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HENRY A. WARD, A. M., F. G. S.,


Professor of Natural Sciences, in the University of Rochester


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Copyright 2005-2009 by Mike Everhart

ePage created 01/05/2005; last updated 02/13/2009

Henry A. Ward (1840-1906) was the founder of Ward's Scientific Company of Rochester, NY. The company is still in business today as Wards Natural Science selling mineral specimens, fossil kits and other scientific equipment. Ward spent many years of collecting geological specimens in Europe and Africa, and returned to Rochester, New York, in 1860. From 1860 to 1865 he taught natural science at the University of Rochester, and began to supply colleges and universities with geological collections for study and exhibit. Ward later became interested in meteorites and built up a large collection before he died in 1906. (More info here at the University of Rochester)


The pictures shown on this page are drawings of casts that appeared in the Henry A. Ward catalog of fossil replicas of 1866. The original casts were housed in the Ward collection of fossil replicas in Rochester until 1893 when they were displayed at the Chicago Exhibition with many of his other replicas. About that time, the Field Museum of Chicago bought most of the original Ward collection.


While the figures were done by an artist and are not correct to the last detail, they do provide an idea of how plesiosaurs were viewed by Americans of the time, including E. D. Cope. Ward's descriptions are excellent and the original specimens are, in most cases, still on exhibit in England. I asked Richard Forrest ( to comment on the specimens and his notes are included below the descriptions of each by Ward.

60                                                         Vertebrata.


No. 225    Plesiosaurus dolichodeirus, Conyb. [Conybeare]

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SKELETON on slab. The Plesiosaurus was first discovered in 1822, by Conybeare and De la Beche. Cuvier thought “its structure the most singular and its characters the most anomalous that had been found amid the ruins of a former world.”  “To the head of a Lizard (wrote Buckland) it united the teeth of Crocodile, a neck of enormous length, resembling the body of a Serpent, a trunk and tail having the proportions of an ordinary quadruped, the ribs of a Chameleon, and the paddles of a Whale.” The skull is three times longer than its breadth, and sub-compressed. The cranium is quadrate; nostrils small and situated near the eye; teeth slightly recurved, striated, sharp, long, and slender, lodged in distinct alveoli, — the anterior being the longest, The swan-like neck consists of from twenty to forty vertebrae, while living Reptiles have not over nine cervicals. The pectoral arch is remarkable for the greatly elongated broad coracoid hones. The clavicle is united to the scapula as in Chelonia. Next to Turtles, the P. [Plesiosaurus] exhibits the greatest development of abdominal ribs. The ribs are articulated as in Lizards. The digits of the fore-paddle support respectively 3, 5-7, 8 or 9, 8, and 5 or 6 phalanges; those of the hind-paddle have 3, 5, 8 or 9, 8, and 6. The P. differs from the Ichthyosaurus in being pentadactylous, in having a long neck, longer and more flexible paddles, a shorter tail, vertebrae longer and nearly flat with two pits on the under-side, and more slender teeth. The latter is generally found lying on the side; the former, extended on it back. The P. dolichodeirus is characterized by its extremely long neck and very small head. The proportion of the parts is nearly thus: taking the head as 1, the neck will be 5, the body 4, and the tail 3: the whole length being thirteen times that of the head. The four paddles are equal in size. This specimen from the British Museum discovered in the Lias at  Glastonbury, England.
                                                                      Size, 6 ft. x 2 ft. 9 in. Price, $18.00.

Richard Forrest: "No 225 is the specimen figured by Thomas Hawkins in 'The book of the Great Sea Dragons', the plate being reused in some copies of 'Memoirs of Ichthyosauri and Plesiosauri'. I think that it is now on the wall in the NHM, and is specimen No. BMNH 2018, but I'll confirm that. See Storrs and Taylor (1996) assigned it to the genus and species Thallasiodracon hawkinsi. The change in specific name - Hawkins called it Plesiosaurus tessarestarsostinus - was made by Owen. As it predates the code for zoological nomenclature, Storrs and Taylor elected to stick to the more recent name. I guess it's one of the things we have to thank Owen for- we have enough unpronounceable names as it is."


                                                         REPTILIA                                                    61


No. 227     Plesiosaurus macrocephalus, Conyb.

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SKELETON on slab. This species is distinguished by the relatively larger size of the head and thicker neck. The neck is three times the length of the head; and the posterior paddles are longer than the anterior pair. In this very perfect specimen, belonging to the Earl of Enniskillen,   Ireland, the vertebral column is thrown into an arched position:  the cervicals and dorsals form a continuous series; the tail is imperfect. Three paddles are exposed, and the upper part of the cranium with the orbits and the jaws and teeth are clearly defined. The original was discovered  in the Lyme-Regis, England, by Miss Mary Anning, and described by Dr. Buckland.

                                                         Size 2 ft. 9 in. x 2 ft. 6 in.        Price. $12.00.

