When I was a young boy, of all the things that fascinated me, it was dinosaurs that held my attention the most. I loved learning about dinosaurs, these giant lizards that wandered the face of the earth millions and millions of years ago, and then vanished completely, leaving behind only their skeletons as reminders of their existence. I knew them all: Triceratops, Stegosaurus, Brontosaurus, Apatosaurus, Allosaurus, and of course, Tyrannosaurus Rex. My parents bought me countless books about dinosaurs, dinosaur puzzles, and an army of toy dinosaurs. Two of the earliest words I could pronounce were paleontologist and archaeologist. What that little boy did not realize, however, was that he was growing up only a few miles from where the first complete dinosaur fossil skeleton was discovered in North America.
This weekend I made the three hundred mile journey back to New Jersey to see family and friends, and also to move more of my possessions up to Massachusetts, which my parents have been graciously storing for me. Originally, there was not going to be a post this weekend. However, a comment from my friend Tyson (who runs the blog Drive to Five) gave me the itch to find something new to explore when I was back in my hometown. Then, a conversation with my Mom gave me the idea to visit the park where Hadrosaurus foulkii, the first complete dinosaur fossil, was discovered in North America, in the town of Haddonfield, NJ.
Haddonfield is a colonial town first settled in 1682. Its name would come a few years later when Elizabeth Haddon, a Quaker settler fleeing religious persecution in England, came to the New Jersey colony in 1702 and named the town in honor of her father. Haddonfield played a large role in the founding of the United States: the New Jersey legislature officially declared the colony’s independence from England at the Indian King Tavern on Kings Highway in Haddonfield (via Wikipedia).
In the 19th century, a local man, William Estaugh Hopkins, was digging for marl (clay soil that can be used to make fertilizer) when he unearthed large bones in a pit beside a nearby stream and put them on display at his home. This brought the attention of William Foulke, a geologist and historian from Philadelphia (he was also a lawyer, pamphleteer, prison reformer, and abolitionist). After studying the bones at Hopkins’ home, Foulke began to excavate the site, the pit near a stream that branches off from the Cooper River. Working with paleontologist Joseph Leidy, the skeleton was excavated and eventually displayed at the Philadelphia Academy of Natural Sciences. The exhibit became an immediate hit, attracting a constant stream of visitors to the museum (via Wikipedia). The site where Hadrosaurs foulkii was discovered can still be visited, and so after a 300 mile drive yesterday, I pointed DH up the road to check out this unique spot.
After a fun tour of Haddonfield, I decided to go see Hadrosaurus foulkii in person. Part of Drexel University, the Academy of Natural Sciences is one of the coolest museums in Philadelphia. An entire wing of the museum is dedicated to just dinosaurs! My inner 7-year old boy was very excited! Unfortunately, my trip to Philadelphia coincided with the city being essentially shut down by a (peaceful) protest and counter protest about the current President. I was mired in gridlock and had thoughts of heading home, but out of the corner of my eye, I saw a sign for a parking garage. Making several quick turns that would have made Jason Bourne proud, I parked DH and headed to go see “Haddy.”
Finally, for your weekend entertainment, check out this clip of a drive in northern India through the mountains between Shimla and Kishtwar. I keep a list of possible trips for this blog, but rest assured, this will not make the list:
So my Saturday was spent as an amateur dinosaur hunter, tracking down the origins of one of the most famous fossils in history. The Hadrosaurus Foulkii Leidy site in Haddonfield is free and open to the public year round. The Academy of Natural Sciences is located at 19th and Cherry Streets along Logan Circle in Philadelphia, PA. The museum is open 10:00 – 4:30 pm on weekdays and 10:00 – 5:00 pm on weekends and holidays. Tickets for adults and children 13 and older is $17.95, seniors and veterans are $14.95, and children ages 3-12 are $13.95. If you feel in the mood to retrace the steps of a major moment in scientific history and you are near Philadelphia, you can become a dinosaur hunter too!
Thanks for coming along on another Voyage of DH!
‘Till next time.