Tuesday, February 9: Charles Willson Peale, Mastodons and Museums: A Legacy for Orange County.
In 1801, Charles Willson Peale, famous artist and naturalist, exhumed the first complete set of prehistoric bones in recorded history, right here in OrangeCounty, NY. He found a mastodon (the elephant’s ancestor). The discovery had a profound influence on the scientific enlightenment and developed the theory of extinction. Join Joe Devine, local historian from Montgomery, NY, Tom Lake, SUNY archaeologist, and Evan Galbraith, who will share his vision of a Peale Museum of Discovery, as they discuss this fascinating part our heritage and why, since Peale’s discovery, more mastodons per square mile have been found in Orange County than anywhere else on earth.
Of the Valley’s Mastodon giganteus (later renamed Mastodon americanus) John Collins Warren wrote in 1852:
“Language is insufficient to give an idea of the grandeur of this skeleton as a whole. Standing as it does in the midst of those of various large animals—the horse, the cow, &c., and towering above them, its massive limbs make them sink into insignificance. Even the elephant, although nearly as tall, has a frame which might be called delicate when compared with that of the Mastodon.”
NOTE: Some political observers disagree that mastodons ever became extinct in the region. ... More info on C.W. Peale can be found here; more on mastodons in New York here. Below: Peale's painting, dated 1805-08, entitled Exhumation of the Mastodon: