The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW)
Date: June 15, 1889
Page Number: 7
Report me and my cause aright."-HAMLET.

Barnum said the world liked to be humbugged, and he spoke from experience. His statement, as his countrymen say, "holds water," and it is as true of Australia as of any other part of the two hemispheres. From theosophy and spirit-rapping to marble men, from Slade to the Cardiff Giant, the range of accepted humbug has run. And it makes little difference to the world whether Slade is exposed--as he has been or the petrified man is dissected and proved no petrified man--as it has not been--it is always ready for the next humbug at from a shilling a throw upwards. Sydney has been paying its two shillings to see this "ancient sculpture or petrified man," and there has been a diversity of opinion as to its genuineness among gentlemen supposed to be qualified to speak on such subjects. The only excuse for introducing the subject in this column is the prominence given it by those gentlemen, who include physicians, sculptors, and artists. In my poor opinion the only men calculated to give a correct judgment off-hand upon this subject are Artemus Ward and Mark Twain. Artemus Ward used to talk much about "sculpists" and their method, but he is dead; and Mark Twain himself discovered a marble man in the Sierras a good many years ago, and wrote columns about it to a San Francisco paper. After much excitement and elaborate newspaper obsequies, this petrified inhabitant of the Sierras was interred in the chasms created by the "loud guffaws" of the American public.

There may be a Mark Twain, for all we know, at Cow Flat, or thereabouts. I paid my two shillings to see this work of art. It was beautifully laid out on an expensive piece of black cloth, and looked good for all the ages to come. As for the ages of the past-- that is a matter I think of "loud guffaws." An able artist friend of mine, who is something more than a dab at anatomy, and who adds to his knowledge of the office of saw bones an observation of nature, pointed out some facts that might be interesting if they could all be noted here ; but there is not space. When I ventured to speak of ages gone, and the Greek-like head of the "too, too solid flesh," he added, "navvy-like, you mean," and I was soon convinced. When I spoke solemnly of "those feet that had been co-oval with Ptolemy or the Shepherd Kings," he said, "then there's a new fact in the social custom of the time, for this fellow wore boots; his toes show that." And, besides other impossibilities, he explained also, that if a body lay upon the ground it would conform to its surface, but this fellow disdained to have any close contact with the earth. There is only one way out of the difficulty. Let there be held--and the artist suggested this--a coroner's inquest. Then the head can be sawn open and the legs divided, and we shall soon see what the fellow is made of, even as on looking at a bit of petrified wood we can see every delicacy of grain and formation.

I must apologise to my constituents for bringing in this question of "quarry art," but let us lay it upon the doctors, the "sculpists," and the rest.
marble_man_5001021.jpg marble_man_5001020.jpg marble_man_5001019.jpg
P. T. Barnum
Artemus Ward
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Mark Twain's Petrified Man
Twain later admitted that he was surprised at how many people were fooled by his story. It was his first attempt at a hoax, and when he penned it he had considered it "a string of roaring absurdities." But once he realized how well his deception had succeeded, he admitted feeling a "soothing secret satisfaction."
The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW)
Date: June 15, 1889
Page Number: 7
Have we now heard the last of the marble man ? "Give a dog a bad name, and then hang him." What is the credit of our oldest inhabitant - our survivor from the stone age - worth now that it appears from official report that he is well known, perhaps too well known, to the police ? It is a curious thing that, where the doctors have differed, and a very pretty quarrel has been raised between geology, anatomy, and art the sub-inspector should be called upon for the satisfactory solution of the problem. But after all, if the question is one, not of palæontology, but of chiselling, who should be so competent to deal with it as a sharp officer of police ? At one point there was a remarkable oversight in the management of the business. It was reported that not only had a petrified man been found, but also a woman and a child complete. Now if, instead of hiding these under a large tree and covering them with leaves, they had been brought out for exhibition, the discovery would have created a furore, in place of a mild and somewhat critical excitement. The disinterment of a prehistoric or pre-Adamite family would have been a matter of domestic interest ; and besides having a doctor to swear by the anatomy, and a sculptor to proclaim that the work was perfect beyond the power of man, there might have been a jury of matrons to declare that never was so fine a baby seen before.
The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW)
Date: June 15, 1889
Page Number: 9

