Uncle Sam's Old Bones

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  • Article begins with an announcement and background information relating to the addition that week of a historic camel skeleton to the Smithsonian's National Museum collection of "queer bones" procured by the one branch of the Museum devoted to the manufacture of skeletons. The un-named author then devotes the rest of the article to a description of skeleton procurement and preparation techniques of the time. He writes that skeletons are procured in two ways, either by purchase from commercial establishments in business to collect specimens and then offer them for sale, or by exchanges with other museums in a regular system of barter.
  • The article also describes the process of how these commercial establishments secure their specimens by detailing how game is captured and carcasses are prepared, and relates sample prices for skeletons ranging from $15 for a Gila monster to $400 for an elephant. The article describes the National Museum's skeleton holdings, which filled an entire cellar of a close-by building, and reports how the Smithsonian's experts cure skeletons and prepare them for display. Some special skeleton holdings, such as the sea elephant, pallas cormorant, and extinct great auk, are commented on, and skeletal casts of antediluvian creatures and a roc's egg are cited.


  • Smithsonian Institution Building (Washington, D.C.)
  • United States National Museum


Smithsonian Institution History Bibliography


Article is datelined "Washington, D.C., July 24 [1890]."

Contained within

St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat (Newspaper)

Contact information

Institutional History Division, Smithsonian Institution Archives, 600 Maryland Avenue, S.W., Washington, D.C. 20024-2520, SIHistory@si.edu


July 27, 1890


  • Animals
  • Preservation of materials
  • Bones
  • Birds
  • Museums
  • Skeleton
  • Elephants
  • Museum exhibits
  • Museum techniques
  • Museums--Collection management

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