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Dr. K. F. Mather, Associate Professor of Physiography in the University, yesterday released the facts to a CRIMSON representative concerning the recent finding of the Johnstown mastodon. The remains of the huge pachyderm were unexpectedly unearthed near Dr. Mather's home in Granville, Ohio, while he was visiting his parents, and he was called upon to examine and identify the bones. The circumstances connected with the finding were of an extraordinary nature.
Inters Sow; Humanity Rewarded
"A tenant on Friend Butte's farm near Johnstown, Ohio, was desolated by the death of a valuable prize sow on August 16," explained Dr. Mather to a CRIMSON reporter yesterday. "Determined to give the sow a decent buried, he carried its carcass to a swamp in one corner of the property and began to dig a grave. A few feet below the surface, he struck a hard substance with his shovel. Temporarily diverted, he cleared away the soil from the hard substance and discovered a giant ivory tusk.
"When he had convinced himself that his find was really ivory, the farmer tossed away his shovel, dashed for his Ford, and whirled off to Johnstown without a backward glance for his prostrate porker.
Recall Cardiff Giant Hoax
"Within a few hours dozens of rumors were circulating about the discovery on Butte's farm. Some vowed that it was a circus elephant that had died in the vicinity several years before; others believed it to be a hoax similar to the Cardiff giant discovery."
It remained for a local reporter, a former student, of Dr. Mather's at Denison University, to remember that the famous Harvard geologist would be visiting his home at Granville in a few days. He immediately went there with the news of the find to await Dr. Mather's arrival.
Bought Skeleton for $5,000
During his absence, Friend Butte, who owned the swamp where his tenant had started the sow's obsequies, claimed the huge skeleton which was being excavated. In a brief legal action, he obtained possession and promptly sold the find to Max Hirschberg, a Newark, Ohio, business man, for $5,000 cash.
When Dr. Mather and his former student arrived at the scene, they found in large wooden enclosure had been con- structed, electric search lights set up; and concession stands equipped, while barkers with glaring signs were urging the crowds to view the unknown pre-historic monster in his last resting place for 25 cents per head. The farm looked as if an oil boom had struck it.
Identifies Mastodon at Once
Dr. Mather was conducted to the excavation ditch where he spent half a day groping in the swamp ooze to determine whether the skull was complete and whether all the vertebrae of the skeleton were there. He was convinced at once that the find was a mastodon of huge proportions, unusually complete in all its parts. He assisted in naming and arranging the bones that had been found, and in giving directions for the excavation work which was done by workmen with their hands alone in order to avoid injuring the skeleton.
Crowds Swarm for Six days
The announcement of the nature of the discovery created a six day sensation. During the afternoon after Dr. Mather's arrival, over 5,000 people swarmed through Max Hirschberg's gates to view the mastodon's earthly remains. As the excavation continued, it was determined that the Johnstown tusker was the most complete on record, and only one half inch smaller in proportion than the famous Warren mostodon from Newburgh, New York, the largest ever found.
At first, it was believed that there were the remains of two prehistoric animals in the swamp, because one tusk of the mastodon was broken off and apparently buried in its own side, as if a struggle had taken place. Dr. Mather definitely destroyed this notion in the following letter to Mr. Hirschberg:
"Permit me to express to you my great appreciation for your courtesy in showing me the remains of the mastodon which you are recovering from the old swamp near Johnstown. The specimen is an unusually perfect and complete skeleton of this interesting, extinct form of life. The individual was an adult in the prime of life, full grown, but not aged and decrepit. Presumably it was bogged down in the swamp and died there.
"In its death struggle it twisted its head around and finally fell with the head partly under its own body. After the body tissues had decayed, the bones fell apart and settled irregularly in the swamp muck, so that the several parts of the skeleton are not now in their proper relation to each other. This explains the peculiar relation of tusks and vertebrae which led at first to the idea that there were two large animals in the same deposit.
"The Johnstown mastodon is presumably a member of the species which roamed widely over the central states while the ice sheets were retreating northward during the last glacial epoch, an epoch of geological history which reached its climax between 25,000 and 50,000 years ago. This particular mastodon wandered around in Licking country after the ice had melted far to the northward from this place, as indicated by the fact that the remains are in swamp muck on top of glacial drift. It therefore lived between 5,000 and 30,000 years ago.
Was Ten Feet High, 15 Long
"The Johnstown mastodon is probably a little larger than the Cohoes, New York, specimen, and a trifle smaller than the so-called Warren mastodon. It stood, when alive about ten feet tall at the shoulder, and was approximately 15 feet in length from forehead to tail."
Mr. Hirschberg, the first mastodon impresario on record, claims that he has refused an offer of $75,000 for his prize. In as much as Dr. Mather stated yesterday that the approximate museum value of even so large and well preserved mastodon as Mr. Hirschberg's is not over $15,000, it is believed that the Newark business man has not acted rationally in refusing so large a sum. He has confided to several friends that he will accept $200,000 for the mastodon.
The possibility that Mr. Hirschberg will make a vaudeville tour with his specimen is generally discounted since the skull alone weighs 450 pounds, the hip bones are five feet, eight and a half inches long, and a single molar tooth is as large as a foot hassock of the Victorian age
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