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Cardiff Giant

This is Roald Tweet on Rock Island.

"There's a sucker born every minute," claimed P. T. Barnum. And that sucker’s not always from Iowa, as Barnum found out back in 1870.That year, several men digging a well on the old Newell farm near Cardiff, New York, uncovered the stone-like body of a ten-foot giant. Newell and a friend, George Hull, put up a tent around the figure and charged visitors ten cents for a look. Soon, they had taken in more than $20,000.

Scientists who visited were convinced that the Cardiff giant was either a prehistoric human being, or even the "missing link" that paleontologists had been looking for. A few thought the figure was a statue made by prehistoric men, but the tiny holes all over the body—pores, they said—convinced most scientists that it was an actual petrified human.

An Indian medicine man who visited Cardiff claimed the giant was an old Indian prophet who had foretold the coming of the white man.

P. T. Barnum tried to buy the Cardiff Giant for his own traveling museum of curiosities, and when he was refused, he made his own out of plaster of Paris and attracted crowds across the country with his fake.
Then, Galusha Parsons, a lawyer from Fort Dodge, Iowa, paid his ten cents and went in to see the Cardiff Giant. "Why," he said, "that's the big block of Fort Dodge gypsum those fellows shipped out of town last year."

And it was. George Hull admitted that while listening to a Methodist minister's sermon back in Iowa the previous year, he had gotten the idea of burying a statue, then arranging a resurrection after it had aged."
Hull described how he had taken the block of gypsum to Chicago, where he posed while a sculptor chiseled out his likeness. Then they had attacked the statue with steel needles to create the pores, and taken it to Cardiff, and buried it.

In 1901, the Cardiff Giant was returned to its birthplace at Fort Dodge. There, a wake was held over the body, and the corpse respectfully reburied in a Fort Dodge warehouse. Iowans don't like to take chances.

Rock Island Lines with Roald Tweet is underwritten by Augustana College, Rock Island, Illinois.

Beginning 1995, historian and folklorist Dr. Roald Tweet spun his stories of the Mississippi Valley to a devoted audience on WVIK. Dr. Tweet published three books as well as numerous literary articles and recorded segments of "Rock Island Lines." His inspiration was that "kidney-shaped limestone island plunked down in the middle of the Mississippi River," a logical site for a storyteller like Dr. Tweet.