Paul Bunyan


Courtesy Paul Bunyan Collection, Children’s Literature Research Collection, University of Minnesota Libraries, Minneapolis

Paul Bunyan
William B. Laughead
Red River Lumber Company
  • Branding
  • Graphic Design
  • Publication Design

Paul Bunyan, the giant lumberjack, is a beloved figure of North American folklore. Stories of his amazing feats of strength originated in 19th-century logging camps and were embellished over the years as they were told and retold by workers. In 1914, at the suggestion of Archie Walker, son of T. B. Walker (the eponymous founder of the Walker), Paul Bunyan was adopted as the mascot for the family firm, the Red River Lumber Company (RRLC). Artist William B. Laughead, a freelance advertising man and former lumberjack, was hired to imagine how Bunyan should look. Laughead documented the tales he had heard in the camps during his days as a logger, and then made two important changes. First, he decided that the lumberjack should be much larger in stature than the seven-foot-tall man the stories had described. Second, he named Bunyan’s sidekick, a blue ox, Babe. Laughead’s creation, which was the first known image of Paul Bunyan, was used as the logo and trademark of RRLC until the company closed in 1946. Shown is the 30th-anniversary edition of Paul Bunyan and His Big Blue Ox (1944).