This Day in History – October 16th, 1869

On this day in 1869, William C. “Stub” Newell of Cardiff, New York employed some workers to dig a new well behind his barn, but what they found in the ground shocked the world. Preserved in the dirt were the remains of a giant, a man ten feet tall, the species mentioned in Genesis 6:4 of The Bible . . .

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Newell erected a tent over the giant and charged people 25 cents to see the petrified remains of the ten foot tall man. People came in droves to see the discovery and two days later Newell doubled the price to see what became known as the Cardiff Giant.

Cardiff_GiantEventually, Hull sold the giant for $23,000 (equivalent to $429,000 in 2014) to a syndicate of five men headed by David Hannum. They moved it to Syracuse, New York, for exhibition. The giant drew such crowds that showman P. T. Barnum offered $50,000 for the giant. When the syndicate turned him down, he hired a man to model the giant’s shape covertly in wax and create a plaster replica. He put his giant on display in New York, claiming that his was the real giant, and the Cardiff Giant was a fake.

As the newspapers reported Barnum’s version of the story, David Hannum was quoted as saying, “There’s a sucker born every minute” in reference to spectators paying to see Barnum’s giant. Over time, the quotation has been misattributed to Barnum himself. Hannum sued Barnum for calling his giant a fake, but the judge told him to get his giant to swear on his own genuineness in court if he wanted a favorable injunction.

The giant was indeed a fake . . . the whole thing had been staged by a New York tobacconist named George Hull, an atheist, after getting into an argument with a Methodist revival meeting about giants in The Bible. It did not take long for several archaeological scholars long to declare it a fake, but some Christian fundamentalists and preachers defended its authenticity. On December 10, Hull confessed to the press, and on February 2, 1870 both giants were revealed as fakes in court. The judge ruled that Barnum could not be sued for calling a fake giant a fake.

Since 1947 the Cardiff Giant has been on display at the Farmers’ Museum in Cooperstown, New York, and the Barnum replica is supposedly to be found at Marvin’s Marvelous Mechanical Museum, a coin-operated game arcade and museum of oddities in Farmington Hills, Michigan.

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