Cardiff Giant

From Kook Science

The Cardiff Giant, also known as the Onondaga Giant and the American Goliath, was an alleged giant petrified man, fabricated by Giuseppe Sala for George Hull, and buried by Hull at the Cardiff, Onondaga Co., New York farm of his cousin William C. "Stub" Newell, where it was later exhumed and "discovered" on 16 October 1869.

Hull went on to attempt the same routine in Colorado some eight years later with his Solid Muldoon, while Sala became involved in other disinterment schemes abroad, including an attempted theft of Benedict Arnold's remains from a London graveyard, and the exhumation of fabricated remains of Finn McCoul at the Giant's Causeway in Ireland and the Marble Man of Cow Flat in Australia.


  • The American Goliah: A Wonderful Geological Discovery. A Petrified Giant, Ten And One-Half Feet High, Discovered in Onondaga County, N.Y. History of the Discovery On October 16, 1869 of an Image of Stone, The Same Being a Perfectly Formed And Well Developed Man. Descriptions of the Petrification, with the Opinions of Scientific Men Thereon, Syracuse: Nottingham & Tucker, 1869, 
  • McKinney, W. A. (Oct. 1875), "The History of the Cardiff Giant Hoax", New Englander and Yale Review 34 (4): 759-769, 
  • Vance, Arthur T. (1900), "'Dave' Hannum and the Cardiff Giant", The Real David Harum: the Wise Ways And Droll Sayings of One 'Dave' Hannum, of Homer, N.Y., New York: Baker & Taylor Co., p. 76-100,  — in which George Hull, then around-eighty years old, gives his account of the Cardiff Giant

    George Hull, the inventor of the famous Cardiff Giant is still living in Binghamton. He is now nearly eighty years old. He never tires of telling of the big stone man with which he fooled the public thirty-one years ago, and still bears a grudge against the relative to whom he confided his scheme, and who, as he says, “gave away gave away the snap that lost him a big fortune.” He is a giant himself, standing 6 feet 2 inches in his stocking feet, with shoulders apparently a yard wide and a well-proportioned frame.

    “Yes,” he said, with a good humored smile, in a recent interview, “I am George Hull, and I made the Cardiff Giant. I am a Connecticut Yankee by birth. My father, John Hull, was a New Hampshire man, and married my mother at Suffield, Conn. She was a Connecticut woman. They were both of English extraction. My father was a contractor for bridges and other public works. He lost a good deal of money by a partner, and when I was young we all had to put our noses to the grind stone. I never had but one year's schooling, and when I was fourteen I went to work on a farm and turned the soil with a wooden plough.

    “When I was sixteen years old I learned to make cigars in a small factory and worked as an apprentice for three years. Then I went to work in neigh boring towns and became somewhat of a sport. I wrestled, ran, and had a good time generally. There were few who could beat me in 100 yards. I trained Samuel Day, a Connecticut boy, until he could beat me about five feet in 100 yards, and then we travelled together. At Binghamton, N. Y., where I worked several years, I married in 1856 and settled down. In 1860 I invented a harness-snap out of which I ought to have made myself rich, but I didn't. I sold the patent for $300. Fourteen years later the purchasers paid me $3500 to lend my name to a petition for an extension of the patent for another fourteen years. I afterward learned that they made at least $400,000 out of my snap.

    “Well, it was at Ackley, Iowa, that I first conceived the idea of fooling the world with the big stone man. I had some relations at Ackley, and sent my sister's husband 10,000 cigars to sell. He couldn't pay me, and I went there to see about it. I found the farm he owned encumbered, and, as I thought a good deal of the family, before I left I cleared up the mortgage. At that time a Methodist revivalist was in Ackley, and prayed all over the settlement. The people were too poor to pay him any thing, and he boarded around. One night he was at my sister's house, and after supper we had a long discussion and a hot one.

    “At midnight we went to bed, and I lay wide awake wondering why people would believe those remarkable stories in the Bible about giants, when suddenly I thought of making a stone giant and passing it off as a petrified man. turned to Binghamton and sold out my business ; went to Wisconsin, where the idea continued to haunt me, and went back to New York State with my family, and finally returned to Iowa. But I didn't go near my folks at Ackley.

    “After a while I found a suitable kind of stone near Port Dodge, on the river bank. It was a gray stone, somewhat resembling gypsum, with dark-colored bluish streaks, which afterward passed for veins of a human body. I found a mass of this rock cropping out about 160 feet from the river, and bought an acre of this land. Then I went to work with a force of men, and in three weeks I had a block ready to take away. It was about 11 feet 4 inches in length, 3 feet 6 inches wide, and over 2 feet thick. This I transported by land to the nearest railroad station, Boone, 45 miles distant. The removal to the station occupied three weeks and cost over $200. It was no small job transporting this ponderous mass over prairie roads, fords, and weak bridges. Two men in succession threw up their contracts, and if I had not been supervising the job, aided by jack screws, levers, beams, and windlasses, it would have remained in the road.

