Paul Bunyan, the legendary lumberjack who created the Grand Canyon and most of the lakes in the northern part of the United States. How Tall Is Paul Bunyan? Legend tells us that Paul Bunyan was 63 ax handles tall. The most interesting thing about that fact is that there are people who use ax handles as units of measure. It’s not ideal, as ax handles vary in size, and the whole point of standard units of measure is consistency.
However, the largest ax handles tend to be about 36 inches in length or three feet. 63 times three is 189, making Paul Bunyan 189 feet tall. For a point of reference, Cinderella’s Castle at Walt Disney World in Florida is 189 feet tall. That makes Paul Bunyan a very large man. In fact, a “normal” weight for a man of this height would be over 5500 pounds! No wonder he had an ox for a pet rather than a dog.
Various locales thought out the northern United States claim to be the home of Paul Bunyan, from Minnesota to Maine. The State of Michigan has declared their town of Oscoda to be the official birthplace of Paul Bunyan, however, the same thing has likely been claimed by Bangor, Maine. In actuality, they are both probably wrong.
The History Channel claims that the legend of Paul Bunyan is based on the life of Fabian Fournier, a French-Canadian lumberjack. At six feet tall, he was definitely taller than the average man at that time, but still a tad too short to re-roof Cinderella’s Castle without a ladder. He moved south to the northern United States sometime after the American Civil War.
There, he worked felling trees and spent his free time drinking and getting into bar fights. Fournier, by this time known as “Saginaw Joe”, died in one such fight in Bay City, Michigan in 1875. After his violent death and the dramatic trial and acquittal of his killer, the tales of his larger-than-life existence grew. Stories of his adventures and exploits spread through lumber camps in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Minnesota, eventually evolving into the legend of Paul Bunyan.
According to these stories Paul created the Grand Canyon when he dragged his ax behind him. Minnesota’s famed 10,000 lakes are his footprints. In Michigan, they claim he dug the Great Lakes. He created Lake Huron to use as a bathtub and dug Lake Michigan and Lake Superior to provide fresh drinking water for his trusty blue ox Babe.
In the mornings he dined on salt pork and pancakes. The griddle to cook food for Paul and his lumber crew was so large that the cook would grease it by strapping bacon to his feet and skating around.
These tall tales went from being campfire stories shared in lumber camps to the written word in the early 20th century. They were first published in a local newspaper in Oscoda, Michigan, so perhaps that town has a legitimate claim to being his birthplace. From there, stories and poems about Paul Bunyan were featured in American Lumberman magazine.
He became a household name when Minnesota’s Red River Lumber Company began using his image as their mascot in 1914.
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