Wednesday, January 19, 2011


1. A.C. Boyle in Dinosaur's first museum

Dr. A.C. Boyle was a “geologist and engineer” with a Ph.D. in geology from Columbia University in NYC.  Before coming to Dinosaur, he spent 10 years as the Chief Geologist for the Union Pacific Railroad and 10 years on the faculty at the Wyoming School of Mines. In 1933 he began supervision of a public works project at the Monument to remove rock overburden to expose the bone-bearing sandstone layer, but not to excavate dinosaur bones. He was designated Acting Custodian for the Monument in July 1935 and remained such until he left when the Monument was greatly expanded in size in 1938.

Boyle was by all accounts a remarkable individual and well matched for the job. He was “a unique personality who carried out his activities at the quarry with a high degree of personal devotion and intimate enthusiasm.” He was certainly dedicated to public education, likely a result of his years at the Wyoming School of Mines. Daily, from 7:30-9:00 PM, Boyle “held classes for the [work]men, discussing geology, mineralogy, chemistry, physics, astronomy, and other academic subjects and illustrating his lectures with lantern sides and blackboard drawings.” On Saturdays he took fifty to sixty workers on geological field trips around the area. He even “encouraged the [work]men, many of them almost derelicts before they arrived at the camp, to compose songs and write poetry…” that was so good that “…it was almost unbelievable that those men had written it.” At his own cost he had a set of photographs of the Monument printed up for each worker. As a result of this, morale among the workers was very high and they were exceptionally dedicated to the project.

For several years Boyle taught a number of courses in geology, mineralogy, physical geography, and the geology of the National parks through the University of Utah extension campus in Vernal. He also spoke to Boy Scouts, civic organizations, business groups, radio stations, visiting scientists, and politicians.

2. 1935 or earlier photo with Boyle's white tent at the site of the future first museum (see 3 below).  It is unclear if the white objects in front of the tent are the tables with exhibit rocks and fossils.

3. Dinosaur's first museum (building in the center)

But he was particularly enthusiastic about talking with the general visiting public at the Monument. As roads improved and access became easier, the number of visitors soared and included students, citizens, and scientists from around the world. Boyle, and some of his trained work staff, provided talks, blackboard sketches, and tours of the site for everyone, whether a small family of a large tour group. These activities were done not only during the normal workweek, but after hours, on the weekends, and at more unusual times. “In not a few instances, the traveling public has been taken to the quarry site, and shown the place, by lamp light.” The intent of all these activities was that every visitor should leave with a full understanding of the dinosaurs, the Carnegie Quarry, and the geology of the Monument. The program was a spectacular success.

4. The museum in winter

Boyle also shared Douglass’s passion about developing a museum enclosing the Carnegie Quarry and showing the dinosaur bones just as they were buried long ago. However, since the project he was overseeing neither exposed bones systematically nor was to construct a building over the site, Boyle had to develop other kinds of exhibits.

5. Fossils in the storage room in the museum

6. The main lecture room in the museum. Note the crystal structure models hanging from the ceiling and the photos of local geology on the wall under the dinosaur posters.

7. Visitors in the museum

In 1934 Boyle was living with his wife in a one-room tent. Outside the tent there were several tables with fossil bones and geological specimens that could be viewed by visitors. However, outside storage of the specimens was also damaging them. So in July 1936 a large storage building/museum was erected which housed several tons of specimens, although some tables with specimens were also located in front of it. In addition to fossils and rocks, the building held charts, crystal models, photographs, models, and served as a lecture hall for interpretive programs. During the summer it was open from 6:00AM to 10:00 PM, but with the coming of colder winter weather, the hours for this unheated facility were shortened to 7:00 am – 6:00 pm. Boyle also borrowed a number of large dinosaur bones from the Uintah Basin Industrial Convention for exhibition at the Monument.

8. Visitors examining geological specimens in front of the museum.

So while the fulfillment of Douglass’s dream of a Quarry Museum was still two decades away, the remarkable enthusiasm of Dr. Boyle produced a program of visitor services that included public talks, guided tours, and exhibits of dinosaur bones, traditions that we still follow today. He also was an unflagging supporter and proponent of the museum and Monument and was as at ease talking about things geological with Boy Scouts as well as politicians and world renowned scientists. And all this was done while he was directing the exposure of the bone bearing sandstone layer that would ultimately be enclosed within the long sought Visitor Center.

All passages in quotation marks in this blog are from Beidelman 1956.

A Note on Sources

Much of this blog is based on R.G. Beidelman’s report Administrative History, Dinosaur National Monument. This fascinating report is the best summary of the history of the Carnegie Quarry between its discovery and 1956, much of which has never appeared in print. It contains abundant quotes from correspondence, newspapers, etc. and provides complete citations to where these documents can be found in the National Archives. Although it is in an unpublished internal report, it is available on-line from the National Park Service at It is an interesting read.


Beidelman, R.G. 1956. Administrative History, Dinosaur National Monument. Unpaginated. (available on line at:

Uintah County Library: 1, 3, 4, 6
University of Utah: 5, 7, 8
NPS: 2

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