Sir,--As one somewhat interested in the "Marble Man," I wish to draw your attention to some rather contradictory statements published in your Parliamentary paper of to-day's issue purporting to be made by one Constable Rossiter. Please oblige me by printing these two statements side by side, and let the public judge of the value of such evidence :
"Police Constable E. F. Rossiter, of Blayney, reports on June 8, for the information of Sub-inspector Ford, "That on the 20th May last, during the time he was doing temporary duty at Orange, he visited a house in Summer-street which was occupied by a man exhibiting a marble figure, which he represented to be 'an ancient sculpture, or petrified human body.' Before entering the building the constable was accosted by a man who stated his name was Bridon. He also informed the constable that the figure that was being exhibited inside was carved by the man who was exhibiting it at his quarry at or near Caleula, and added that it was a fraud and an imposition on the public."
"I also beg to attach a report from Constable Rossiter, who was on temporary duty at Orange on the 20th May last. William Brydon is a partner of Sala's in the marble quarry at Caleula, consequently he expected to share in the profits of the marble man's exhibition; and he is most anxious to have this quarry brought prominently before the public.”
I am, &c ,

June 14.
Could the same person (Bridon/Brydon) acknowledge that the Marble Man was "a fraud and an imposition on the public" yet still seek to profit from its public exhibition?

I doubt that P. T. Barnum would consider it to be a contradiction...
The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW)
Date: June 17, 1889
Page Number: 5

Sir,--The police evidence in re "the marble man" is neither conclusive nor convincing. In consequence of the diversely opposite statements on the main question of the rival quarry-owners - one stating the specimen was made at Cow Flat, and the other that it was made at his quarry at Caleula - it is neither reasonable nor just to arrive at any conclusion in the matter. The supposition that it could be fashioned as it is in the time stated is an utter absurdity; and on this crucial point not alone Signor del Vescovo, but also another well-known sculptor, in a prominent position in town, thoroughly agrees with me. To do justice in this matter a section should be enforced as the only means of solving the problem. Should it be thus shown that I am incorrect in my opinion, I shall admit my error and gracefully retire. Otherwise, for abundant reasons which are palpably plain and convincing, I cannot be forced into a conclusion from which my entire reasoning capacity shrinks.

I am, &c.,

June 15.
Dr. Charles McCarthy:
"Should it be thus shown that I am incorrect in my opinion, I shall admit my error and gracefully retire."
Political and Social Letter.
The Sydney Morning Herald (NSW)
Date: June 18, 1889
Page Number: 2

THE "marble man" has been proved to be neither mummy nor a petrification, but a sculpture. That is what I declared it to be in one of my letters to the Examiner, and I remarked that anyone who possessed a knowledge of anatomy could hardly come to any other conclusion. A Mr. SALA is the creator of the statue, and one cannot but wonder at his audacity in trying to represent it as the remains of a human being. He did so probably in accordance with the Barnum proverb, that people like to be humbugged. The history of its manufacture has been told by a police officer, and his report was published in yesterday's newspapers. The astonishing thing connected with the fraud is that several so-called experts asserted most positively that the object was what its owner represented it to be. Dr. MACARTHY was the first who took this ground, and he was followed by an Italian sculptor who has resided a long time in Sydney. I wonder will they stick to their opinions. I shall not be surprised if they do, for it is notorious that experts are great believers in their own infallibility. But it is certain that the general public will not be impressed with the knowledge possessed by those gentlemen. If Dr. Macarthy were wise he would instantly take passage for Timbuctoo, for if he remains in Australia he will be the laughing stock of the people for months to come. It seems that Mr. Sala had announced that as well as a petrified man he had discovered a petrified woman, and a petrified girl. I should not be surprised if he had said he had discovered a petrified representative of every animal that has ever existed on earth. A pity for him that the imposition was exposed so soon, for the "marble man" has been a great draw in Sydney, and the interest in him was steadily increasing. The charge for admission was 2s a head, and as probably 100 people at least went in every day, the net receipts constituted a capital income. Mr. Sala is, I understand, a brother of GEORGE AUGUSTUS SALA, the well-known English journalist. When the story of the "marble man" reaches the old country, George Augustus will hear a great deal about it in the clubs.
"I wonder will they stick to their opinions. I shall not be surprised if they do, for it is notorious that experts are great believers in their own infallibility."
George Augustus Henry Sala
(24 November 1828 – 8 December 1895)
English journalist.
The Marble Man
Part 2
Part 3
Part 4
Part 5
Part 6
Part 7
Part 8
Part 9
Part 10
Part 11
Part 12
Part 13
The Marble Man part 5