In the latter 1970s I began corresponding with Francis Messmore of Messmore & Damon, a New York-based company that specialized in mechanical figures. Messmore & Damon had made the mechanical dinosaurs and other prehistoric creatures for “The World a Million Years Ago,” a popular attraction that premiered at the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, “A Century of Progress,” presented in a large dome-like building. Francis was the son of George Harold Messmore, one of the company’s two founders. I had originally contacted Francis Messmore to get information about the prehistoric show for a book I was writing at the time called The Dinosaur Scrapbook.
In 1985, just before going on tour to promote the movie Baby. Secret of the Lost Legend, Francis told me that some of the creatures — still operational but in storage — were for sale! Two of them, even if I could afford them, were way too big for my house and weren’t made to survive the elements outside. a mammoth and a Brontosaurus. But I could afford and had space to accommodate the smaller items he offered me — a 15-foot wide adult and also a baby Pteranodon, a mosasaur and a seven-foot-tall cave bear, all of them mechanical (and still working).
From “The World a Million Years Ago” souvrnir program booklet…
Shortly after that purchase, being in New York to do my “Fantasy Dinosaurs of the Movies” presentation at the American Museum of Natural History, I visited the Messmore & Damon studio and found yet more items of interest. These included a way-too-big Archaeopteryx, the head of a Kong-like giant gorilla, a miniature mock-up of “The World a Million Years Ago” dome, plus one more cave bear. Also, I spotted on the floor the head of the company’s famous “Brontosaurus” figure. Unfortunately the cranium wasn’t for sale unless the rest of its 40-foot-long body went with it.
Purchases from Messmore and Damon didn’t end there. Over the next few years I bought from the company a couple original paintings by George Messmore, some “souvenir” miniature figures and even an entire family of wax cave people. I displayed the “prehistoric people” (as Francis Messmore referred to them) in my garage for a couple years, until a Southern California heat wave caused their wax bodies to split apart. I salvaged the brutes’ heads and brought them inside the house for display, but crated up the rest of their waxy remains.
Obtaining the Messmore & Damon figures was a great opportunity to add some unique items to my collection. And I’m probably the only prehistoria collector around who has in his home two giant cave bears!
To see more “World a Million Years Ago” collectibles, CLICK HERE.