Unusual Tourist Sites: The Cardiff Giant in Cooperstown, New York Part 2

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

Cooperstown, New York

Immediately, newspapers started calling it the "8th Wonder of the World," and 2 days after its discovery, Newell erected a tent over the giant and began charging 50? for a look at it. Newell's ranch suddenly became the biggest tourist attraction in the State. The average number of visitors was between 300 and 500 daily, and on Sundays the number increased to more than 2,000.

Within a few days, Hull was already negotiating for the sale of part interest in the giant. He was determined to get as much money out of it as possible before the immense gypsum figure was discovered to be a hoax. Exactly one week after it was unearthed, Hull sold 3/4 interest in the giant to 5 local businessmen for $30,000.

The new owners of the Cardiff Giant decided to move the figure to Syracuse, hoping to draw bigger audiences there. But while people rushed to view the giant, suspicions that it was all a hoax intensified. A young paleontologist at Yale, O. C. Marsh, said on November 25, 1869, that "it is of very recent origin and a decided humbug."

By December all the evidence pointed toward a hoax. With pressure mounting, George Hull confessed how the entire fraudulent plan was devised. But by then, the giant was already a phenomenon, and the public continued coming to see it in growing numbers.

The giant was moved to Albany and then to New York City for exhibition. One of the greatest hucksters of all, P. T. Barnum, tried to buy the giant from its owners. When they refused to sell, Barnum had an imitation giant made, and he began displaying it in New York City. At one time, the giants were being exhibited only 2 blocks from each other. With Barnum's salesmanship behind his version, the imitation giant was soon outdrawing the original one.

The Cardiff Giant changed ownership several times over the ensuing years, and it was displayed on and off, depending on the whims of its current owner.

Finally in 1948, 80 years after it was carved out of stone, the giant was brought to the Farmers' Museum, one of the museums administered by the New York State Historical Association in Cooperstown. It is on display there today, considered to be part of the social history of the State of New York.

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