Steven Wade Veatch and Teresa L Stoiber (USA)
The legend of “Genevieve”, a fossilised dinosaur not only made of stone — but also of gold — began on 3 July 1932. That was the day WK Jewett, owner of the London Mine near Alma in Colorado, stopped at the Antlers Hotel in Colorado Springs and made the official announcement of its unearthing. The story was picked up by the news services and word of the fantastic find spread through the scientific world like a prairie fire.
The golden dinosaur was discovered by William White, 700 feet (213m) underground — deep in the London Mine (WK Jewett, 1932). Curiously, the miners had been using the creature’s nose as a lamp holder, not realising there was a ‘dinosaur’ (if that is what it was) there. White, a hard rock miner, believed at first he was looking at two stumps. In reality, it was a dinosaur lying on its back with its limbs at an angle of 75 degrees. Eager to retrieve it from its rocky tomb, miners blasted it out of rock at the 700-foot level of the London Mine with dynamite. The blast shattered the specimen. Bits and pieces of the dinosaur were hoisted to the surface, where curious crowds gathered to see the prehistoric monster.
As the story goes, a geology professor at Colorado College, Robert Landon, travelled to Alma so he could examine Genevieve – an extraordinary record of a former world. The measurements he made revealed that the animal was 18 feet (5.4m) long and 6.5 (2m) feet high (WK Jewett, 1932). The creature had a long neck that supported a small head. It also had a long tail.
Jewett presented the dinosaur to the Colorado College museum (Skeleton of Dinosaur, 1932). The 16-ton (14.5 metric ton) dinosaur reached Colorado College by truck, where a crew of men carefully carried it to the basement of Cutler Hall. College technicians spent countless hours in the basement, where they enthusiastically cemented together what the newspapers hailed as the rarest find ever made in palaeontology (Genevieve, Colleges Latest Acquisition Now Ready to Receive Callers, 1932). After the repair of the fossil dinosaur, it was moved to Colorado College’s museum and put on display (Will Bring Dinosaur Here Late this Week, 1932).
There is a real mystery that surrounds this dinosaur. In the 1960s, the museum closed and Genevieve’s display was removed. No one seems to know what happened to this specimen. Was Genevieve smelted down, put in the basement archives and forgotten, or taken to a professor’s house for a private collection? The mystery of her disappearance still stands to this day.
Three critical questions must now be answered: Was Genevieve a dinosaur, where did she go and was she really made of gold? The past would not easily give up these secrets, including unfortunately, the origin of its lovely name.
An article, from Greely, Colorado’s Tribune-Republican dated 2 July 2, 1932, stated the dinosaur remains were made known to Mr Jesse Figgins, Director of the Colorado Museum of Natural History (noted for his work on the famous archaeological site at Folsom in New Mexico), who said this unusual dinosaur fossil must be the remains of a marine reptile. Nowhere in the article does it report that Genevieve was made of gold — but it does state that she was shattered when dynamited out of the mine and that restoration wasn’t expected to take long.
When asked about Genevieve, Colorado College archivist Jessy Randall said she had been questioned about her before. The last time was in 2004, when Geology Professor Emeritus Bill Fischer the former chair of the geology department, was still alive. Fischer gave this response:
The one man who would have had the answers, Professor Bob Landon, died in 1995, and all of the people associated with the college museum are also deceased … I never heard of the specimen during my 50-year association with the school, and I suspect that it really was never installed in the museum and that the college newspaper account that ‘it was resting on a pedestal in the museum’ is totally false.”
From the photograph, one can see that with 16 tons of matrix and bone it would have taken months if not years to prepare the specimen for display. Now for a few thoughts as to the fossil itself. First of all, it is not a dinosaur and probably not a rhynchocephalian reptile.
The photograph (Fig. 1) is of very poor quality, but my best guess is that it may have been a Phytosaur — but regardless of the correct identification it was a very valuable find, and I am sorry if it ended up in a smelter … Good luck in your search and sorry I couldn’t be of more assistance”. Signed: Bill Fischer.
Sadly, it looks like Genevieve’s case has gone cold. The museum has long been closed and those associated with the museum are deceased. It is doubtful that she was made of gold — but she was found in a gold mine, the source of a good rumour and the basis for a great story surrounding her mysterious existence and disappearance.
Although Genevieve remains a mystery, this article has dug up and weaves together most of what is known and speculated about her. Although her real story has been buried with the museum workers and gold miners who have passed away, there are still a few miners who, while relaxing at a local saloon, fondly ponder the puzzle of Genevieve. They raise their shot glasses and make this toast to the miners who found Genevieve, the golden dinosaur: “May you always stand on ore and your labours be in vein”.
The authors thank Danny Alfrey for bringing Genevieve to our attention back in 2011. We also appreciate Ben Elick’s help in obtaining the photograph of this mysterious fossil.
Find Skeleton of Dinosaur in Ore of London Mine. (1932, July 2). Colorado Springs Gazette, p. 2.
Genevieve, Colleges Latest Acquisition Now Ready to Receive Callers. Made Presentable by Profs. (1932, August 12). Colorado College Tigers.
W. K. Jewett Gives Skeleton of Prehistoric Animal to Colo. College Museum. (1932, July 3). Colorado Springs Gazette, p. 2.
Will Bring Dinosaur Here Late this Week. (1932, July 6,). Colorado Springs Gazette, p. 5.