    “At Boone I shipped it to Chicago, where I rented a one-story frame building on North Clark Street, close to the lake. Then I hired a stone-cutter and cautioned him to secrecy. When the Fort Dodge people asked me what I wanted of the stone I had told them that I was going to take it to Washington as a specimen of the best building-stone in the world. Now I expected greater trouble in avoiding the inquisitive. The stone-cutter was an Italian named Salla, and all he wanted was his wages. I never told him what I was going to do, and he never told anybody what he was doing. This same Salla however saw the possibilities of the idea, and afterwards manufactured several other petrified giants, notably the Fresno giant ‘found’ at Fresno, Cal., in 1890 and the Irish giant Finn McCool, which he planted and discovered in the north of Ireland in 1872.

    “I first made the model of a man in clay. It lay on its back and was just the shape which the Cardiff Giant assumed as the work of cutting it out progressed. On the under side of the body I cut away some places, as I did not wish to have the giant too perfect, because there should be some parts of his flesh which had not petrified and therefore rotted away. I then made a tool with bundles of darning-needles, the handles cast in lead, and with this tool went over every inch of the body, making millions of little holes in the stone. The foremost scientific men in the country afterward viewed them with magnifying-glasses and thought they were pores of the giant's skin. In order to give the giant the appearance of age, I procured two gallons of sulphuric acid and swabbed the figure with it. The steam from the acid and the stone rose in clouds. The acid gave the stone a dingy brown color and an appearance of great antiquity. Then I put the giant in an iron-bound box and shipped it to Union, N.Y., nine miles from Bingham. It weighed with its packing 4000 pounds. The figure itself weighed 2996 pounds.

    “Onondaga Hollow is near Tully, a station thirteen miles from Syracuse. It is a marked depression in the ground, and there is a hill on each side. Geologists say it was at one time a lake, and many petrified fish and reptiles have been found there. In this hollow is situated the cross-roads hamlet called Cardiff, and I had determined it was just the place to bury the giant. There lived there a relative named ‘Stub’ Newell, whom I took into my confidence, first swearing him to secrecy. Union Station was sixty miles away. We took the giant in his big box across to Cardiff, arriving at Newell's farm at midnight in a pouring rain. We put the box back of the barn and covered it with hay and straw, and two weeks later we went back and bur ied the image in a grave five feet deep. The interment took place at dead of night, and we had to transport and erect for the purpose a huge derrick. Indeed, it was no small job to remove all trace of the midnight burial.

    “I returned to Binghamton and waited one year less two weeks. In the mean time I manufactured cigars. I had previously given Newell directions how to discover the giant. It came out all right. I didn't go near the spot for two or three days after it was dug up, and was first told of the great find by several people on the street. I professed to believe it was a ‘sell’. When I did go, crowds were flocking to the grave from all parts of the country, and Newell was making a small fortune charging 50 cents a head to see the wonder. One day he took in $220, and in all must have realized about $7000 before the giant was taken froom the grave. The State Geologist and a party of scientific gentlemen came to view it and proclaimed it a petrified human being, and then came the speculators.”

    Mr. Hull recounted the various efforts to buy the prize. Spencer of Utica, and Higgins, Gillett & Westcott of Syracuse, offered Newell $30,000 for three-fourths interest in the giant, leaving Newell one fourth. Hull was still in the background and very much disgusted. He says that Newell became so puffed up with the importance of the secret that he could not contain himself, and told it to several of his relatives and friends. Hull saw that the secret would soon leak out, and decided to realize at once and quit. He told Newell to close the bargain, and Newell paid Hull $20,000 as his share. Just after the bargain had been closed P. T. Barnum appeared, and, after some inquiries, said to Hull:

    “So you are George Hull, who made the Cardiff Giant. How and where did you make it?”

    Assuming an indifferent and jocose air, Hull replied: “Oh, yes; I made it on the hillside near Binghamton.”

    “How did you get it over here?” was Barnum's next question.

    “Oh,” said Hull, “I put it on my shoulder one afternoon, and ever since my shoulders have been kind of stiff and sore.”

    Barnum laughed and went over to talk with the man who had just bought the giant. He offered him $60,000 for the use of the figure for three months. The offer was refused.

    Mr. Hull finally got $3000 for his one-fourth interest in the figure, which made $23,000 in all.

    As his expenses were $3000, this left him more than $20,000 for his work. There were soon six copies of the wonder being exhibited through the country.