American Monster: How the Nation's First Prehistoric Creature Became a Symbol of National Identity by Paul Semonin
NYU Press | September 1, 2000 | English | ISBN: 0814781209 | 502 pages | PDF | 6 MB
In 1801, the first complete mastodon skeleton was excavated in the Hudson River Valley, marking the climax of a century-long debate in America and Europe over the identity of a mysterious creature known as the American Incognitum. Long before the dinosaurs were discovered and the notion of geological time acquired currency, many citizens of the new republic believed this mythical beast to be a ferocious carnivore, capable of crushing deer and elk in its "monstrous grinders." During the American Revolution, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson avidly collected its bones; for the founding fathers, its massive jaws symbolized the violence of the natural world and the emerging nation's own dreams of conquest.