The American Museum of Natural History was founded in 1869, and was originally housed in the Arsenal building in Central Park. The museum was the dream of Dr. Albert S. Bickmore, who lobbied for years to turn his vision into a reality; it was in 1869 that he finally won the support of the Governor of New York, John Thompson Hoffman. The buildings in Manhattan Square began to take shape in 1874 (you can read more about the buildings here), and the now-iconic 94-foot blue whale model made its debut in the late 1960s.
Click through to check out some photos from the late 1930s, when "work continued on finishing the dioramas and updating older groups with newer specimens. The flurry of building openings in 1934 and 1935—celebrating the completion of the Theodore Roosevelt Memorial, the Hayden Planetarium, and the Akeley African Wing—was followed by a long period when no new construction occurred at the Museum." Funding had become tight around this time, with America's entry into World War II.