May 3rd

1871 – Tweed’s Henchmen destroy Hawkins’s dinosaurs

On this day in dinosaurs, New York’s underworld broke a lot of dinosaur dreams. Enjoying popularity stateside, English sculptor Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins had been recruited to create life-size dinosaurs from the American continent for a grand exhibition in New York City’s Central Park. This new Paleozoic Museum was to be modeled after the Crystal Palace in London, and if anything, the Hawkins models were to be even more spectacular in the new world.

Proposed Paleozoic Museum illustration / Wikimedia Commons

But as Walter Cronkite once said, politics got in the way. New York was then effectively controlled by William “Boss” Tweed. With no method of making money from this new attraction, Tweed saw the project was nixed. After blocking the museum’s construction, Tweed ordered his cronies to raid Hawkins’s workshop and destroy the prehistoric sculptures. Some say they are still buried somewhere in Central Park, though this may be just old dinosaur lore.

Of course, the American Museum of Natural History would eventually fill the void left by the failed Paleozoic Museum, and generations of dinophiles from all over the world have flocked to its hallowed halls.

Share your favorite illustrations from the Paleozoic Museum plans or today’s NYC dinosaurs on Facebook and Twitter using the hashtag #TDIDinos.