What is a Maine Story? Chapter One: Paul Bunyan and Babe the Blue Ox

Paul Bunyan and Maine

 

“Some of the old people say he was born in Maine. Some say Minnesota. Or in Michigan. There are some who claim he came out of the pine woods of Canada. But all agree his name was Paul Bunyan, that he was a hero of the Northwest, and that he grew up to be the biggest thing in the whole country.”

Opening chapter of The Wonderful Adventure of Paul Bunyan as retold by Louis Untermeyer, 1945.

When Paul immediately outgrew his cradle, his father fashioned an arc, and moored it in nearby Penobscot Bay. The story continues:

“But Paul was restless. He rocked and rocked – and the next night there was a tidal wave that wiped out half a dozen villages on the coast of Maine. His mother exclaimed, ‘He got out of it – don’t ask me how! And then he picked it up and waded to shore’”.

Bangor’s Paul Bunyan Statue

The story of Bangor’s Paul Bunyan Statue fittingly begins with a great big party. While volunteers planned the city’s 125th anniversary celebrations for February 1959, Mrs. Connie Bronson, a dedicated local teacher, suggested that the city build a statue of Paul Bunyan to commemorate our nineteenth century legacy as “The Lumber Capital of the World”. The committee, led by local businessman Mr. Gordan Clapp, embraced this idea, and raised the funds for the project. 

Mr. J. Normand Martin, a talented artist raised in Madawaska, Maine, and recent Bangor resident, set about sculpting a 22-inch clay model on his kitchen table. He then boarded a train to New York City with his creation cradled in his lap, where he coordinated the statue’s design and fabrication with Messmoor and Damon, Inc., the company that created New York’s 1939 World’s Fair exhibits.

Bangor’s 3,700 pound, 31-foot-tall steel-framed fiberglass statue is engineered to withstand 140 mph winds. Its base contains a time capsule that contains records of Bangor’s 125th Anniversary observance and other articles of historic significance, to be opened for display on Bangor’s 250th Anniversary, February 12, 2084. 

With the party preparations completed, 25,000 people joined in the weeklong Paul Bunyan Days, culminating in the unveiling of our giant lumberjack on Bangor’s birthday February 12th, with Governor Clinton A. Clauson and Mayor John T. Barry presiding. 

Having achieved enormous fame for his accomplishments across North America with his trusty companion Babe the Blue Ox, Paul Bunyan, America’s first and greatest folk hero, had finally returned home to his birthplace.

Babe the Blue Ox

Although never constructed, artist J. Normand Martin also built a model of Paul's trusty companion, Babe the Blue Ox. The Martin family has loaned this model to the library to be on display in early 2024.

Come through the library's original entrance to take a look at this model (plus a paper model of Paul) and read some fun tall tales about their connections to Bangor and the region.