Unusual Tourist Sites: The Cardiff Giant in Cooperstown, New York Part 1

About the unusual tourist site the Cardiff Giant in Cooperstown, New York, one of the most famous hoaxes in history.

Cooperstown, New York

The Cardiff Giant ... One of the greatest hoaxes ever perpetrated on the American public occurred in the late 1860s. On October 16, 1869, workmen "discovered" a giant humanlike figure (10' long) on a farm outside Cardiff, N.Y. A furor was created in the neighborhood that soon spread throughout the nation. But the Cardiff Giant, as it came to be known, was not one of the great scientific discoveries of that century. Instead, it was one of the most incredible hoaxes of that or any other era.

George Hull, a tobacco farmer and cigar maker from Binghamton, N.Y., was the creator of the Cardiff Giant hoax. He was a tall man whose black hair, moustache, and black attire gave him a villainous appearance.

One night while visiting his sister in Ackley, O., Hull heard a preacher speak about biblical references to giants. That gave him the idea of making a giant manlike figure out of stone and promoting it as a petrified man.

Hull and a partner, H. B. Martin, procured a 5-ton block of gypsum and hired 2 sculptors to carve the statue. It took them 3 months, with Hull serving as their model. It finally measured 10' 4 1/2" in height, and every small detail was considered. The giant, for example, originally had hair and a beard. But when Hull learned from geologists that hair does not petrify, he instructed the sculptors to chip away the hair and beard.

Once the figure was completed, Hull was still not completely satisfied. He believed that it did not look real enough, so he simulated pores of the skin by pounding large darning needles into the statue. He poured a gallon of sulfuric acid over it to give its skin a dingy, aged appearance.

The giant was then placed in a crate marked "finished marble" and it was shipped by rail to Broome County, N.Y. Hull picked it up there and, using a wagon and 4 horses, he transported it to the farm of William C. Newell, who was a party to the hoax, too. The giant was then buried in a 5'-deep grave behind Newell's barn, and there it remained for about a year.

Then on a Saturday in October, 2 unsuspecting workmen were hired to dig a well behind the barn. Shortly after they began digging, they unearthed the giant. The foot appeared 1st, and then the entire body was visible. As the story spread throughout Cardiff by word of mouth, people from miles around rushed to the farm to get a glimpse of the giant.

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