In 1835, Dexter Marsh (1806-1853), a laborer in Greenfield, Massachusetts, noticed fossil footprints in a slab of sidewalk paving stone. Over the next 18 years, he became an amateur paleontologist as he found and studied more fossils. He sold many to scientists and amateur collectors and he opened a museum, or "cabinet of curiosities", of his own fossils, along with other natural wonders he had collected. Marsh had the respect of Edward Hitchcock and James Deane, and reports of his museum appeared in newspapers as far away as New Orleans and Scotland.
The photographer of this image is unknown. It might have been J. L. Lovell, who made photographs of Edward Hitchcock's fossils in Amherst and became class photographer for the college.