Edward Cope's reconstruction of Laelaps aquilunguis. This work was on display in the original exhibition as item 11. Image source: Cope, Edward Drinker. "The fossil reptiles of New Jersey," in: American Naturalist, vol. 3 (1869), pp. 84-91, pl. 2.

Paper Dinosaurs 1824-1969

An Exhibition of Original Publications from the Collections of the Linda Hall Library

Tyrannosaurus rex

The First Tyrannosaurus Skeleton, 1905

The most famous of all dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus rex, was discovered by Barnum Brown in 1902 in Hell Creek, Montana, and it was first described here by Henry F. Osborn. The skeleton was not complete, but enough was present to attempt a reconstruction. So we have in this article the very first picture of T. rex. One of the nice features of the restoration is that it involved the collaboration of four of the truly great figures in the history of dinosaur discovery: Brown, who discovered the skeleton; Osborn, who named and described it; Richard S. Lull, who prepared the skeleton; and William D. Matthew, who drew the restoration. Lull and Matthew are featured later in this exhibition (see item 38 and item 42 respectively).

A distinctive feature of the drawing is the inclusion of a human figure for scale. This is not the first time for such a comparison; Osborn had compared a human to a Diplodocus skeleton in 1899 (see item 24). But the comparison is especially effective here; without it, the true size of T. rex could not be conveyed by this small text illustration. Matthew commented in a letter to his wife that the toothy smile of T. rex reminded him of President Roosevelt, and so he had taken to calling it "Teddysaurus."

Osborn published another article on the specimen the next year, in 1906, which featured a much larger restoration on a fold-out plate.

Tyrannosaurus rex reconstruction andhuman skeleton for scale. This work was on display in the original exhibition as item 33. Image source: Osborn, Henry Fairfield. "Tyrannosaurus and other Cretaceous carnivorous dinosaurs," in: Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, vol. 21 (1905), p. 262.

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A Second Look at the First T. rex, 1906

In 1906, Osborn wrote a second article on Tyrannosaurus rex, to accompany the announcement of the previous year. He did so because bones of a second specimen had been discovered at Hell Creek in the summer of 1905. That specimen had originally been identified as a separate genus, Dynamosaurus. Osborn now admitted that was an error, for the second specimen was generically identical to Tyrannosaurus. The additional bones made possible a more accurate restoration, which was provided by L. M. Sterling under Osborn’s direction. The most striking discovery depicted in the restoration is a complete set of belly ribs. Sterling’s restoration, at 1/40 scale, is quite a bit larger than Matthew’s restoration of 1905.

Osborn's second Tyrannosaurus restoration. This work is part of our History of Science Collection, but it was NOT included in the original exhibition. Image source: Osborn, Henry Fairfield. "Tyrannosaurus, upper Cretaceous carnivorous dinosaur (second communication)," in: Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, vol. 22 (1906), pl. 39.

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