Richard Forrest: "No 227 is obviously very familiar - it's the specimen my web site logo is based on! It's BMNH 1336. It is now housed in the NHM in London and is mounted with a large collection of other plesiosaurs and ichthyosaurs on the wall opposite the bookshop. It was described by Owen (1840). The name 'Plesiosaurus macrocephalus' is in need of revision, a matter Mark Evans will deal with in his study of Liassic plesiosaurs. We've discussed this specimen, and it's certainly juvenile, probably of the genus Rhomaleosaurus, though needless to say this genus needs revision."


62                                              VERTEBRATA.

No: 228.  Plesiosaurus Cramptoni, Carte and Baily.

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SKELETON, on slab. This splendid Plesiosaurus — the largest ever discovered was found in 1848 in the Lias, near Whitby, England, and adorns the Natural History Museum of the Royal Dublin Society. It lies in a prone position, resting upon the ventral surface with the head and neck slightly inclined to the right The skull is almost entirely free from the matrix, and is very perfect, excepting the zygomas. In contour it is crocodilo-lacertian; it is somewhat flattened in proportion to its length and width, tapering from the parietal crest to the snout. The orbits are obliquely placed and sub-triangular in shape the greatest diameter is five and a half inches. The nasal apertures are ovoid, and are situated well in front of the orbits. The anterior portion of the cranium is elongated and rounded at the muzzle. The lower jaw is extremely massive, its greatest length being three feet six inches, and its greatest depth six inches. The teeth number over a hundred. They resemble those of the Crocodile in their irregular arrangement, and in being implanted in distinct cavities. The large teeth are situated in front. The length of the head is to that of the neck as five to eight, and to that of the whole skeleton as one to six, The vertebral column throughout has fallen over towards the right side, presenting a slightly irregular curve, thus exposing in the cervical series a side of the centrums with their large neurapophyses. The cervical vertebrae number twenty-seven. There are thirty dorsals, having a united length of eight feet. The caudal portion is somewhat dislocated: the centrums with their spines and processes are, however, well exhibited. The vertebrae of this region number thirty-four. The ribs are well shown, being nearly in their original position, Excepting the left hind-paddle which is imperfect, the extremities are remarkably preserved. The carpal and tarsal bones are each six in number; the metacarpals and metatarsals, four. The humerus and femur are each twenty inches long. This cast is in eight pieces.


                                                 Size. 22 ft. 8 in. x 12 ft 6 in.  Price, painted, $150

No. 229. Plesiosaurus Cramptoni, Carte and Bailey,

       Head of
No, 228.                                      Size, 3 ft. 6 in. x 2 ft.     Price, $15

No. 230. Plesiosaurus Cramptoni, Carte and Baily.

       Left Fore-Paddle of No. 228.                  Size, 5 ft. 4 in. x 14 in. Price, $10.00

Richard Forrest: "No 228 is the holotype of Rhomaleosaurus cramptoni. (Carte & Baily, 1863) It has has a very checked history. In the 1920's the Dublin Museum was taken over to provide a home for the parliament of the new Irish state, and the specimen was ignominiously broken up with sledge hammers, and stored in a disused church near Feale in the wilds of the Irish countryside together with a number of other undescribed specimens mainly from the Yorkshire Lias. There is now generous (relatively speaking) funding available, and Adam Stuart Smith is about to embark on his PhD which will involve the preparation and full description of this wonderful specimen as well as the others in the collection. There are several casts of this specimen in various museums, notably in the NHM, but also in Bath. It's worth noting that one of the limbs was missing when the specimen was collected, so one of the jobs Adam has to do is to spot the reconstruction. As far as I am aware there is no specimen number.


63                                                                 REPTILIA


No. 231                              Pliosaurus brachydeirus,  Owen

          PADDLE. This big-headed, short necked, amplicoelian Reptile was more closely lacertilian than the Ichthyosaurus. With the exception of the teeth, which are thicker and stronger, of the vertebra of the neck which like those of the Ichthyosaurus are compressed, and of the more massive proportions of the jaws and paddle-bones, the skeleton of the Pliosaurus resembles that of the Plesiosaurus. Some individuals attained the length of more than forty feet. The huge paddle was found in the Kimmeridgian bed (Upper Oolite)
near Dorchester, England and is in the Museum of that city.


Size. 7 ft. 2 in. x 1 ft. 9 in.   Price $18.00.

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Richard Forrest: "No 231, the Dorchester limb was still gathering dust on display last time I visited the museum, and still lingers there, undescribed, unloved and taxonomically uncertain. The plesiosaurs of the Kimmeridge Clay have had very little attention, and although we know that a considerable range of taxa exists, hardly anything has been properly described. It's one of those projects I might think about possibly considering undertaking when I have a few years of spare time on my hands...."


Credits: I thank Jane Davidson for supplying the scans from an 1866 Ward's catalogue. Richard Forrest ( provided current and historical information regarding the Jurassic plesiosaur specimens in the Wards Catalog.