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

Sunday, January 16, 2011


Although almost all the cement crew has now left the QVC project, two members will remain behind, possibly until the project is completed.

Dan French is part of the crew that has left for warmer pastures. His sister teaches a 6th grade class that is studying dinosaurs and they have been following this blog as part of their studies. I just wanted to give the class a chance to see Dan at work --- here he is freezing his butt off working cement on the last day of pouring. Don't be fooled by the sunlight, it was -5 degrees F when I took these photos. Luckily, the class is in a much warmer climate.

The funny thing is that if Dan was working the cement in July it would be about 105o hotter! But then again our summer heat is a dry heat …………

Photos: NPS

Friday, January 14, 2011


Well on January 13th the day for the last concrete pour on the south wall of the Quarry Visitor Center finally arrived. The weather was a bit uncooperative ---- the pouring of the concrete started at 7:00 AM and the temperature was a brisk -10oF. When I arrived to take photographs at 8:00 AM it had heated up to whopping -5oF!

As you may recall, the recently demolished QVC had a curved ramp running up to a second floor entrance. We will have a second floor entrance into the new building, but rather than being sinuous, the new ramp will be wheelchair friendly and run up and along the outside of the south wall.

The ramp will be supported by a series of short, north south oriented walls that come out from the long south wall. So for the last two weeks the crews have been tying together rebar and putting up the forms for these support walls. 

Cement was poured from a mixer via a long, articulated and flexible crane and hose. Parked at mid-length of the south wall, the long arm could swing and reach from west to east, and dump the concrete into each of the forms.

As with the main south wall, the cement in the support walls will need to cure properly and to do that the temperature of the concrete will need to be above 50o. However, since we are still in the grip of winter, the entire series of support walls have been draped in insulating blankets and propane heaters will run for five days or so until curing is completed.

With the pouring done, most of the concrete crew that we’ve been following is heading off to work on other projects in Salt Lake City. I’m sure they are looking forward to those jobs where, I have it on good evidence, the temperatures are not only above zero but are rumored to sometimes be above freezing.

Photos: NPS

Thursday, January 13, 2011


William Holland as Chancellor at what was then Western Pennsylvania University

William Jacob Holland was an accomplished man. He served as the Chancellor of the University of Pittsburgh from 1891-1901 and then as Director of the Carnegie Museum from 1901 – 1922. He was an accomplished paleontologist and zoologist, an ordained Presbyterian minister, and wrote many important papers on dinosaurs, fossil mammals, and several books on living moths and butterflies (1, 2, 3).

Holland the lepidopterist in later years
 Holland was a scientific luminary and under his Directorship the Carnegie Museum became one of the world's premiere natural history museums. Holland visited the Uintah Basin on several occasions, both conducting his own field work in Tertiary strata and reviewing the operations at the Carnegie Quarry.

Holland (foreground) and William Reed collecting a Diplodocus skeleton in 1899

In 1921 National Park Service Acting Director Cammerer wrote to Holland about the development of a museum at Dinosaur National Monument. Since the Carnegie Museum was running the quarry excavations, the Director’s input was desirable. However, in his surprising November 9, 1921 response Holland did not mince words(4):

“….Douglass, who is of a somewhat poetic temperament…wrote to me to suggest that the scene of his immortal labors ought to be marked by the erection on the ground of a stately edifice in which there should be assembled plaster casts of the dinosaurs which we have extracted from the spot. This might involve an expenditure at this particular “hole in the ground” of a very formidable sum of money. The vision, as he painted it to me, was a structure like the famous “Walhalla” not far from Munich, which cost the Bavarian government nearly one half a million to erect…”

“…no doubt the erection of such a building would give employment to some of the unemployed in Vernal and might enhance the value of certain acres at present covered with sage-brush in that vicinity. I do not, however, think that the people of the United States would be justified in undertaking any such wild scheme.”

“… the whole thing sums itself up in saying that it is questionable whether the United States Government would be justified in appropriating money simply to preserve intact what is in truth only a “hole in the ground”, so that people living twenty-five miles away may have a place to which to resort to gratify their curiosity when they have nothing else to do.”

“When we get done with our work of taking up the bones which we find in the quarry there will be nothing left there, and in my humble judgment, as a citizen of the United States and as a heavy tax-payer, I could think of nothing more scandalous than a proposal to do what has been suggested, unless the method of the “Pork barrel” is to prevail.”

One would have expected nothing but support from the Carnegie Director, so what can we make of Holland’s comments? I haven’t read all the relevant correspondence, but based on the quotes above in Beidlemann’s report (4) I’ll venture some guesses.

