Lukas Rieppel works at the intersection of the history of science and the history of capitalism. His book in progress, “Assembling the Dinosaur,” chronicles the discovery of spectacular dinosaur fossils in the American West, a development that coincided with America’s emergence as an industrial powerhouse during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era.
“Many of the most important dinosaur fossils found in Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah were discovered by miners and became a part of the extractive economy, much like other natural resources that could be taken out of the earth and sold,” says Rieppel. “The discovery of dinosaurs precisely corresponded with the intense growth of capitalism during the Gilded Age and Progressive Era, when the country’s GDP grew to exceed that of France, England, and Germany combined. By the turn of the 20th century, dinosaurs became a symbol of America’s enormous economic might and power.”