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The Ohio incognitum was such a famous American mystery that it attracted intense interest from Founding Fathers of the United States even during the birth of the new nation.

We’ve seen that Benjamin Franklin had already played a part in scientific debates about the creature. He possessed four precious tusks and three grinders from Big Bone Lick. By the time of the American War of Independence (1775– 1783) George Washington also owned a grinder tooth from Big Bone Lick. The mystery caught Washington’s attention even during the hard fought years of the Revolutionary War. When more huge teeth were found on a farm in New York’s Hudson River valley in 1780, Washington and his officers rode out one wintery day to see the fossils for themselves. Two years later, Washington sent a dozen men to the same farm to help dig for more.

But for Thomas Jefferson, the Ohio incognitum was more than an interesting puzzle. It became a lasting obsession. Jefferson’s involvement in the mystery began four or five years after he wrote the Declaration of Independence (with changes and contributions from Benjamin Franklin and others). He discussed the unknown Ohio animal in his only book, Notes on the State of Virginia, because of a matter of national pride. As the Thirteen Colonies fought for independence from England, Americans wished to celebrate their culture and natural wonders. But people in the old cities of Europe had an annoying habit of looking down on the young colonies. A particularly insulting example of this attitude was a peculiar scientific theory by the famous French naturalist Georges Louis Leclerc de Buffon. According to Buffon, nature was much weaker, much less active, on one side of the globe than the other. Europe, where Buffon lived, was of course on the strong, vigorous side. But in America the climate was unhealthy for living things. This made American animals feeble and small, Buffon claimed. Even the people were weaklings.

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INTERNET PORNOGRAPHY SPECIAL SECTION: IS PORNOGRAPHY BAD FOR YOU?; How Porn Is Messing with Your Manhood; Skeptical of Porn Skeptics; Hazards of Herbal Medicine: Lessons from Aristolochia; What is Sexual Orientation?; Did a Teenager Discover an Ancient Mayan City on Google Earth?; Paleo Diets and Utopian Dreams; Does AA Work? Alcoholics Anonymous, 12-Step Programs, and What We Really Know About Substance Abuse Treatment; The Clash of Eschatologies: The Role of End-Times Thinking in World History; Nightmares from the Id: The Neurophysiology of Anomalous Psychological Experiences; Terror Attacks that Never Were; Electromagnetic Fields and Parental Panics: A Case Study in How Science Can Bring Comfort; REVIEWS: Who Invented Science?; Science and the Creation of the Modern Mind; Heaven Is Not For Real; When Scientific American Put Psychics to the Test; JUNIOR SKEPTIC: MammothMysteries! Part One. The Hidden History of Mammoths and Mastodons