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Benjamin Waterhouse Hawkins (1807–1894) was a British scientific illustrator and sculptor who illustrated many British exploration reports in the 1830s and 1840s. In the early 1850s, Hawkins was commissioned to create life-size, concrete sculptures of Iguanodon, ichthyosaurs, and other extinct animals for a permanent exhibition in south London. They were the first large sculptures of extinct vertebrates ever made, and they are still on view today.

Inspired by his success in England, Hawkins launched a lecture tour and working trip to North America in 1868. Soon after his arrival, he was commissioned to “undertake the resuscitation of a group of animals of the former periods of the American continent” for public display in New York City. Had it been built, this would have been the first paleontological museum in the world.

As part of this ambitious project, with the assistance of the American paleontologist Joseph Leidy, Hawkins cast the bones of a recently discovered Hadrosaurus specimen and used them to construct the first articulated dinosaur skeleton ever put on display in a museum. It was unveiled at the Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia in November 1868.

Hawkins worked tirelessly on New York’s proposed “Paleozoic Museum” for two years, until his funding was cut by William “Boss” Tweed, the corrupt leader of the Tammany Hall political machine, who grew hostile to the project and abolished the Central Park Commission that had made it possible. When Hawkins defiantly continued to work, without funding, Tweed dispatched a gang of thugs to break into his studio and smash all of the sculptures and molds. Although Hawkins would create several copies of his articulated Hadrosaurus skeleton for other institutions, the prospect of building a grand museum of paleontology in America was forever destroyed by Tweed’s actions.

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