By Paul Semonin
In 1801, the 1st whole mastodon skeleton used to be excavated within the Hudson River Valley, marking the climax of a century-long debate in the USA and Europe over the identification of a mysterious creature referred to as the yankee Incognitum. lengthy prior to the dinosaurs have been found and the proposal of geological time received forex, many voters of the recent republic believed this legendary beast to be a ferocious carnivore, able to crushing deer and elk in its ''monstrous grinders.'' through the American Revolution, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson avidly accumulated its bones; for the founding fathers, its immense jaws symbolized the violence of the flora and fauna and the rising nation's personal goals of conquest.
Paul Semonin's energetic background of this icon of yankee nationalism makes a speciality of the hyperlink among patriotism and prehistoric nature. From the 1st fist-sized enamel present in 1705, which Puritan clergyman claimed used to be proof of human giants, to the clinical racialism linked to the invention of extinct species, Semonin lines the evangelical ideals, Enlightenment inspiration, and Indian myths which led the founding fathers to view this prehistoric monster as a logo of nationhood.
Semonin additionally sees the secret of the mastodon in early the USA as a cautionary story concerning the first flowering of our narcissistic fascination with a prehistoric nature governed via ferocious carnivores. As such, American Monster bargains clean insights into the genesis of the continued fascination with dinosaurs.
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Additional resources for American Monster: How the Nation's First Prehistoric Creature Became a Symbol of National Identity
Then president of Yale College, he still believed the bones of the American incognitum were the remains of human giants, as his grandfather had at the beginning of the century. In 1784, following a visit from Thomas Jefferson, who was on his way to Paris to become the American ambassador to France, Stiles began a remarkable correspondence with him, eventually leading Stiles to abandon his belief in human giants. Two years later, after accepting Jefferson’s view that the bones belonged to an elephant-like creature, Stiles made the ﬁrst of two pilgrimages to the Hudson River valley site where the ﬁrst giant tooth had been found in 1705.
11 After graduating from Harvard College in 1671, Taylor became the minister of the newly organized Congregational Church in Westfield, a trapper’s settlement located on the colony’s western frontier in the Berkshire foothills of the upper Connecticut River valley. In addition to his clerical duties, Taylor served as physician to the frontier village, although he never acquired a professional knowledge of medicine, as Cotton Mather did. His ordination as the town’s minister was delayed for eight years by King Philip’s war, the Indian uprising led by the young Wampanoag chieftain Metacomet, whose daring attacks on frontier settlements in 1675 devastated the entire Connecticut River valley.
During the next twelve years, Mather sent eighty-two scientiﬁc letters to the Royal Society, each dealing with a separate American natural curiosity, 36 THE GIANT OF CLAVERACK IN PURITAN AMERICA from the woolen snow that had fallen in Connecticut to “A Monstrous Dragon” dug up in Virginia. For the ﬁrst of these letters to the Royal Society, Mather chose the gloss on the giant of Claverack, from his unpublished “Biblia Americana,” no doubt to promote his own literary ambitions, although he was also aware of the debate in England over fossil remains and the earth’s natural history.
American Monster: How the Nation's First Prehistoric Creature Became a Symbol of National Identity by Paul Semonin