A few weeks before the Explorers Club held its annual dinner in 1951, the organization—a society for field researchers and dedicated adventurers— received a letter with a strange request. It came from Paul Howes, a taxidermist, diorama-painter, and curator at the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, Connecticut.
Dear Explorers Club:
Unfortunately I will have to be away at the time of the annual dinner, but I am so anxious to have a fragment of that 250,000 year-old mastodon (?) meat for this museum that I had planned to secretly pocket my share, and exhibit here for all time instead of swallowing it.
Would the Club let me have my tidbit preserved for this purpose if I sent in my $9.50, although I cannot be there to get it myself on the night of the dinner? This is a crazy request, but then you know explorers! I don’t see why anybody else should get my share either, so if you all say ‘yes’ I will send the check and an official bottle of preservative in which to drop this remarkable item, then we will have something here besides models and pictures and a couple of spare teeth to brag about.
Howes almost had it right—according to rumor, the Club was going to be serving mammoth, not mastodon. The meat had supposedly been hacked from an icy carcass in the Aleutian Islands by a Jesuit-turned-geologist named Bernard Hubbard, nicknamed the Glacier Priest for his intrepid trips across the Arctic. Hubbard claimed to know of a stash of ancient meat, and when he heard the Club had been trying to find some, he had a sampling flown down to New York. There in the Grand Ballroom of the Roosevelt Hotel, hundreds of scientists and explorers—hiking boots and pith helmets swapped out for tuxedoes—would dig into the prehistoric snack as they traded stories about their latest adventures and sipped drinks cooled with bits of Alaskan glacier.
The meat was gone in a flash: The priest had apparently only sent enough for every guest to try a small sliver. But one slice, as Howes had requested, was carefully slipped into the preserving bottle that he had mailed to the hotel. From there, it was sent back to the Bruce Museum in Greenwich, and displayed in the mammal room.