The Tipton Daily Tribune from Tipton, Indiana on March 9, 1971 · Page 16
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The Tipton Daily Tribune from Tipton, Indiana · Page 16

Tipton, Indiana
Issue Date:
Tuesday, March 9, 1971
Page 16
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Thousands flocked to see the petrified man — even after it was proved the Cardiff Giant was by H. L. Miller "Funny place to dig a well," grumbled Hank Nichols as he leaned on his shovel. "It's so far from the house." /'Keep quiet and get to work," barked Gid Emmons. "We're getting paid to dig, not to think." So in the best cloak and dagger tradition the two men bent silently to their task. They'd come over from home to Stub Newell's farm after laboring in their own fields all day. Now the moon was out. It was a crisp night jn 1869, not unlike most fall evenings in the tiny hamlet of Cardiff, New York. But this^night history would be made and Cardiff, which wasn't even listed in the current Rand-McNally Atlas, would be immortalized. The hole which the two men were digging was about five feet deep when Hank hit something that stopped his shovel. He scraped the loose dirt away and exposed what looked like a human foot — but this foot was almost 20 inches long and hard as a rock! Hank and Gid began feverishly to shovel away the dirt. When they were finished, they had unearthed a giant body more than ten feet long. It was to confound the world's greatest scientists. The nose alone measured six inches. The. giant's legs were slightly drawn up and his hand rested on his stomach — like he had died of a bellyache. "It looks like a big Injun," gasped Hank. Then both men yelled for Newell.. Stub came running down to the hole. First, he stared, then he pronounced judgment: "It's a petrified giant." . Thus began the career of the "Cardiff Giant," discovered on October 16,1869. The hews spread throughout Onpndago County and to nearby Syracuse. People flocked to Newell's farm by the thousands. Sensing a profit, Newell put up a tent to shield the giant from free public view, and posted admission ptfces. . "After all," indignantly complained Stub, "these people are ffomping through my field and keeping me from my work. I'm entitled to something." That sounded reasonable. After all, a fellow's privacy was worth something and maybe Stub deserved a little cream off the top. It was a good act. But it was only an act, because Stub was a schemer and con man. Actually the Cardiff Giant was neither from Cardiff nor was he an ancient giant. He was really made of gypsum rock, but he became the most colossal hoax in history, helping to prove circus- man F;. T. Barnum's contention that "a sucker is born every minute." But let's start at the beginning. The Cardiff Giant scheme was born in 1366 when a man named George Hull came from New York to visit his sister in Iowa. George got Into an argument with a clergyman about whether or not "giants" ever existed. He decided to play a practical joke on the preacher and make a little money in the process. George formed his plan, carried it out and covered his tracks like a master plotter. First, he took a room in the old St. Charles Hotel in Fort Dodge and began scouting this gypsum-laden area for a giant size block of gypsum. Although there were no plants in the town then, a few local quarries were being worked. After a lengthy search, George found a suitable five-ton block of gypsum near Gypsum Creek, about two miles east of Fort Dodge where a big gypsum, company operates today. A keg, of beer persuaded the quarrymen to load the huge block onto George's wagon. Twenty days and several teams of horses and wagons later, Hull got his gigantic load to the nearest railroad depot 40 miles away. He sent the block to Chicago for the birth of the giant. - There, three stonecutters secretly formed the "eighth wonder of the world.", After the body was carved they created "pores" with mallets and darning needles. Then they sgpnged the giant with water and sand to lend a worn appearance, and concluded by giving him a^ bath in sulphuric acid for aging. When it was all over, the big boy was down to a trim 3,000 pounds. Next, the giant was encased in a huge crate and sent to Cardiff by train. Stub Newell, George Hull's cousin, -met the giant at the station.' With some help, he loaded the mysterious crate onto a wagon and began the trip back to his farm. On a dark November night in 1868, the giant was laid to rest — and await "discovery" in Stub's field. A few .days later the field was seeded with clover. /." Stub waited nearly a year before hiring Hank and Gid to dig his well. By then everyone had forgotten about the big crate he'd picked up at the train depot. The plot was perfect. As soon as the giant was unearthed, the spectators and the admission fees poured into Stub's backyard show. But along with the curious came the scholars and skeptics. Professors from Boston and New York examined the giant. Their opinions ran the scale, from "impossible" to "the greatest discovery of all time." Some'{said:it. was a fossilized giant from ancient times. It couldn't be made of rock, they theorized, because there was no such stone in the area. A prominent clergyman proclaimed: "This is not a thing contrived of man, but is the face of one who lived on earth/' Many experts asserted that the giant was not a body but a statue. Dr. John F. Boynton, a physician with some antiquarian knowledge declared it was a 300-year-old statue, probably carved by the Jesuits known to have settled in the vicinity about the year 1565. A graduate student from Yale examined the body with a magnifying glass and announced that the scratches on the right arm read: "Tamur, god of gods," in Phoenecian. The great writer Ralph Waldo Emerson observed that the giant was "very wonderful and; undoubtedly ancient." Still others, ° like Cornell University's Andrew White,and Yale's Professor O. C. Marsh, argued it was a. fake. But even those who supported the fraud theory couldn't explain the'giant's fossilized pores or the eroded channels on the body, apparently formed by water that passed over it for cen-' turies. The controversy raged on and was reported by the presswith about the same coverage given today's flying saucers. And the hotter the argument, the. bigger the crowds. Up to 3,000 people a day visited the* Newell farm. Two saioons now stood on the grounds to refresh the visitors and the 1869 equivalent of a hot dog stand operated in Stub's cowshed. When the local crowds of curious began to wane, the giant's owners, now a corporation composed of Hull, Newton and twb other men, took their attraction on the road, touring Syracuse, Albany, New York and Boston. ^. , •-— Phineas T.-Barntfm, the great circus showman, tried in vain to-buy the huge fellow for his circus^ Later, Barnum displayed a sculptured copy of the" giant in his shown so that at one time in New York City, two "original Cardiff Giants" were on display at the same time. Just to prove Barnum's'"sucker" theory, both drew record crowds. The hoax was finally exposed in 1871 when Professor Marsh tracked down one of the original conspirators and got him'to admit the whole scheme. Papers across the nation headlined the fraud story — the giant was made of gypsum rock. Strangely enough it made little difference to the public. The giant was still a major attraction. Some people paid to take a second look at what had fooled them. Before long, the giant was off on another tour, this time through New England. In 1948 the gypsum giant reached his final resting place at the Farmers' Museum of the New York State Historical Association in Cooperstown, N.Y. •V? —v.

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