Sieber ranch, where Hornaday had found the Tricer-atops horn, Brown came upon T. rex almost immediately, "before the cook's call for dinner."
In what Brown described as "flinty blue sandstone nearly as hard as granite" on the side of a hill, he came upon a small bit of bone the color of milky coffee. Digging into the hillside, his crew found more bones of the animal embedded in the sandstone. Standing out in bright contrast to the blue rock were parts of a hip girdle and hind limbs and a few backbones of a huge animal lying on its side. Where exacdy the site was is hard to tell as Brown didn't like rival collectors to know where he was finding things. Since he was collecting for display, not for science, he didn't always keep very careful field notes. And he wasn't much for digging. He didn't like to get his fancy boots dirty.
Brown left the site, but over the next winter he began to sense the significance of his find. His crew didn't return until 1905. They dynamited great stretches of the cliff surface to expose more of the bone layer. It took many weeks before the continuation of the huge egg-shaped sandstone deposit that held the T. rex was found. Brown's workers dug a quarry thirty feet by twenty-one feet and twenty feet deep to extricate the huge skeleton. The largest of several rock blocks containing the animal weighed forty-one hundred pounds in its crate. Four horses were needed to pull it to the train in Miles City, Montana, more than a hundred miles away. The backbone, pelvis, hind limbs, and most of the tail were found, but the skeleton was far from complete, especially in the skull.
Brown thought he had dug up something new. But since big predatory dinosaurs were all but unknown then, he wasn't sure what he'd found. For instance, he would have been so surprised by T. rex's small forelimbs that he wouldn't have recognized them as arms, had he come across them. Instead he thought a larger upper arm bone of a plant-eating dinosaur found nearby belonged to T. rex.
What's more, Brown didn't realize that the creature
we call T. rex had already been discovered, twice, one of those times by himself. In 1900, north of the Cheyenne River in western Wyoming, Brown had found the lower jaw and backbones of what he thought was a large meat-eater.
Identifying the Wyoming and Montana carnivores was an honor that went to Brown's boss, Henry Fairfield Osborn. Osborn was then the director of the vertebrate paleontology department at the American Museum, but he would soon (in 1908) become its most famous president.
Osborn was an upper-crust Princeton man. He got hooked on collecting fossils when he found dinosaurs in Wyoming on a geology course field trip. (He also got his good-sized nose so sunburned that a prospector he encountered told him, "Young feller—either you had better pull out the brim of your hat or pull in your nose.") Osborn became one of the leading scientists of his day, and apparently he liked to let people know that. He had plenty to boast about. Osborn's name appears on an incredible 940 scientific and popular articles and books.
Even before Brown finished excavating his giant
predator find in Montana in 1905, Osborn had named it Tyrannosaurusrex. "I propose to make this animal the type of the new genus, Tyrannosaurus, in reference to its size, which gready exceeds that of any carnivorous land animal hitherto described." Osborn added the species name rex, with the same motivation, creating the "tyrant lizard king." The king measured thirty-nine feet long and stood nineteen feet high by Osborn's calculations. Osborn could not help celebrating this spectacular possession of his museum: "This animal is in fact the ne plus ultra of the evolution of the large carnivorous dinosaurs: in brief it is entitled to the royal and high sounding group name which I have applied to it."
Lots written about dinosaurs then sounds silly to us today. But the turn of the century was a time when people didn't know the age of the earth and what animals lived on it when.
Reporters wrote about the T. rex "who munched giant amphibians and elephant a la naturel." Osborn himself wrote of T. rex being "3 or 4 million years" old. Yet Osborn did the best he could with the information then available. He and other scientists of the time already understood, as we do, that T. rex lived at the end of the last dinosaur era, that it did not live at any time
above: american museum of natural history preparator charles land works on a new mount of t. rex while barnum brown takes notes.
near the days of Stegosaurus and "Brontosaurus,"and that it was closely related to both living reptiles and birds.
The pieces that Brown had found in Wyoming in 1900 (now at the Museum of Natural History in London), of a meat eater very much like T. rex but a bit less robust, Osborn named Dynamosaurus imperiosus ("imperial powerful lizard"). In 1906, Osborn changed his mind and identified that animal as T. rex also, and the Dynamosaurus name was pretty much abandoned.
Brown kept looking for T. rex in the Hell Creek Formation, and in 1905 he found the right and left hind limbs of a T. rex smaller than his first Montana discovery.
Two years later Brown headed to the ranch of John Willis, a hunting friend of Teddy Roosevelt's, and badlands "unsurveyedand unmapped," accordingtoOsborn. Brown was looking for another T. rex., but at first he had no luck. The way he told the story (to his longtime assistant, Roland T. Bird), "I searched the badlands for a month without finding a thing. I had given up: then I decided to give it one more day. Turned out to be my day: he's still the biggest Tyrannosaurus ever found." For more than half a century, Brown was right.
On the fateful day in 1907, near the summit of a hill, Brown came upon an exposed bit of what proved to be the huge skull of a T. rex., almost four feet long with eight-inch teeth in its massive jaws, lying on its side. "The skull alone is worth a summer's field work for it is perfect," Barnum Brown wrote on August 10, 1908. Brown had more, almost a complete animal, minus the fore and hind limbs and bits of the tail. The skeleton took nearly a summer's work to excavate and was removed by a team of horses in blocks of stone that weighed fifteen tons. The lower jaws were in a block weighing five tons, according to Brown.
In his wife's book / Married a Dinosaur, Brown recalled this T. rex as "my favorite child," and that it took him "two summers to dig the fellow up and transport his remains by wagon one hundred and twenty miles to the nearest railroad." "Even after we got it back to the
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