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 From Mammals to Man The Museum Madison Grant and Henry Fairfield Osborn were close friends and colleagues for forty years, from the formation of the New York Zoological Society in 1895 until the death of Osborn in 1935 (two years before Grant). They socialized in the same clubs, served on the boards of the same organizations, and fought for the same causes. The two friends communicated daily, by either telephone or letter, and dined together about once a week. In addition, Osborn rendezvoused with Grant every Saturday at the Bronx Zoo, whence the two would survey their domain. Grant and Osborn first met when the latter was appointed head of the Department of Vertebrate Paleontology at the American Museum of Natural History. The museum had been founded and incorporated in 1869 by some of New York City’s richest men, including Robert Colgate, A. G. Phelps Dodge, Morris K. Jesup, J. P. Morgan, Levi P. Morton, Henry Parish, and Theodore Roosevelt, Sr. They hoped that a museum dedicated to natural history would raise the intelligence of the general community and educate the working classes about the laws of nature (a goal that was somewhat stymied for the first two decades by the refusal of the largely Presbyterian trustees to open the building on the Sabbath , thus preventing the city’s working people from ever seeing the inside of the museum). They eventually situated the museum on a twenty-three-acre site on Central Park West, and it soon became the most extensive natural history repository in the Western Hemisphere. The museum had millions of artifacts and thousands of displays (the first “habitat group” in the museum was a group of orangutans killed and mounted by the young You interest me very much, Mr. Holmes. I had hardly expected so dolichocephalic a skull. . . . A cast of your skull, sir, until the original is available, would be an ornament to any anthropological museum. Arthur Conan Doyle taxidermist William T. Hornaday in 1880), and by the beginning of the twentieth century it was the largest building in New York. “It was inevitable,” remarked Henry Fairfield Osborn many years later, “that the Museum should become a World Museum, as New York has become a World City and as the United States has become a World Power.”1 The American Museum of Natural History also became—and remained until the Great Depression—one of the pet philanthropies of the New York patriciate. The museum had the same number of members (approximately two thousand) as the New York Zoological Society, and many of the same benefactors (including Hugh Auchincloss, George F. Baker, George Eastman, Levi P. Morton, Percy Pyne, Margaret Olivia Sage, Jacob Schiff, William Sloane, the Dodges, the Harknesses , the Huntingtons, the Jesups, the Morgans, the Rockefellers, the Thornes, the Vanderbilts, and the Whitneys). Ronald Rainger points out that they were all “part of a closely connected socioeconomic network whose families intermarried and whose members held similar religious, social, and often political commitments.”2 In the 1890s, Grant and Osborn were on parallel professional paths. Grant had chosen to be an expert on zoology, and Osborn had decided to be an expert on paleontology (which, he was fond of saying, is simply “the zoology of the past”). Grant had founded the Bronx Zoo in 1895 to present specimens of large North American mammals, and Osborn had joined the museum’s Department of Vertebrate Paleontology in 1891 (when it was the Department of Mammalian Paleontology) to display fossils of large North American mammals. Both men had rapidly achieved their goals: Grant accumulated in the zoo the world’s finest collection of living animals, and Osborn acquired for the museum the most extensive collection of fossilized animals. Both men explicitly hoped their institutions would teach the citizenry about nature, and therefore serve as centers for promulgating the conservationist ethos. And just as Grant was the first to display such animals in their native habitats, Osborn was the first paleontologist to place his specimens in large, realistic exhibits. Osborn always made sure that the museum showcased the largest possible dinosaurs and mastodons to attract the largest possible attendance. He sponsored a number of paleontological expeditions to find such specimens, including the 1905 Montana excursion that discovered the dinosaur he named Tyrannosaurus rex. More than anyone else, Osborn popularized paleontology in North America and made “dinosaur ” a household word.3 Grant and Osborn were socially and ideologically inseparable as they advanced in the world. William T. Hornaday...


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