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Odd Wisconsin Archive

Giants In the Earth


Wisconsin had both real giants and mythological ones. The best known of the latter was probably Paul Bunyan, but 1,000 years earlier the Ho-Chunk had crafted tales about the hero Red Horn battling a race of giants:

"In the early days there were Giants tall as trees and their bodies in proportion to their height; and their especial food seemed to be people, Indians, and especially the Hotcungara (Ho-Chunk). At one time the Winnebago had a big village, and a large number of Giants came and made a village of their own right alongside..." (source)

Real Giants

The best known of Wisconsin's actual giants was probably Cornish immigrant Frederick Shadick, who lived in the Lead Region in the early 1850s. You can read about him (and his seven-foot tall wife, Jane) in this article about his shoe-making equipment in our museum.

Another was Allen Bradley (1818-1885), who lived at the far tip of Door County at Gill's Rock (map). Although only six feet tall, his build make him look short and stocky: "he measured more than four feet around the chest, he had hands as broad as shovels and was obliged to wear moccasins because no shoes could be bought that were big enough."

In the decade before the Civil War, Bradley supported himself by hunting, fishing, and occasional jobs that demanded great strength. He lifted 300-pound barrels with ease, and once retrieved a 1000-pound anchor from a shipwreck. During the war he was captured by Confederate troops, who confiscated his weapons and put him under the guard of two soldiers. According to the press, "he suddenly seized them by the neck with a grip of steel in either hand, swung them off their feet, and carried them like two squirming kittens back behind federal lines."


:: Posted in Curiosities on July 18, 2013
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