The Bone Wars and The Lost World

18-year-old Helena Muffly wrote exactly 100 years ago today: 

Tuesday, April 22, 1913:  Just one more day and then my school days will be ended. I believe I’ll feel rather sorry when they are all past. I hope it will be nice tomorrow and everything goes off all right in the evening.

Cope's Dinosaur that March claimed had the head on the wrong end. (Source: Wikipedia)
Cope’s dinosaur which March claimed had the head on the wrong end. (Source: Wikipedia)

Her middle-aged granddaughter’s comments 100 years later:

One more day until graduation! The exhilaration Grandma felt the previous week about the end of school now seems tempered with the realization that those days were behind her and that there were things about school that she’d miss.

Grandma sounded a bit nervous about the graduation ceremony. She probably hoped that her speech on The Relics of the Earth’s Past would go well.

Yesterday’s post explored her speech topic. Vanbraman wrote a comment, and suggested that it might have been about the Bone Wars or been inspired by a book published in 1912 by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle called The Lost World.

I had never heard of either the Bone Wars or the book, so I did a little research.

A hundred years ago there was an incredible amount of  interest in dinosaurs and dinosaur bones.

The Bone Wars refer to a period in the late 1800s when there were several major expeditions that searched for dinosaur bones. There was a rivalry between two paleontologists, Orthniel Charles Marsh and Edward Drinker Cope, to discover additional bones. They both were very secretive, and accused the other of stealing bones and exploration sites. Each claimed that the other was not a credible scientist. For example, Marsh claimed that Cope put the head on the wrong end of a dinosaur.  However,  the field as a whole benefited from their many discoveries and the feud increased the interest of the public in dinosaurs.

According to Wikipedia, The Lost World by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle is a superb piece of science fiction about an expedition to the rain forests of Brazil in search of living dinosaurs.  The book was republished in 2012 in honor of the hundredth anniversary of its original publication.

As happens so often, I’m ending up with more questions than answers. Was Grandma’s graduation speech about evolution (pro? . . or .  . con?) like I thought yesterday. . . or was it about paleontology and dinosaurs? . . .. or something else?

19 thoughts on “The Bone Wars and The Lost World

    1. Wow, I had no idea that the bust of Nefertiti and other archeological finds were discovered that long ago.

      I’m amazed how the title of Grandma’s speech can be interpreted in so many ways. I never thought about it from that angle, but It makes perfect sense that it could have been about man-made relics.

    1. So many mysteries. . . I didn’t think about man-made relics when I read the title–but you’re right–the title could refer to them.

  1. Grandma does seem to be feeling a bit sentimental about school ending. (I don’t recall having that feeling: I was just ready for it to be over!)

  2. I do love a good mystery. Do you think we will ever solve this one about the subject of her speech? And of course, here we are a hundred years later and the mysteries about dinosaurs are still compelling. And the ongoing mystery of your grandma…. what will she do next?

    1. I’ll probably never figure out what the speech was about, but I do have another year and eight months of her diary to post, so I’m sure that we learn more about what she did next. 🙂

  3. Fascinating how her entries are like little clues. Had she been a different kind of writer (more drawn out in detail) you’d have less to speculate on. The engagement between you two is wonderful. I can’t help but feel she is having fun with this too!

    1. Great idea– There are microfilms for a newspaper from a nearby town, the Milton Evening Standard, at the Milton Library. Next time I’m in the area, I’ll have to take a look at the microfilms and see if there is anything in the paper about the graduation.

  4. Relic could also have to do with some type of outdated practice or belief. That would keep it in line with the other speeches, which all seem to be more cultural than scientific. Just a thought!

  5. Exciting, one more day. We have a dino museum in Alberta. It’s in a town called Drumheller where there’s been many significant discoveries. Very cool stuff.

  6. It seems as if there was a lot of information around 100 years ago which could have fit the bill for Helena’s speech. What a shame we’ll never know for sure what she spoke about.

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