Albert Koch was one of those fascinating characters who burst upon the American scene in the early nineteenth century. He was a fossil collector who has been lauded and ridiculed by both scientists and laymen alike. After collecting natural history specimens in Pennsylvania and Michigan, he opened a museum in St. Louis, an amalgam of natural history objects, curiosities, and theatrical performances. He is best known for his famous Missourium, a grossly misassembled American mastodon skeleton that ended up in the British Museum. Because of the hokum he peddled, many scientists considered his exaggerated and misassembled skeleton a hoax. Albert Koch created additional controversy when he observed that he had uncovered evidence that the extinct megafauna and early man were contemporaneous, a debate that remained unsettled for several decades. This essay critically examines Koch’s fossil collecting pursuits, his claims of human-megafauna associations, as well as his contributions to science and natural history.

This is the first of a two-part paper, the second focusing on Koch’s discovery and exhibition of an early archaeocete whale that he called Hydrarchos, an exaggerated skeleton that created significantly more controversy than his Missourium.

This content is only available as a PDF.
You do not currently have access to this content.