News of Otsego County

150th anniversary

Age 150, Cardiff Giant Still Excites Enthusiasm

Age 150, Cardiff Giant

Still Excites Enthusiasm

The Cardiff Giant, resting from his labors, joined The Farmers’ Museum in 1948. A reception was planned tonight on the 150th anniversary of the hoax. (Ian Austin/

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

COOPERSTOWN – It’s 150 years later, and New York State’s greatest hoax is still bringing in the gawkers.

“The Cardiff Giant is still a favorite,” said Todd Kenyon, The Farmers’ Museum communications director. “It’s part of American folklore.”

On Wednesday, Oct. 16, got into The Farmers’ for just 50 cents, the original price paid to see it under a tent in George Hull’s backyard. That evening, visitors were able to see a “Medicine Show” hawking the Giant, performed by the Templeton Players, and enjoy a piece of giant birthday cake.

On Oct. 16, 1869, workers on Stub Newell’s farm in Cardiff, outside Syracuse, were digging a well when they discovered the 10½-foot long body of a petrified man. “That must have been incredible,” said Kenyon, “to be digging a well and find the body of a man.”

Newell’s farm was an old lake bed, and fossils had been discovered there before. “Paleontology was a new science,” said Tom Heitz, Town of Otsego historian, who used to interpret the Giant for museum visitors. “People were finding saber-tooth tiger fossils and other strange creatures, so it made sense to people at the time.”

Neighbors gathered around the pit, and within two days, Hull, Newell’s cousin, had erected a tent and were charging people 50 cents – the equivalent of $9.25 today – to come see the giant.

At 10½ feet and 2,990 pounds, the Cardiff Giant was proclaimed to be “Taller than Goliath Whom David Slew.” A doctor in Norwich pronounced him “a real man, turned to stone,” and people came from across the state and, in some cases, across the country to see the giant.

“He was very popular with the religious people,” said Heitz. “There’s a line in Genesis about a time when giants roamed the earth, and people took this as confirmation of that.”

But with so many people wanting to take a peek, Hull and Newell – who had already made a considerable sum off their 50 cent admissions – decided to sell the giant to investors in Syracuse, who put it on display for people who came by train from all across the stage.

“People didn’t have TV or the Internet,” said Heitz. “But they wanted to see the spectacle of it.”

PT Barnum tried to buy the giant for $15,000, but when Hull wouldn’t sell, he created his own and toured it around the country and in Europe.

But by December, Hull admitted that his giant was a fake, a gypsum man carved a year earlier in Chicago and buried in Newell’s back yard. “He was a bit of a scoundrel,” said Heitz. “He had been in jail in Binghamton for running a con game when he was younger.”

According to Heitz, he had gotten in an argument with Reverend Turk, a Methodist minister who took the stories of the Bible – including Genesis 6:4, which references the giants – literally. Hull wanted to prove him wrong, so he ordered the creation of the giant.

In 1868, Hull ordered a slab of gypsum from Fort Dodge, Iowa, and send it to be carved in Chicago, then shipped back by train and carriage to Newell’s farm, where it was buried and “discovered” a year later.

Even after Hull admitted it was a hoax, people still flocked to see the giant, and it traveled to several cities, including Albany and Manhattan. Some places objected to his nudity and placed a fig leaf over his exposed genitals; others asked that men and women go in separately.

“They even did shows for the blind,” said Heitz. “They would let people feel his toe or his face.”

The excitement of seeing the cause of the famous object, even after it was a proven fake, dwindled at the beginning of the 20th Century, and in 1948 it was brought to The Farmers’ Museum, where he has been on continuous display ever since.




Cardiff Giant 150th Birthday Bash


CELEBRATION – 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. Celebrate 150th birthday of Cardiff Giant. Pay $0.50 to see the giant, enjoy a GIANT cake, hear the stories of the hoax, enjoy a performance of the show, party like its 1869. The Farmers’ Museum, Cooperstown. 607-547-1450 or visit

Pinch Yourself! In Age Of Automobile, Steam Power Returns To Cooperstown

Pinch Yourself!

In Age Of Automobile, Steam

Power Returns To Cooperstown

If you hurry, you may get a chance to see a rarity in Cooperstown: A steam engine, now paused across Route 28 from the Price Chopper parking lot. Part of the 150th celebration of the Milford-based Coopertown & Charlotte Valley Railroad, the train is proceeding to the former Glen Avenue crossing in the next few minutes, before returning to the anniversary celebrations in Milford.  Inset, conductor Bruce Hodges, president, the Leatherstocking Railroad Historical Society, chats with Roy Davis, the engine’s owner, who trucked it over from Dunkirk to participate in this weekend’s festivities.  At left is Scott Symans, who accompanied Davis, who said he bought the engine in Virginia and renovated it.  (Jim Kevlin/

Steam Engine Arrives At Milford Train Station

Steam Engine Arrives

At Milford Train Station

Paul Sternitzke, Milford, operates a bucket loader to guide a steam engine, owned by Scott Symans, right, off of a flatbed truck and onto the tracks at the Milford Train station earlier this afternoon. The steam engine will be a featured attraction in this weekend’s 150th anniversary celebration of the Cooperstown Charlotte Valley Railroad, including a ride from Milford to Cooperstown, Saturday July 13. (Ian Austin/

C&CV’s 150th Party Recreating Hoopla Of Original Launch


C&CV’s 150th Party

Recreating Hoopla

Of Original Launch

Carl Ayres drives the Cooperstown & Charlotte Valley Railroad’s refurbished “Little Train,” which will make its debut this weekend at the Milford Depot on the 150th anniversary celebrations. (Ian Austin/Special to

By LIBBY CUDMORE • Special to

MILFORD – Call it The Little Engine That Can.

Donall Sullivan’s little train, out of commission for more than 15 years, will once again carry passengers – of all ages! – from Milford’s Wilber Park to the 150th anniversary celebration of the Cooperstown & Charlotte Valley Railroad Saturday, July 13.

“Sullivan was a tool-and-die man and he built a little train on his property in Otego,” said Bruce Hodges, president, Leatherstocking Railway Historical Society. “When he died in the mid-’90s, Gene Bettiol bought it because he didn’t want it to leave the area.”

Later, Bettiol donated it to the Leatherstocking Railway Historical Society, which owns the C&CV, but after a few years, the engine stopped working.

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21 Railroad Ave. Cooperstown, New York 13326 • (607) 547-6103