How Chicago’s Field Museum of Natural History won Sue!

The Smithsonian Museum of Natural History in Washington D.C. is finally getting a Tyrannosaurus -rex to add to its dinosaur collection.  The monster size fossil that will soon be on display is on loan from the Army Corps of Engineers for the next 50 years.  Seventeen years ago the Smithsonian was in pursuit of the Field Museum in Chicago’s T. -rex named Sue, but came up short.
How did the Field Museum land Sue over the Smithsonian in Washington D.C.? It is actually a good question and a great story!
Sue, the Tyrannosaurus -rex, was discovered in 1990 by Sue Hendrickson who worked for the Black Hills Institute of Geological Research in South Dakota.  Thus, thee massive fossil was nicknamed after Hendrickson and remains the largest and most complete specimen of the T.-rex to date.
Shortly after the discovery of Sue an ownership dispute began.  Maurice Williams, the property owner where Sue was found, eventually was awarded custody of the fossil after a federal court battle.  David Redden, an auctioneer for Sotheby’s a New York City auction company, was captivated by Sue and reached out to Williams.  Redden believed the fossil belonged in a public institute and it was then decided that the enormous treasure should be put up for sale.
The Field Museum’s then president, John McCather, was excited by the prospect of having Sue in Chicago and reached out to McDonald’s who had financed many projects for the Field Museum before. Almost instantly McDonald’s was on board to pursue the purchase of Sue at Sotheby’s.  McDonalds also brought Walt Disney on board for the acquisition.
On October 4,th 1997 the auction for the sale of Sue lasted only 9 minutes.  The bidding started at a whopping $500,000 and increased by $100,000 increments. After a three way battle at the end of the sale Sue was sold to the Field Museum for an incredible $7.6 million. 
Sue’s multi-million dollar sale rocked the paleontology world forever and stirred controversy over fossil ownership rights for several years.

Sue was finally mounted and put on display for the world to visit at the Field Museum of Natural History in Chicago in 2000. The larger than life fossil is now the center of attention, standing thirteen feet tall at her hip,  and Sue is photographed by visitors from around the world. (

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