The reference to the Bavarian “Walhalla” in the first quote seems to be a cheap shot. Take a look at the Walhalla complex at    Nothing that Douglass wrote invokes  such an extravagance of buildings. Quite the contrary. Douglass described the structure as a relatively simple one that used the quarry sandstone as its north wall.

Another seemingly cheap shot is the reference to the project enhancing the value of “certain acres” in the vicinity. Douglass had a homestead about ¼ mile from the Carnegie Quarry. Maybe Holland is referring to that, maybe he is referring to the land in Jensen and Vernal. In any case, many supporters of the museum idea seem to have been genuinely interested in it as a unique and spectacular educational exhibit, not just for the US but for the entire world. It was not just a scheme to inflate land prices.

I suspect the third and fourth quote provides the best insight into Holland’s thinking and that relates to how the Monument came to be. I will explore this more in a future post, but suffice it to say that the idea of creating a National Monument came about only after the Carnegie Museum failed to obtain a mineral claim to the quarry to prevent others from excavating there. It seems that Holland saw the long term objective of the excavations at the quarry to collect, either by his institution or others, as many of the fossils in it as possible given the conditions and expenses involved. He expressed this previously in a 1919 letter to Cammerer (4):

“Of course this Museum [i.e. the Carnegie] does not propose indefinitely and forever to continue deepening this quarry, which now represents a formidable outlay of time and money, we have expended in developing it already more than one hundred thousand dollars. We shall eventually, no doubt, wish to desist, especially as the work is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive, but that time has not yet arrived. There are no parties to whom we would be more ready to turn over the work than to the authorities of Utah University, provided they can give assurance that the work will be done in a highly scientific and thorough manner.”

More telling, is Holland’s June 7, 1920 letter to Douglass:

“As I told you several years ago, this work at the so-called ‘Dinosaur Monument cannot be continued forever by us, and we ought to work strenuously while it is day and then the place ought to be abandoned and turned back to the public domain…” (emphasis added)

So Holland probably never really envisioned a permanent in-place exhibit of fossils at the Monument or maybe he saw it as a threat to the continued extraction of bones. In a way, this resistance is a testament to the unique vision that Douglass had about developing the Carnegie Quarry in a way never attempted before at a fossil vertebrate site.

Fortunately, Holland, in spite of his gravitas, did not prevail and the development of an in-situ exhibit of bones within a museum ultimately came to be (although not until the late 1950s). In the meantime, this need would be met by a more traditional museum built in the Monument.

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.


(2) Avinoff, A.1933. Obituary: William Jacob Holland. Annals of the Carnegie Museum XXI: i-iv (appendix) + portrait.

(3) Leighton, H. 1933. Memorial of William Jacob Holland [1848-1932]. Geological Society of America Bulletin 44(2): 347-352

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

Photos: Wikpedia and Carnegie Museum

Sunday, January 9, 2011


In my Dec 21, 2010 post I looked at how the idea of a museum and in-place exhibit originated with Douglass very early on in the excavation at the Carnegie Quarry. Here, and over a few subsequent posts, I'll follow up on that and trace the trials and tribulations of bringing his idea to fruition.

Earl Douglass
 Earl Douglass was an indefatigable advocate for the Carnegie Quarry, its excavation, and it’s potential as a totally new kind of museum. Douglass was responsible for the great public interest and support for the Monument in the years following its discovery. He taught university classes in the Vernal area, wrote articles, gave interviews, spoke to visitors, students, fellow scientists, politicians, local civil and business groups and was always looking for an opportunity to publicize the work going on at the Quarry. He did all this while overseeing nearly 15 years of excavations at the site.

Although Dinosaur became a Monument in 1915, excavations continued for years. So while bones were being collected and shipped to Pittsburgh, Washington D.C., and Salt Lake City individuals were, at the same time, thinking about establishing an in-situ exhibit.

George Otis Smith
The US Geological Survey, supported by the Smithsonian Institution, sends one of their geologists, Dr. Deane Winchester, to the Quarry to access its potential for an in-situ exhibit. He finds that the site has real promise and George Otis Smith, (Director of the USGS) writes to Steven Mather, Assistant Secretary of the Interior, that “There is, therefore, reason for the perpetuation of the Dinosaur Monument as a fact rather than as a promise.”

Douglass writes an article, “The Dinosaur Quarry --- A Prophecy” for the Vernal express that painted a picture of what a future Monument visitor will see, including large hotels on adjacent hills, agricultural fields, railroad terminals, and airplanes, airships, and airstrips.

William J. Holland

Douglass inspires the Vernal Commercial Club to approach the NPS about development and the NPS contacts William J. Holland, the Director of the Carnegie, with some unexpected surprises (more about that in a later post).

