Ol' Paul ®

Paul Bunyan, the Trademark

Originally Registered to the Red River Lumber Company, Minneapolis, Minnesota in 1921, Registration 290,330. 

Trademarks are so much a part of everyday life that it is sometimes surprising to discover that something we take for granted was, in fact, invented to sell goods or services. Paul Bunyan is a good case in point. Perhaps the most famous American tall tale character today, he is a relatively modern invention. 

W.B. Laughead had heard exaggerated stories about the exploits of lumbermen as a young man working in the Minnesota logging camps. In 1914, when given the job of creating an advertising campaign for the Red River Lumber Company of Minneapolis, he drew on the many stories he had heard and attached them to the single character of "Paul Bunyan".

The lumber company found the giant to be so popular that they expanded his adventures into a promotional booklet. Though the Paul Bunyan stories have since multiplied and expanded, they owe their start to Laughead's ads and booklets.

- from the book "Symbols of America" by Hal Morgan (Steam Press 1986), a fascinating history of American trademarks through the years.

Cecil Adams of The Straight Dope® recently had a column on Paul Bunyan, with more details of the story of the creation of Paul Bunyan, which he notes "have been described as 'fakelore'". (Off-site link to the http://www.straightdope.com/ website)

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Last updated: Mon, 09 Nov 2020