Children play on Uncle Beazley on August 15, 1973, by Harry B. Neufeld. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Acc. 11-009, Image no. 73-9032.

The Dino Detours of Uncle Beazley

Before Uncle Beazley, the popular life-size model of a triceratops, made its way to its final destination at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, he stopped at a couple other locations around the Institution. 

On June 8, 1994, local elementary-school students clamoured around the Rhino Yard near the Elephant House to welcome a special celebrity to Smithsonian’s National Zoo. We’re, of course, referring to Uncle Beazley, the life-size fiberglass model of a triceratops used in the NBC-TV production of The Enormous Egg (1968). To welcome the dinosaur to the Zoo, Frank Perry, an 8-year-old who attended Meyer Elementary School, read aloud the 1956 children’s book of the same name by Oliver Butterworth and Smithsonian paleontologist Nick Hotton taught the children about dinosaurs.

And although this was Uncle Beazley’s final stop at the Smithsonian, it was certainly not his first. 

Life-size model of Uncle Beazley, a dinosaur triceratops from the NBC production of "The Enormous Egg," arrives on a flatbed truck at the National Museum of Natural History on July 24, 1967. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Acc. 11-008, Image no. OPA-1080-14A.

Life-size model of Uncle Beazley, a dinosaur triceratops from the NBC production of "The Enormous Egg," arrives on a flatbed truck at the National Museum of Natural History on July 24, 1967. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Acc. 11-008, Image no. OPA-1080.

A model of Uncle Beazley, a dinosaur triceratops from the NBC production of "The Enormous Egg," in the Exhibits Lab at National Museum of Natural History. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Acc. 11-008, Image no. OPA-1085R2.

In July 1967, a film crew posted up at the National Zoo and the National Museum of Natural History with different models of Uncle Beazley at varying sizes, created by Hungarian-born artist and taxidermist Louis Paul Jonas, to shoot scenes for The Enormous Egg. In the book and TV film, a young boy finds a huge egg that eventually hatches and reveals itself to be a baby triceratops, named Uncle Beazley. Unsure of how to care for the dinosaur, the young child relies on a Smithsonian paleontologist for help. Each of Jonas’ models represents the growing Uncle Beazley.

At the National Zoological Park, Louis Paul Jonas, designer of the fiberglass sculpture of a dinosaur triceratops named Uncle Beazley used in the NBC production of 'The Enormous Egg', with the enormous egg made for the production. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Acc. 97-003, Image no. SIA2007-0065.

Louis Paul Jonas, designer of the Uncle Beazley fiberglass triceratops sculpture used in the NBC production of 'The Enormous Egg,' holds up a model of a baby Uncle Beazley sitting on vegetation to a giraffe in the Elephant House at the National Zoological Park. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Acc. 97-003, Image no. SIA2007-0067.

Once filming wrapped, the Sinclair Refining Company, which had initially commissioned Jonas to create dinosaur sculptures for the 1964 World’s Fair and which has a dinosaur in its company logo, donated one of the life-size models to the Smithsonian.  

One of Uncle Beazley’s first stops in Washington, D.C. was to Smithsonian’s Anacostia Community Museum for its opening day. In September 1967, children were welcomed to climb on top of the fiberglass dinosaur in a vacant lot across from the Carver Theater, the Museum's first home. 

Secretary Ripley stands beside the model and children climb around on top.

But Uncle Beazley wasn’t there for long. Between the late '60s and 1994, he lived in front of the National Museum of Natural History. In local newspapers during this period, reporters encouraged parents to give their children a break by romping around the dinosaur. As children were known to play “King of the Hill” atop the triceratops, it’s no wonder that mulch and wood were scattered around the model to make the area less dangerous in 1981. 

Six children play on Uncle Beazley in front of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 95, Image no. 76-13824-31A.

Children play on Uncle Beazley in front of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History on April 16, 1973, by Richard K. Hofmeister. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Acc. 11-009, Image no. 73-3697-03A.

Children play on Uncle Beazley in front of the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History on April 16, 1973, by Richard K. Hofmeister. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Acc. 11-009, Image no. 73-3697-05A.

Tree O'Donnell and Mike Friello of Office of Exhibits Central provide a fiberglass and pigmented polyester resin facial to Uncle Beazley in front of the National Museum of Natural History on June 3, 1981, by Jeff Ploskonka. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 371, Image no. 81-6787-23A.

Fiberglass model of Uncle Beazley covered with snow on the Mall in 1977. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Record Unit 549, Image no. SIA2007-0069.

Uncle Beazley on display outside the National Museum of Natural History, by Jeff Tinsley. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Acc. 11-009, Image no. 87-8284.

Children play on Uncle Beazley on August 15, 1973, by Harry B. Neufeld. Smithsonian Institution Archives, Acc. 11-009, Image no. 73-9032.

Uncle Beazley returned to his first home at the Institution, the Zoo, in 1994, where he still lives today. Though children can no longer play on the triceratops, adults can still get their fill of childhood nostalgia by visiting the model near Lemur Island. 

Do you remember a time when children could climb on Uncle Beazley? 

Related Resources

Leave a Comment

Produced by the Smithsonian Institution Archives. For copyright questions, please see the Terms of Use.