, McCay added a bit of film which set up his usual interactive act with Gertie. This took place outside the American Museum of Natural History when an automobile of stately gentlemen suffers “a puncture.” The men go inside the museum and come face to face with a “Dinosaurus” skeleton (a Brontosaurus). McCay makes a bet that he can bring the huge animal to life.

The film is wonderfully quaint, and perhaps it’s best to see it for yourself. You can watch Gertie the Dinosaur in all its cinematic glory here: https://archive.org/details/Gertie

1807 – Waterhouse Hawkins Born

Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins was the artist who first really brought dinosaur science to the public. He was responsible for the first life-size dinosaur sculptures ever publicly displayed at London’s Crystal Palace exhibition in 1853 (those are still standing today).

Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins / brooklyn.cuny.edu
Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins / brooklyn.cuny.edu

Hawkins subsequently came to the United States for a lecture tour.  In 1868, he worked with Joseph Leidy on the first dinosaur skeleton ever mounted–Hadrosaurus foulkii–in Philadelphia. In 1870, Hawkins was recruited to work on sculptures for the ill-fated Paleozoic Museum in New York’s Central Park. His work there would be smashed by Boss Tweed’s henchmen.  Oil painted visions of Cretaceous New Jersey brimming with dinosaurs in 1877 were Hawkins’s final contribution before heading back to England the following year.


1932 – John Williams born

We also wish living legend John Williams a happy 85th birthday today!

John Williams / Houston Press

In addition to a lifetime of incredible motion picture scores, Williams has given us the most transcendent dinosaur soundtrack of them all–the music from Jurassic Park. Thank you for all the memories and magical moments, John!

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