|SVP logo, feat. Marsh pick|
Today, a member of the preplist asked for photos with scale for use in recreating that ubiquitous paleontology icon, the Marsh pick. In the VPL prep lab archives I've come across a letter from Wann Langston to someone at the AMNH (or maybe it was a response, anyway, correspondence of some sort from somebody to somebody) from the 60s or 70s discussing the multitude of pick heads boxed in the basement with a price of $7 plus postage for anyone wanting one. Damn that those days are behind us! As soon as I find that letter again I'll post it here.
What is a Marsh pick, some might ask? Well, youngster, before the rise of the Estwing Rock Hammer, the Marsh pick was "the universal field tools of vertebrate paleontologists," as described by Ned Colbert in "A Fossil Hunter's Notebook"(1980, p. 131). His wife, artist Margaret Colbert, incorporated it into the design for the cover art of the Society of Vertebrate Paleontology News Bulletin, and it was later adopted by the SVP as the organization's official logo, which can now be found on all sorts of nifty SVP swag (proceeds of which go to support the Society.) I've compiled what information I have at hand here in this post, and would be highly interested in hearing from anyone who can add to the fact or lore associated with this instrument.
The first printed reference I have seen relating to our story comes thanks to blogger Michael Ryan, who contributed the following bit of paleo history to the internet in 2006 (there were blogs way back in 2006? Holy crow!) Beyond this, I do not know much about the genesis of the famous whacking tool.
|Popular Science August, 1932, From Palaeoblog|
Tools for excavating include: shovels, large railroad picks, small "drift" picks, paleontological or "Marsh" picks (fig. 4c), which, by the way, are more expensive and scarcely better than a good, light "drift" pick (fig. 4a). A crowbar is sometimes handy.Ouch. But something changed the minds of a generation of paleontologists in the 43 years between Camp's thoughts and Colbert's observation. Although, I don't use one in the field very often either, my long-handled Estwing rock hammer has served me well for >10 years. [A brief aside: I can't stand those Estwing Geo/Paleo Picks. I just find them to be sized all wrong. Too short to be useful as a two-handed earth mover, too long (only slightly, though, if you're 6' plus) to be used accurately as a one-handed rock hammer. Also, the weight is all wrong. It fills a middle niche that doesn't really exist, in my opinion. To move serious rock, you need mass X acceleration, a strong point, and the leverage of a long handle for both a decent swing and prying power once the tool tip is embedded in your target. Target, I said, not the fossil. I suspect that if you think the Paleo Pick is for you, a few lessons on the proper mechanics of a good 3lb pickax might change your mind. Oh! And the padded handle! You cannot slide your hand along the length of haft as you swing, which results in even more and less efficient labor! And the stupid handle is round! You've got to squeeze it tighter to keep it from rotating, which leads to even more fatigue! Somebody's gonna hurt themselves with one of these.] Ok, that wasn't brief, and we haven't even addressed the original request, pictures and measurements of the tool! From here on out, I'll let the pictures do the talking, with details in the photo captions. Like I said, I want to hear more if you've got sources!
[You can click on the pictures here for full size images]
|"Carnegie" Pick: 15.25" OAL, 1.625" max height Colbert pick: 13.25" OAL, 1.625"max height|
|"Carnegie" pick: 1.25" at widest part of eye, .4375" most of length of spike before both point and blade. Colbert pick: 1.25" at eye, .3125" width of spike|