33. The First Tyrannosaurus Skeleton, 1905


The most famous of all dinosaurs, Tyrannosaurus rex, was discovered by Barnum Brown in 1902 in Hell Creek, Montana, and it was first described here by Henry F. Osborn. The skeleton was not complete, but enough was present to attempt a reconstruction. So we have in this article the very first picture of T. rex. One of the nice features of the restoration is that it involved the collaboration of four of the truly great figures in the history of dinosaur discovery: Brown, who discovered the skeleton; Osborn, who named and described it; Richard S. Lull, who prepared the skeleton; and William D. Matthew, who drew the restoration. Lull and Matthew are featured later in this exhibition (see item 38 and item 42 respectively).

A distinctive feature of the drawing is the inclusion of a human figure for scale. This is not the first time for such a comparison; Osborn had compared a human to a Diplodocus skeleton in 1899 (see item 25a). But the comparison is especially effective here; without it, the true size of T. rex could not be conveyed by this small text illustration. Matthew commented in a letter to his wife that the toothy smile of T. rex reminded him of President Roosevelt, and so he had taken to calling it "Teddysaurus."

Osborn published another article on the specimen the next year, in 1906, which featured a much larger restoration on a fold-out plate. Click here to see this second T. rex reconstruction.


Osborn, Henry Fairfield. "Tyrannosaurus and other Cretaceous carnivorous dinosaurs," in: Bulletin of the American Museum of Natural History, vol. 21 (1905), pp. 259-265. This work was on display in the original exhibition as item 33.

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