June 24, 2009
When I visited the National Zoo in Washington, D.C. earlier this year, I was a bit surprised to see a large Triceratops statue next to the giant anteater enclosure. There are a few dinosaurs at the zoo, like the Tyrannosaurus skull sculpture near the big cats exhibit, but the Triceratops seemed out of place. Why was it there?
I didn’t know it at the time, but this Triceratops was a minor celebrity. In 1956, Oliver Butterworth published a children’s book called The Enormous Egg in which a young boy discovers a large dinosaur egg. It hatches, and the boy names the young Triceratops “Uncle Beazley.” The dinosaur quickly becomes too large to handle, though, so the boy gives it to the “National Museum” in Washington, D.C.
A made-for-TV film adaptation of the story aired in 1968, and a life-sized Triceratops sculpture was created for the story. It was soon after donated to the Smithsonian by the Sinclair Oil Company, which was famous for its dinosaur logo. Uncle Beazley has been moved around a bit since that time, but today he can be seen in a special “prehistoric” garden right across from the lemur exhibit at the National Zoo.
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