Odds & Ends
A Newsletter of Eagles Byte Historical Research
February 1996, No. 5
"There Were Giants"
A current Fed Ex advertisement reads, "We ship sizes you never thought
of to places you never heard of." Back in June of 1868, Binghamton,
New York, cigar maker George Hull had something to move that might have
given today's transport company a bit of a challenge. It's not everyday
someone has an object twelve feet in length, four feet wide, and two feet
thick, weighing nearly a ton-and-a-half, to move a third of the way across
the U. S. The rather large item was loaded into a wagon and carted forty
miles away to the nearest railroad, from where it was shipped to Chicago.
Modifications were made to it by craftsman Edward Burghardt. Then, in November,
it was back onto a railroad car for a journey to Syracuse, New York, where
it was loaded onto another wagon, which carried it off to the south.
Late the following Spring, fossil bones were uncovered on a farm near Cardiff,
New York, in the Onondaga Valley. George Hull read the newspaper accounts
and knew the time was right. On October 15th he contacted his cousin, William
"Stub" Newell, who owned a farm near the site of the fossil findings.
Stub hired two laborers to dig a new well. Perhaps going through the charade
of dowsing (using a forked stick to discover underground water), he told
the men where he wanted the well dug and they set to work. The next day
they ran excitedly to the Newell house to report finding a stone giant buried
at the well site.
Word spread quickly and Stub Newell became an entrepreneur just as quickly,
charging 25¢ a person by the afternoon of the discovery. Newspapers
carried the story on October 18th and by the 23rd, Hull and Newell were
offering quarter shares in the supposedly fossilized, once-living "giant".
By this time the viewing price had doubled and redoubled, and excursion
stage coaches were making four round trips a day out of Syracuse.
Among the many visitors to the site were State Geologist James Hall, Rochester
museum owner Henry A. Ward, New York State Indian expert Lewis Morgan, John
Van Schaick Lansing Pruyn, Chancellor of the State University in Albany
and a state senator, and Harvard scholar Alexander McWhorter. Opinion was
divided as to whether the stone figure was a prehistoric statue or an actual
man who had been literally petrified, somehow. The fine detail of the carving,
down to hair on the legs and pores in the skin, actually a testament to
Edward Burghardt's skill as a stone carver, seemed to indicate that the
giant had once been alive. And didn't Genesis report that, "There were
giants in those days."? An Onondaga Indian visited and speculated that
his ancestors might have caught the giant in a trap dug in the earth. The
theory was not rejected. The Giant did seem to be clutching his side in
agony, perhaps from an internal wound suffered during his fall into the
pit. McWhorter discovered scratches under the giant's arm, which he claimed
were Phoenician characters meaning "Tamur, god of gods". Oh, yes,
there was one other visitor - an agent of P. T. Barnum.
The business affairs of the "discoverers" were progressing nicely.
Syracuse banker David Hannum (the model for novelist E. N. Westcott's fictional
David Harum) formed a five man syndicate to purchase a two-thirds interest
for $30,000. The Giant was moved to Albany and placed on display at the
State University's Geological Hall, on November 26th. Next stop on the big
fellow's itinerary was New York City's Apollo Hall, two-blocks from Barnum's
museum on lower Broadway. P. T. had a surprise up his sleeve. On December
6th he unveiled "the real" Cardiff Giant. At least that's what
many Manhattan newspapers claimed - Barnum had always boosted newspaper
circulation in New York. Charges and countercharges flew back and fourth
in a verbal barrage. David Hannum declared, "There's a sucker born
every minute." Somehow Barnum ended up getting the credit for that
continuing creed of showmen and hucksters. The case came to trial. Under
oath, George Hull decided the time had come to call an end to the hoax.
The Cardiff Giant was a fake. Barnum couldn't be sued for calling Hannum's
giant a fake, because it was, and the case was dismissed.
There were a number of red faces after the trial, and today we can smile
at the way the experts were taken in. But maybe, just maybe, we should take
a look at the Giant himself, and speculate on what we would have decided,
back in 1869.
PEARL OF AN URL
When I was growing up in western New York State we were taught about the
Cardiff Giant in our high school history classes. I get the impression it's
no longer taught in most area schools; the interesting is not always deemed
"relevant". I began researching the topic, finding versions of
the story in Carmer and in Thompson (see Bibliography, below) and decided
I had enough material to base an article on. On a whim, positive I'd find
nothing, I decided to go on the World Wide Web and do a Yahoo (TM) search
on Cardiff Giant. I was pleasantly surprised to discover that old Rocky
had a home page:
There is a good amount of interesting material at the site, including articles
on other petrified men (it was a favorite pastime of journalists in the
American West; Mark Twain himself perpetrated one such story) and the scientific
and theological debate on giants. The site also contains a Cardiff Giant
timeline and an extensive bibliography, as well as Mark Twain's A Ghost
Story, in which the author interviews, and disillusions, the Giant,
in a New York City boarding house. You can even jump in on a continuing
new adventure of the Giant, and contribute to the ongoing tale. Be kind
to giants; give the old boy a look.
A search of Eagles Byte chronologies on "nys" and "nyc"
(New York State and City), and related topics, turns up the following events
Theatrical producer Florenz Ziegfeld is born in Chicago, Illinois.
Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton break away from the Equal Rights
Association, found the National Woman Suffrage Association, in New York
Engineer John Roebling is injured at the Brooklyn Bridge construction site.
Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad is published.