Hubert Work

After looking at photos of the Quarry, Hubert Work, the Secretary of the Interior, becomes interested in what he describes will be “one of the most important scientific exhibits in the country” and he encourages the Smithsonian to consider getting involved in the Monument Museum.

Reed Smoot

The Vernal Chamber of Commerce develops a $5,000 budget to build the Visitor Center and expose fossils. Drs. Pack and Thomas of the University of Utah approach Utah Senator Smoot to present a bill in Congress for Museum Development. Representative Donald B. Colton approaches Steven Mather, Assistant Secretary of the Interior, and also volunteers to present a bill in Congress. Colton ominously wrote “If it is your plan to now abandon it completely, I am sure private citizens will be glad to acquire title to this ground if possible and preserve it as a permanent place to be visited by sightseers….”

Although the NPS is interested in developing the quarry, the agency is perennially short of funds. Acting NPS Director Cammerer writes back to Colton “The question of vandalism and the necessity of funds for protection is not as acute in the Dinosaur as it is in some twenty other national monuments because there is nothing to destroy…”

Representative Colton introduces Bill 9064 appropriating $5000 for the protection and development of the Quarry Museum. Cammerer stalls, arguing that more work should first be done to determine if there is an skeleton still in the ground adequate for in-situ exposure. The Bill goes forward and is presented to the Bureau of the Budget in June. The Budget Director deems that “the proposed legislation would be in conflict with the President’s financial program.”

As a result of the conflict surrounding the bill, it is not passed by Congress.

Arno Cammerer

Dr. Pack of the University of Utah suggests to the NPS that no future excavation permits be issued until a decision was reached about how to develop the quarry. NPS Director Cammerer supports this proposal.

Donald Colton

Congressman Colton introduces another bill for Quarry development, differing from his previous one only in that now $100,000, rather than $5,000, is appropriated. The bill is referred to the Committee on Public lands.

Douglass writes to Mather again urging the building of a museum at the site. John Merriam, president of the Carnegie Institution of Washington, D.C. writes to Mather “…This Monument could be made so much more important than any exhibit in a museum that it would rank as an outstanding educational opportunity ….” Merriam also assures Mather that the in-situ museum will be supported by scientific societies such as the Geological Society of America, National Academy of Science, and the National Research Council.

William Diller Matthew, a prominent paleontologist at the American Museum of Natural History, writes to Merriam in support of the project. Matthew encourages Douglass to develop detailed diagrams, maps, sketches, and cost estimates that, along with support from  Merriam and the University of Utah, will make an appealing proposal for a joint state (Utah) and national project.

Colton continues to push his bill, garners support from local groups, and corresponds with NPS officials in Washington, D.C.

William D. Matthew
Cammerer admits that that the NPS has never had a representative go to Dinosaur to study the feasibility of the museum idea, even though it has been an NPS unit for a dozen years. He hopes that William D. Matthew of the American Museum might be able to have someone visit and do the assessment in 1928 and based on that study the NPS could approach Congress with detailed plans and costs for development. However, Congress did not act on Colton’s already proposed legislation.

So after a dozen years of activities, the in-situ exhibit at Dinosaur still remained a dream. However, the concept had many supporters in federal and state government, the scientific community, major natural history museums, and citizens of the state of Utah. However, the Great Depression arrived and other solutions needed to be considered. Luckily Dr. A.C. Boyle would soon be at the Monument.

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 been published. 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. (


Wikipedia: George Otis Smith, Hubert Work, Reed Smoot, Arno Cammerer, Donald Colton, 
 UCMP Berkeley: William D. Matthew
 Carnegie Museum:  Earl Douglass, William J. Holland

Monday, January 3, 2011


In spite of the somewhat uncooperative temperatures, the curing of the south wall concrete is complete. For the first two days the chemical reactions of the curing process are exothermic --- they generate and give off heat --- and this is sufficient to prevent freezing. After that time the heat generation stops but the concrete is still dewatering. What we didn’t want to happen was that the moisture generated by the continuing dewatering  froze as an icy crust on the surface of the concrete. That would result in concrete that would start to spall off pieces somewhere down the line.

The propane heating units kept the temperature up around 60oF beneath the tarps for all six days until the curing was complete. So the tarps are now coming off and being packed up.

 With the wall completed the next step will be to level the ground within the building.

So at ease folks and smoke 'em if you've got 'em.

Photos: NPS

Sunday, January 2, 2011


Here's the temperature at 8:00 AM on Jan 2 --- it was probably a bit colder during the night. We are now approaching 50 degrees below the target temperature for keeping the recently poured concrete of the south wall warm.

Saturday, January 1, 2011


This morning's temperature.  Hope the heaters are keeping up their end of the bargain.