Bangor In Focus

Paul Bunyan

At 31 feet high and 3,700 pounds, the Paul Bunyan statue that greets visitors into Bangor on Main Street was a gift to Bangor on its 125th anniversary as a city in 1959.

Designed by J. Normand Martin and built by the Messmoor & Damon firm of New York, the cartoonish fiberglass statue passes on the lore of Paul Bunyan, a mythical lumberman who, according to whom you ask, was born in the deep Maine woods near the Queen City. Legend says Bunyan and his giant blue ox, Babe, traveled throughout the United States, creating the Grand Canyon, Puget Sound and the Black Hills.

Lumbermen created the mythical giant, but it was W.B. Laughead who introduced the giant to the general population. An advertising copy writer from Westwood, Calif., Laughead used Bunyan in pamphlets from 1914 to 1944 to sell products by Red River Lumber Co. of Minnesota.

Minnesota has staked claim to the mythical lumberman's birthplace, but clearly timber harvesting has its roots in the central and northern Maine woods. It would only be natural for these woods to be the birthplace of the greatest lumberman who never was.

But regardless of whether Minnesota or Bangor is Bunyan's and Babe's birthplace, there is little question that Bangor's monument to the giant is one of the most comical public statues to grace a city park anywhere. (Farmington, Maine, officials nixed a recent idea to erect a giant pair of earmuffs in one of that town's parks in honor of native son Chester Greenwood, who invented earmuffs in 1872.)

Nevertheless, despite its cartoonish physique, there is something about the statue that draws tourists to its pedestal for an obligatory photo to show family and friends back home that they visited Bangor, Maine, the birthplace of the lumber trade in the United States.

1995-2012, Ryan R. Robbins. All rights reserved.

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