Skip to main content

Richmond mastodon dig photograph collection

 Collection — Folder: SP001
Identifier: SP001

Scope and Contents

This collection includes black-and-white photographs, a postcard, and an unpublished article written by journalist Jack Cejnar from Indiana ranging from 1930 to 1933 regarding the archaeological discovery of a 10,000-year old mastodon skeleton known as the "Richmond mastodon". The photographs depict the bones, dig site, visitors, the head paleontologist, John T. Sanford, and Donovan Harper. Cejnar originally submitted the materials to the Young Catholic Messenger for publication, but they were deemed unsuitable.


  • 1930-1933

Conditions Governing Access

This collection is open for research.

Conditions Governing Use

Legal title, copyright, and literary rights reside with Rare Books and Manuscripts, Indiana State Library, Indianapolis, IN. All requests to publish or quote from manuscripts must be submitted to Rare Books and Manuscripts.

Historical Note

The Richmond mastodon, as it came to be called, was found near Cromwell, Indiana in the fall of 1930 when 10 year-old Donovan Harper discovered an 8.5-pound molar while hunting skunks. The mastodon's skeleton was located on the farm of Charles Feldheiser. Feldheiser contacted several museums in the region and Buffalo Museum of Science in Buffalo, New York sent out a team of archaeologists led by the museum's curator of paleontology, Dr. John T. Sanford. A shed was constructed over the dig site when spectators endangered the fossil. Sanford estimated the mastodon's age at 10,000 yeard old and discovered it was one of the largest of its kind found in the United States and in poseesion of an enormous 12.5-foot tusk.

The excavation was completed in January, 1931 and the skeleton was carefully transported to the Buffalo museum. It came to be known as the Richmond mastodon after Watts L. Richmond, the benefactor of the excavation. In December, 1939, museum experts unwrapped the bones and mounted in a special earth scene exhibit that demonstrated how it had been discovered.


Items in the collection.

"Build Shed to Save Huge Fossil." Popular Science 118, no. 4 (April 1931): 48.

Gagen, Bob. "Mastodon traveled from Cromwell to Buffalo.", March 1, 2007. Accessed February 13, 2019.

Sanford, John T. "The Richmond Mastodon." Proceedings of the Rochester Academy of Science 7, no. 5 (March 1935): 137-156. Accessed February 13, 2019.


0.01 Cubic Feet (1 folder)

Language of Materials



This collection is arranged by subject.

Custodial History

This collection was received by Rare Books and Manuscripts as a donation.


No further additions are expected.

Processing Information

Collection processing completed 2004 by Amy C. Belcher. Collection reprocessing completed 2019/02/14 by Brittany Kropf. EAD finding aid created 2019/02/14 by Brittany Kropf.
Richmond mastodon dig photograph collection
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Rare Books and Manuscripts Repository

140 North Senate Avenue
Indianapolis, Indiana 46204 U.S.A.