To the Citizens of Boston and Vicinity… the Exhibition of the Hydrarchos Will Positively Close on Tuesday Evening Next, Nov. 25th, 1845.
Farwell's United States Mammoth Printing Establishment, (Boston)
Printed broadsheet, 7 x 11 1/2 inches.
A German immigrant who called himself “Doctor” A.C. Koch made a career in America assembling fossil bones into supposed skeletons of ancient monsters. His first great success was a fabricated mastodon which he called “Missourium” because the fossil was said to have been discovered in Missouri. Though it was known to be a fake, Koch sold the specimen to the British Museum. Hydrarchos was his next great fraud. He combined bones from at least six fossil whales to create a sea serpent 114 feet in length. Like Missourium, the controversy surrounding it attracted huge crowds, eager to pay admission for a glimpse of the impressive specimen. This broadsheet, produced for the Boston audiences following Hydrarchos’ successful run in New York, plays up the controversy over its genuineness, with Koch acting the part of the insulted innocent. The point of his argument is that, since no one has ever seen a sea serpent, he is perfectly within his rights to call his giant fossil a sea serpent. As he had done with Missourium, Koch eventually sold his creation, this time to Prussian King Friedrich Wilhelm IV, despite arguments from experts that it was a fraud. Koch (a contemporary of P. T. Barnum, by the way) was an industrious promoter, and several broadside advertisements of Hydracharos are known to exist. However, I can find no record of this one. No holdings in Worldcat, either. Old fold lines, even tanning.