The Lost Worlds of Messmore & Damon: Science, Spectacle & Prehistoric Monsters in early-twentieth century America

Endeavour. 2016 Sep;40(3):163-177. doi: 10.1016/j.endeavour.2016.07.004. Epub 2016 Jul 30.


In 1924, the model-making company Messmore & Damon, Inc. of New York unleashed their masterpiece: the Amphibious Dinosaurus Brontosaurus, a moving, breathing, roaring animatronic dinosaur, based on displays in the American Museum of Natural History. Over the 1920s and 1930s, this became the focus of an ever-increasing publicity campaign, as Messmore & Damon exhibited prehistoric automata in department stores, the media, and the Chicago World Fair of 1933-34. These displays were hugely popular and widely discussed, drawing from the increasing public appeal of paleontology. Mixing commercial entertainment with invocations of scientific value, Messmore & Damon's prehistoric creations offer a window into the meaning and popularity of the deep time sciences in early-twentieth century America, and the links between science and spectacle in this period.

Keywords: Automata; Commerce; Dinosaurs; Evolution; Paleontology; Sensation; United States; World's Fairs.