Peale put together the first scientific expedition in America. He and his crew went to New York and dug up a full mastodon skeleton. The mastodon is extinct, but it was kind of like an elephant. Below is Peale’s The Exhumation of the Mastodon. This painting shows Peale’s crew trying to dig the mastodon out of the ground. They are using to the buckets and wheel to empty the water out of the hole.
Peale also collected living snakes, toads, turtles, and fish. He stuffed other animals, including several species of birds. He classified everything using the Linnaean taxonomy. The Linnaean taxonomy is the same system we use today to classify living things (though it is much more complex today).
Charles Wilson Peale gathered all these animals and created a natural history museum in Philadelphia. He placed each animal in its own natural habitat. He put the mastodon’s bones back together to create a full, 3D skeleton. Neither of these things were common in natural history museums in the 1800s but you’ll notice skeletons and animals in natural scenes when you go the museum now. Above is Peale’s The Artist in his Museum. It shows Peale pulling the curtain to reveal his natural history museum. Notice the mastodon skeleton behind the curtain and the stuffed animals lining the walls.
**If anyone knows of a good site about Linnaean taxonomy for kids, please tell us about it in the comments. I couldn't find one to link to here, but it would be very helpful. Thanks!**