American Monster: How the Nation's First Prehistoric by Paul Semonin

By Paul Semonin

In 1801, the 1st entire mastodon skeleton was once excavated within the Hudson River Valley, marking the climax of a century-long debate in the United States and Europe over the id of a mysterious creature referred to as the yankee Incognitum. lengthy sooner than the dinosaurs have been found and the inspiration of geological time obtained foreign money, many voters of the hot republic believed this legendary beast to be a ferocious carnivore, able to crushing deer and elk in its ''monstrous grinders.'' throughout the American Revolution, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson avidly accrued its bones; for the founding fathers, its immense jaws symbolized the violence of the wildlife and the rising nation's personal desires of conquest.

Paul Semonin's vigorous heritage of this icon of yank nationalism specializes in the hyperlink among patriotism and prehistoric nature. From the 1st fist-sized enamel present in 1705, which Puritan clergyman claimed was once facts of human giants, to the medical racialism linked to the invention of extinct species, Semonin strains the evangelical ideals, Enlightenment proposal, and Indian myths which led the founding fathers to view this prehistoric monster as an emblem of nationhood.

Semonin additionally sees the secret of the mastodon in early the US as a cautionary story concerning the first flowering of our narcissistic fascination with a prehistoric nature governed by way of ferocious carnivores. As such, American Monster deals clean insights into the genesis of the continued fascination with dinosaurs.

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Extra resources for American Monster: How the Nation's First Prehistoric Creature Became a Symbol of National Identity

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The elder Mather’s fascination with natural curiosities led him to organize a Boston philosophical society in 1683, the first American scientific society. 25 In his early-seventeenth-century writings on natural philosophy, Francis Bacon advocated the formation of such philosophical societies to supervise the worldwide collection of specimens and the scientific study of natural history. Bacon’s ideas took root among scholars and clergymen, who 28 THE GIANT OF CLAVERACK IN PURITAN AMERICA saw the scientific spirit as part of England’s divine destiny, giving the learned classes an almost mystic sense of English nationalism that greatly influenced early American views of natural history.

It also offers a fresh perspective of our own vision of a violent prehistoric nature, which, after Darwin, has slowly reshaped our view of the natural world with the strength and pulverizing effect of a glacier. Our own eagerness to view prehistoric nature as a violent place ruled by ferocious beasts underscores the importance of understanding how the American incognitum became a terrifying monster in the eyes of many citizens of the early republic. Belief in the savagery of prehistoric nature, as we shall see, had its roots in the master metaphor of early American national culture—the myth of wild nature, the idea that the New World was a wilderness inhabited by savages.

Behind the scenes, Mather was actively seeking Dudley’s removal through his own lobbying with politicians in London. Despite these machinations, Mather sent Dudley portions of his “Biblia Americana,” a massive manuscript he had begun in the aftermath of the Salem witch trials in 1692. This lengthy treatise sought to reconcile biblical revelations with the new science by providing scholarly commentary for nearly every verse of the Scriptures. In hopes that Dudley would use his influence to have the manuscript published in London, Mather had swallowed his pride and tried to curry the governor’s favor.

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