That Time a Giant Dinosaur Balloon Was Inflated Inside the American Museum of Natural History

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Dinosaur balloon floats along the street, with a full view of the Museum behind it.

Sinclair’s Dino, just ahead of Bullwinkle J. Moose, floating above spectators on 77th Street in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in 1969.

© AMNH Library/62158_21a


On Thursday, the Museum is closed for the Thanksgiving holiday. But if you’re tuning in to watch the annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, you’ll see bit of Museum history floating high above New York’s streets. 

A green Apatosaurus balloon measuring 72 feet long will make its way from the Museum on 77th Street—where it’s being inflated today alongside 16 other giant character balloons—to Macy’s Herald Square at 34th Street.

This balloon, appropriately named Dino, first made its debut in the world-famous parade in 1963, and the following year nine animatronic dinosaurs were exhibited at the 1964-1965 New York World’s Fair at the Dinoland Pavilion.

Like the fiberglass animatronics, which were based on the work of the Museum’s famous fossil hunter Barnum Brown, the inflatable sauropod was created by Sinclair Oil, which had been using dinosaurs in advertising since the 1930s—and had registered the popular Apatosaurus as a trademark in 1932.

 

Dinosaur balloon floats in the air past one of the Museum's turrets.

The original Dino was 60 feet long and his tail measured 20-feet. 

© AMNH Library/62152_14a


When Dino debuted in 1963, the balloon featured big eyes, a wide grin, and measured 60 feet long with a 20-foot tail. While parade organizers estimated Dino’s lifespan at five parades, “he outlived all expectations,” Bernie Campbell, Macy’s balloon captain at the time, told the Daily News in 1977. 

 

Large crowd stands around inflated dinosaur in the Museum's high-ceilinged rotunda.

When Dino was retired in 1976, he was displayed inside the Museum’s Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda for five days.

© AMNH Library/67059_25a


In 1976, after 13 years of successful service, Dino the balloon was retired—but not before he was given a memorable sendoff inside the Museum just before the 1977 festivities. The nearly 8,000 cubic feet of helium it normally took to make him fly was replaced with air, and Dino was displayed inside the Museum’s Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda for five days. Visitors were invited to see the balloon up close, and for a brief moment the rubber Apatosaurus was among the Museum’s major attractions. 

 

Large crowd stands around inflated dino in the Museum's high-ceilinged rotunda.

To display Dino indoors, 8,000 cubic feet of helium was replaced with air.

© AMNH Library/67051_08a


Today, another famous sauropod holds court inside the Theodore Roosevelt Rotunda. The Museum’s display of a Barosaurus rearing up on its hind legs in defense against an attacking Allosaurus is the tallest freestanding dinosaur mount in the world. 

And just upstairs, in the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs on the fourth floor, is the real-life inspiration for Sinclair’s Dino: the Museum’s Apatosaurus specimen, first collected in the late 1890s.

 

Full length Apatosaurus skeleton, on display in the Museum's hall.

The Museum’s Apatosaurus, on view in the Hall of Saurischian Dinosaurs.

© AMNH/D. Finnin


In 2015, the historic sauropod balloon made a triumphant return to the parade’s inflatable cast of characters. The new Dino, which is featured again this year, is noticeably sleeker, and longer than its predecessor by 12 feet.

So if you’re watching the Thanksgiving Day parade tomorrow, look out for the floating dino—and next time you’re visiting the Museum, make sure to stop in and say hello to Apatosaurus on the fourth floor. 

 

Tags: Dinosaurs