OUT OF THE NORTHWOODS
The Many Lives of Paul Bunyan
Wisconsin Historical Society Press
Upper Midwest regional history; American folklore
“Rooted in the ingenuity of the pioneer spirit, this book presents an unvarnished look at the culture of the late nineteenth century lumber industry, how it shaped our region, the country, and created the legend of Paul Bunyan. Using the words of lumberjacks and old camp pictures, Edmonds traces the ambiguous roots of Paul Bunyan while giving us a clearer picture of lumber camp life. In addition, the book contains over 100 legends of Paul Bunyan and a fantastic list of references for further research!”
– Angie Grafstrom, Inspiration Hollow, Roseau, MN
“The real Paul Bunyan of lumber camp storytelling lives through Michael Edmond’s superbly researched, richly illustrated, and engagingly written study. The last and best word on Bunyan!”
— James P. Leary, professor and director of the Folklore Program, University of Wisconsin-Madison
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Image credit above: From “The Marvelous Exploits of Paul Bunyan”
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OUT OF THE NORTHWOODS (ISBN: 978-0-87020-437-1, $24.95) is available from Wisconsin Historical Society Press or from your preferred wholesaler. Be sure to contact the publisher for more information about this title.
OUT OF THE NORTHWOODS is a featured title in the 2009-2010 MBA Catalog.
Michael Edmonds is available for interviews and appearances when feasible geographically and for his schedule. If you’re interested in scheduling a store, book club or community event with him, please contact Melanie Roth, Marketing Coordinator at Wisconsin Historical Society Press, email@example.com, 608-264-6465.
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- Historic logging image #1 (JPG) – photo credit: WHi Image
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- Historic Paul Bunyan image #1 (JPG) – image credit: From “The Marvelous Exploits of Paul Bunyan”
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ABOUT THE BOOK
As a trailer of game he was unsurpassed. Once he came on a moose in the woods that had died of old age. Having some spare time, Paul in a short time traced this moose back to the place where it was born.
Every American has heard of the lumberjack hero Paul Bunyan and his big blue ox. For 100 years his exploits filled cartoons, magazines, short stories, and children’s books, and his name advertised everything from pancake breakfasts to construction supplies. By 1950 Bunyan was a ubiquitous icon of America’s strength and ingenuity. Until now, no one knew where he came from—and the extent to which this mythical hero is rooted in Wisconsin.
OUT OF THE NORTHWOODS presents the culture of nineteenth-century lumberjacks in their own words. It includes eyewitness accounts of how the first Bunyan stories were shared on frigid winter nights, around logging camp stoves, in the Wisconsin pinery. It describes where the tales began, how they moved out of the forest and into print, and why publication changed them forever.
By sifting through the unpublished manuscripts of early editors of the tales, Michael Edmonds unearths dozens of authentic Bunyan stories told aloud by lumberjacks between 1885 and 1915. Edmonds recounts a saga of lies, hoaxes, thefts, and greed that transformed the private jokes of working-class loggers into mass-market picture books for toddlers. The central characters include a genial northern Wisconsin con-man who claimed he invented the lumberjack hero, a spunky University of Wisconsin co-ed who collected the tales in logging camps in 1915, and a mild-mannered curator of the Wisconsin Historical Museum who lifted federal documents to keep the truth alive.
Part bibliographic mystery and part social history, OUT OF THE NORTHWOODS explains for the first time why we all know and love Paul Bunyan. An appendix includes more than 100 original tales about Bunyan, his camps, his crew, and his adventures taken directly from loggers early in the last century.
Photo credit above: WHi Image
Michael Edmonds has published several books and articles on literary and intellectual history. He joined the staff of the Wisconsin Historical Society in 1982 and helped lead its effort to mount rare books and manuscripts on the Web, stumbling on the mystery of Paul Bunyan’s origin while looking for lumberjack memoirs to share online. He holds degrees from Harvard University and Simmons College. He received a 2007 American Local and State Historical Society Award for his pioneering work on the “Turning Points in Wisconsin History” portion of the Wisconsin Historical Society website.