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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Tall Tales of a Tall Guy


Every state that ever floated a log to a mill has claimed Paul Bunyan as part of their unique heritage. But, as every resident of the Badger State knows, he and Babe the Blue Ox really belong to Wisconsin. Need proof?

This article published in the Vilas County News in 1921 tells of some his well-known exploits. And the credibility of this pamphlet on the extremely rare animals that Paul Bunyan encountered, bearing as it does the imprint of the state archaeologist and museum director, cannot be impugned.

Seriously, though, we've mounted on the Web two sources that trace the origins of many of the folktales relating to Paul Bunyan. The first is this booklet from the Red River Lumber Co. of Minneapolis which, in 1922, collected tales from a variety of sources. The second is the fieldwork of ethnologist K. Berenice Stewart, who traveled among lumberjacks ca. 1910-1916 and transcribed the stories they told (as published in the Eau Claire Telegram in 1916).

For actual reminiscences by real lumberjacks, and much more about Wisconsin's logging industry, visit the "Lumbering and Forest Products" pages in Turning Points in Wisconsin History.

P.S.: If you know where the photograph behind the first link above was taken, please email us (below). We'd love to know more about it.
:: Posted in Curiosities on July 25, 2005

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