This was perpetrated by by George Keller, who later became a noted animal trainer, and Norman Hoffman in Pennsylvania.
Keller bruited it abroad that he had received a Chinese Dragon. This caused enough interest for the local paper, the Morning Post to turn up. The editor was shown the animal's crate and it was opened sufficiently for him to photograph a small part of the creature inside. The photograph was distorted and the beast looked absolutely horrendous. The story went countrywide and Keller said the Chinese Dragon would be put on exhibition inside a tent.
On the first day of the exhibition over 1,000 persons turned up and crowds continued to attend each day. No academic that I know of came forward to point out that the Chinese Dragon was a fictitious animal.
In fact, the creature was an iguana or, rather, a succession of iguanas. The first one died, perhaps due to the unsuitable climate. The same thing happened to a number of succeeding iguanas.
The exhibition ended when a sailor identified the "dragon", having seen such creatures in the Philippines.