Paul Bunyan Statues

Legend of Paul Bunyan

Giant-sized Paul Bunyan statues are scattered around the country, but like most other myths born on the American frontier, the legend of Paul Bunyan is obscured in the mists of time. Tall tales describe his life:

  • When he was born it took five storks to deliver him and it took a whole herd of cows to keep him fed
  • At just a week old he was big enough to wear his father’s clothes
  • He once bent a crowbar and used it as a safety pin to hold his pants together
  • Dragging his axe behind him carved out the Grand Canyon
  • He was able to fell trees an acre at a time
  • He used to whistle through a hollowed-out log
  • His footprints created Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes

The stories are impossible to trace, though their widespread popularity is due primarily to a public relations man at the Red River Lumber Company, William Laughead.

Pen and ink illustration of Paul Bunyan and Babe the Ox drinking from a stream.
Paul Bunyan and Babe the Ox illustration by William Laughead. Public domain image.

Beginning in 1914, and continuing for the next 20 years, Laughead and the lumber company, which was owned by the Walker family (founders of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis), published a series of illustrated booklets recounting the stories already in general circulation around the logging camps.

The booklets bore the full title The Marvelous Exploits of Paul Bunyan as Told in the Camps of the White Pine Lumberman for Generations, During Which Time the Loggers Have Pioneered the Way through the North Woods from Maine to California, Collected from Various Sources and Embellished for Publication.

Paul Bunyan Statues

The first large statues of Paul and Babe were built in 1937 in Bemidji, where they now stand along the lake. Statues of Paul and Babe were later built in nearby Brainerd, Minnesota, and others can be found in logging towns from coast to coast.

Both Brainerd and Bemidji are stops along our cross-country road trip following the Great River Road.

Three statues of Paul Bunyan around the US

Paul and Babe can also be found along the Pacific Coast Road Trip at Klamath, California, or via an inland detour in Oregon to Portland.

Other famous Paul Bunyan statues reside in Bangor, Maine (part of the Great Northern route) and in Akeley, Minnesota, which hosts a yearly Paul Bunyan Days festival.

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