The Black Friday market crash on Wall Street occurs after an attempt by
Jay Gould, Jim Fisk and Abel Rathbone Corbin to corner the New York gold
New York Herald owner James Gordon Bennett gives Welsh-born journalist
Henry Morton Stanley the assignment of finding missionary David Livingstone,
lost in central Africa.
Former stage line owner John Butterfield, 48, dies in Utica, New York.
Inventors - Thomas Edison patents an improved stock ticker.
Leisure - The Mohonk Mountain House is founded by Albert E. and Alfred H.
Smiley, twin brothers.
New York City - A group of independent fish merchants form the Fulton Market
Fish Mongers Association, to build a permanent market on South Street. **
Architect Louis Burger enlarges the German-American School. ** 142 East
18th Street's Stuyvesant House apartment building is completed by builder
Rutherford Stuyvesant. ** The American Museum of Natural History is
New York State - Chili Seminary publishes its first catalogue.**The first
"skew arch" bridge is built, over Silver Creek's Jackson Street
for the New York Central tracks. ** A blast furnace opens at Charlotte.
** The Erie Railroad abandons its Dunkirk car shops. Division superintendent
Horatio Brooks leases the buildings and founds the Brooks Locomotive Works.
** The State Line Railroad is organized to bring Pennsylvania coal to Rochester.
Railroads - Cornelius Vanderbilt consolidates the Hudson River Railroad
and the New York Central Railroad, gaining monopoly control of the tracks
between New York City and Buffalo.
Religion - Utopian planner John Humphrey Noyes tells his followers it's
time to begin an experimental community at Oneida, New York.
Rochester, New York - Fitzhugh Street's First Presbyterian Church is destroyed
by fire. The city will build a City Hall on that site. ** The Rochester
Theological Seminary begins its campus at the southeast corner of East Avenue
and Alexander Street.
Transportation - Martin V. Heller builds the Port Jervis & Monticello
You were asked to identify the two types of signals for use by ships in
foggy weather, and under what circumstances is each to be used? R. C. Of
Pittsford, New York, came up with the correct answer - "The mechanical
fog-horn is to be sounded when under way in a fog, making when on the starboard
tack one blast, when on the port tack two blasts, and when with the wind
abaft the beam three blasts. The bell when in a fog and under way."
(Ainsley, 43rd edition)
In 1841 Phineas Taylor Barnum established his American Museum at the intersection
of Manhattan's Broadway and Ann Street, on the site of a former institution.
Name the institution.
E. B. SELECTED NEW YORK STATE BIBLIOGRAPHY
(more detailed versions available)
- Burgess, Larry E. - Mohonk: Its People and Spirit, A History of One
Hundred Years of Growth and Service (Purple Mountain Press, 1980)
- Carmer, Carl - Listen for a Lonesome Drum: A York State Chronicle (William
Sloane, New York, 1950)
- Clayton, W. W. - History of Onondaga County, New York (Mason & Co.,
- Dunn, James Taylor - Cardiff Giant Hoax (Farmers' Museum, Cooperstown,
- Edmonds, Walter D. - Tales My Father Never Told (Syracuse University,
- Haydon, Roger, ed. - Upstate Travels: British Views of Nineteenth Century
New York (Syracuse University, 1982)
- Merrill, Arch (any titles)
- Noyes, George Wallingford - John Humphrey Noyes: The Putney Community
(Syracuse University, 1931)
- Thompson, Harold W. - Body, Boots & Britches (Lippincott, New York,
- Turner, O. - Pioneer History of the Holland Purchase of Western New
- Waller, George - Saratoga: Saga of an Imperious Era (Prentice-Hall,
1 - 7
British archaeologist Seton Lloyd, who rediscovered the lost Anatolian Arzawa
Empire, dies in Faringdon, England, at the age of 93.
1 - 15
British historian of the French Revolution, Richard Cobb (The People's
Armies, Streets of Paris) dies at his home in Abingdon, England,
at the age of 78.
1 - 17
Historian William Aydelotte (The History of Parliamentary Behavior),
pioneer in the use of sociology and psychology in historical research, dies
in Iowa City at the age of 85.
Former New York Times correspondent Alexander Cameron Sedgwick who
covered the British 8th Army's triumph at the Battle of El Alamein in the
fall of 1942, dies in Athens, Greece, at the age of 94.
1 - 21
David Robin Francis Guy Greville, eighth earl of Warwick, who caused an
uproar in 1978 by stripping Warwick Castle, his family's ancestral home,
of its art and selling it to the Madame Tussaud's organization as a tourist
attraction, dies in Torremolinos, Spain, at the age of 61.
2 - 1
Vienna-born New York publisher Martin Kessler, who edited and produced books
of contemporary social history (Lani Guinier's The Tyranny of the Majority;
Barry Bluestone and Ben Harrison's The Deindustrialization of America),
dies in his Manhattan home at the age of 66.
2 - 6
The Associated Press announces that archaeologists from six countries, excavating
the grounds of a temple over 2,000 years old, have unearthed what they believe
to be the birthplace of Prince Siddhartha, the Buddha. The site is 145 miles
southwest of Katmandu (see December issue) near the India-Nepal border.
2 - 7
Russian writer Lidiya Chukovskaya (The Akhmatova Journals; Going
Under), who recorded the horrors of Stalinism, at great personal peril,
dies at her Moscow home at the age of 88.
Historian Ernest Samuels, biographer of Henry Adams (...The Major Phase)
Bernard Berenson (...The Making of a Connoisseur), dies at his Evanston,
Illinois, home at the age of 92.
© 1996 David Minor / Eagles Byte
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I hope you've enjoyed this issue of Odds & Ends as much as I enjoyed
putting it together.
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