When you think of dinosaur fossil discoveries, you might picture the western part of the U.S. So did 9-year-old Zoltan Magyar in the historical children’s novel Haddy the Doorstopasaurus. Zoltan longed to live in Arizona instead of boring Haddonfield, New Jersey. A trip to The Academy of Natural Sciences showed him that his hometown isn’t that dull after all!
Zoltan learned that dinosaurs once roamed New Jersey. In fact, a fossil discovery in Haddonfield paved the way for modern dinosaur paleontology. A farmer in Haddonfield found the massive remains of an unknown creature in 1838. The skeleton was excavated in 1858 by William Parker Foulke of The Academy of Natural Sciences of Philadelphia. He named the creature Hadrosaurus foulki, which means Foulkes’ big lizard. This discovery was huge -- not only in size, but also in scientific significance. It shattered the scientific community's belief that all dinosaurs walked on four legs.
According to When Dinosaurs Roamed New Jersey, New Jersey holds another spot in dinosaur bone firsts. This one happened way before the term "dinosaur" was even coined! In 1787, Benjamin Franklin held a duck-billed dinosaur’s foot bone from Woodbury, Gloucester County. No one knew the source of the bone until almost a century later.
If you want to see dinosaur bones up close and personal, visit a local museum. The New Jersey State Museum in Trenton recently acquired two casts of New Jersey dinosaur fossils. You can see the life-size Hadrosaurus foulkii and the Mosasaurus maximus in the museum’s Natural History Hall. The best part is that the museum is free to visit!
Take advantage of the BCLS Museum Pass Program for
free admission to local museums with dinosaur displays.
- The Garden State Discovery Museum is an exciting place for young dinosaur enthusiasts. The dinosaur room features a huge dinosaur skeleton tunnel and a fossil digging pit. The museum pass admits up to six people.
- The Academy of Natural Sciences of Drexel University has a dinosaur hall with fossils from more than 30 species of dinosaurs on display. There is also a cast of the Haddonfield hadrosaurus and a life-size drawing of the dinosaur. The museum pass admits two adults and five children from the same household.
Can’t get enough dinosaurs? Make the library your next stop. Bring your little dinosaur lovers to the Pinelands Library on August 23 for the Mad Science: Digging for Dinos program. Mad Science of West New Jersey will present a hands-on class for children ages 3 to 5. The kids will get to dig for "fossils" and make a cast of a T-Rex tooth to take home and show off to the rest of the family.