Mystery Tusk: Searching for Elephants in the Maine Woods (North Country Press, 2022) chronicles Gary Hoyle’s search for the identity of a tusk found in the collection of an old, dismantled museum, when the author was the Curator of Natural History at the Maine State Museum.
The find led Hoyle to oversee a 100-person excavation of the only woolly mammoth remains ever found in Maine. At the same time, he uncovered forgotten facts about one of the first elephants to arrive on the shores of North America.
Old Bet arrived in Boston Harbor on June 25, 1804 from Africa. Old Bet was walked by her owner from tavern to tavern throughout the Eastern Seaboard and displayed in stables and barns.
When Old Bet traveled through the District of Maine (today’s State of Maine) in 1816 (the Year Without A Summer) angry and destitute farmer Daniel Davis shot and killed the elephant on July 24, 1816. Davis was later convicted of the crime.
Old Bet’s story didn’t end there, however. She became an inspiration for P.T. Barnum to become a showman. He eventually exhibited her stuffed remains in Barnum’s American Museum in the city of New York until July 13, 1865, when those remains burned in one of the worst fires in the city’s history.
Gary Hoyle is a retired exhibits artist and Curator of Natural History from the Maine State Museum who studied under Fred Scherer, preparator and diorama background painter at the American Museum of Natural History. Hoyle’s creative works have been exhibited throughout the country and in Japan.
For additional information on Gary Hoyle go to garyhoyle.weebly.com.
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