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Members of Yale Paleontological Expedition of 1872
Cowan's Auctions, Inc
2010, American History, Including the Civil War, June 11
Below image is written names of the men: Russell, New Haven, Conn.; Ed Lane; O.C. Marsh; Pope; McNaughton, Albany, NY; Hoppin, New Haven; Hill, ___mine. Interestingly, the students are heavily armed, all with handguns and three with visible long guns. Russell (on left) holds a Model 1867 Sharps carbine and wears a .50-70 cartridge belt with holstered hand gun. McNaughton has S&W revolvers and a Bowie knife. Hoppin holds a .50-70 conversion Sharps 3-band military rifle, the butt of a hand gun just barely visible on his right hip. Hill has a new 1873 model Winchester SRC carbine, plus a handgun and Bowie knife. He also wears beaded mocassins. Marsh has a geologic hammer, and the two Army personnel appear unarmed. It was a dangerous time in the West.
Othniel Charles Marsh (1831-1899) was born in Lockport, New York. Although his family was not wealthy, his uncle, George Peabody, certainly had financial resources. He studied geology and paleontology in the U.S. and Europe, and persuaded his uncle to establish the Peabody Museum of Natural History at Yale, the institution with which he was associated for most of his career. A large inheritance received after his uncle's death meant that Marsh did not require a salary from Yale, and could spend time exploring rather than teaching. A train ride on the Union Pacific in 1869 alerted Marsh to the many fossils being exposed in the West as the railroads blasted out hills along the routes of the lines. In 1870, 1871, 1872 and 1873, Yale sent Scientific Expeditions led by Marsh to Nebraska, Kansas, Montana, Colorado, Utah, Wyoming and other points west to explore the geology and fossils being exposed. Marsh made arrangements for military escorts and use of Army posts on his expeditions, since the West was still "Indian Country."
The 1872 Expedition was the smallest, with only Benjamin Hoppin, Thomas Russell, Charles Hill and James MacNaughton (and, of course, Marsh) from Yale, escorted by Lt. James W. Pope and guide Ed Lane of the U.S. Army. This photograph documents that expedition which spent the first part of the season in Kansas and the latter part in Wyoming. Marsh is credited with the discovery of over 500 fossil species over his career.