New Website: The Mischievous Megatherium Club!

We launched a new website about a group of mid-1800s naturalists who explored the outer reaches of the United States collecting for major American institutions, but returned to the Smithsonian's Castle for some serious fun.

black and white illustration of 2 sloths, one walking on 4 legs, one on two legs gripping tree branc

"It is five o’clock, when the Megatherium takes its prey, that the most interesting characters of the animal are seen. Then it roars with delight and makes up for the hard work of the day by much fun and conduction." Folks at Home, February 17, 1863, Robert Kennicott

Smithsonian Explorers, The Megatherium Club
Not only is this beast intriguing as a specimen, but it is the name-inspiration for an equally-inspiring informal club at the Smithsonian in the mid-late 1800s. The megatherium, a giant extinct elephant-sized sloth that once roamed South America, was the adopted mascot of a group of young naturalists who lived in the Smithsonian's Castle between expeditions on which they collected natural specimen for major scientific organizations and museums including the Smithsonian.

Around the time we launched our pilot live history game for teens centering on the history and mythology of the club, our chief archivist, Tammy Peters, received an intriguing letter held by The Grove (Megatherium Club co-founder, Robert Kennicott's childhood home), and we knew we had to follow the trail. In the letter, Folks at Home, Kennicott writes home to his family describing the various members of the Megatherium Club along with their notable characteristics. We finally had at least a partial club roster!

All we were able to find is now on this web resource which we hope you'll enjoy. For now, I will leave you with this poem by the other club co-founder, zoologist William Stimpson, which name drops other members of this merry bunch:

"Into the well of learning dip
With spoon of Wood and Horn;
For students Meek and lowly
Silver spoons should treat with scorn.
Though Gabb should have the gifts of Gill,
As Gill has the gift of Gabb,
T'would show a want of judgment still
To try to Cope with Meek."


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