Erie Dinosaur Park
They had a son and two daughters and lived on a farm near Galesburg for a while before moving to Texas, where Dorris worked in the aircraft industry for General Dynamics in Fort Worth. After he retired, they returned to live in southeastern Kansas, on the outskirts of Erie, a rural community of around 1150.
In his retirement he was inspired to make the sculptures after seeing the dinosaur displays at the Smithsonian, as well as being challenged by his daughter to recreate a sculpture she had shown him. Mr. Dorris made the sculptures using scrap metal, primarily automobile parts, ranging in size. He started haunting local junkyards to find potential body parts of scrap metal: vehicle seat springs were turned into ribs, car hoods became wings, bolts found a new life as fearsome teeth, and heads were formed from transmission casings, crankshafts, and oil pans.
Dorris’s creatures were generally faithful depictions of the prehistoric creatures that roamed the Kansas plains; mostly painted and ranging in scale from a few inches to thirty feet long, his menagerie included favorites such as Tyrannosaurus Rex, Stegosaurus, Velociraptor, Triceratops, Brontosaurus, and Eryops.
Mr. Dorris passed away in 2007, at the age of 82. In February 2014, Dorris’s family donated twelve of his numerous sculptures to the city of Erie. Believing that the sculptures will become a major attraction for visitors to the town, the dinosaurs were trucked down the street and reinstalled on specially constructed concrete pads inside city limits.
Photo by Kelly Ludwig.
The artist behind all of our masterpieces is Robert Dorris, born in Guymon, Oklahoma. Dorris joined the US Navy at the age of 17 and served during World War II aboard the aircraft carrier Princeton in the Pacific Theatre until it was sunk in the Battle of Leyte Gulf. Later, he served on the USS Siboney. Following his honorable discharge, Dorris moved to Kansas, where he met and, in 1949, married Elveta Newberry.