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Big Things to See in Minnesota: Monumental Roadside Postcards

Minnesota is home to the the grandaddy of giant roadside monuments. Bemidji's Paul Bunyan was built in 1937 for a winter carnival and inspired other towns to build their own larger than lifesize sculptures to promote their areas.

I haven't actually visited these places, but I have been collecting this type of postcard for more than twenty years. My collection started when I read a Minneapolis newspaper article about these roadside attractions. I subsequently bought Karal Ann Marling's book The Colossus of Roads (1984) and later Monumental Minnesota (1992) by Moira F. Harris. Both of these books have good background information for anyone interested in the subject.

The pictures on these postcards are mainly 25 to 55 years old. If you are interested in visiting any of these attractions, you will need more up-to-date information. There are several recent guidebooks available. A good list, pictures, and a map are on the web at The Big Stuff Project Blog. There is also some information at Roadside America and Minnesota Historical Society.

Postcard Gallery of Minnesota Roadside Statues & Monuments

The text below is from the backs of the postcards.

ALEXANDRIA. Birthplace of America, Largest Viking in the World.
This statue stands 28 feet tall and weighs 12,000 pounds. It accompanied the famed Kensington Runestone to the New York World's Fair in 1965 and was then brought to Alexandria.


ALEXANDRIA. Replica of Famed Kensington Runestone.
English translation by Holland. (Front Panel) We are 8 Swedes and 22 Norwegians on an exploring journey from Vinland through the west. We had a camp by a lake with two Rocky Islands. One day's trip north from this stone. We were out and fished one day. After we came home we found 11 of our men red with blood and dead. Ave Maria. Save us from evil. (Side Panel) We have 10 of our party by the sea to look after our ships 14 days trip from this island. Year 1362.


BATTLE LAKE. Chief Wenonga.
Chief Wenonga waves a greeting to visitors at Battle Lake, Minn.


BAUDETTE. Willie Walleye.
Willie Walleye welcomes you to Lake of the Woods, Baudette, Minnesota, "Walleye Capital of the World." Weight 9,852 lbs., Length 40'4", Girth 21'4".


BEMIDJI. Chief Bemidji.
Here is the original statue carved by a white man to show his appreciation to Chief Bemidji. It was the Chief who found him after an Indian massacre and raised him from early youth. The city is named after the Chief.


BEMIDJI. Paul Bunyan and Babe His Blue Ox.
These huge figures of steel and concrete built on the shore of Lake Bemidji are emblematic of the days of the early lumberjack, who originated lumber camp whoppers of Paul and Babe that have been handed down for generations. These stories, never heard outside the haunts of the lumberjack until recent years, are declared by some literary authorities to be "the only true American myth."


BENA. Big Fish.
View from Betty Brown's Big Fish Supper Club.


BIGFORK. Chief Busticogan.
Chief Busticogan, the most photographed Indian in Minnesota. [The sign he is holding says "BIGFORK HEAP GOOD TOWN."]


BIGFORK. Lumberjack.
A monument to the lumberjacks of the Northern Minnesota area.


BLACKDUCK. Paul Bunyan's Black Duck.
This replica of Paul's Giant Duck is located in Blackduck, Minnesota, the nesting area of the Black Mallard.


BLUE EARTH. Jolly Green Giant.
"The land of the Jolly Green Giant."


BRAINERD. Animated Paul Bunyan.
Paul is 36 feet tall and weighs 5,000 lbs. He talks, tells stories and sings lumberjack style. His Size 44 cap shades his 16" moveable eyes. His broad shoulders and 18 ft. arms are protected by a size 73 shirt, which consists of 60 yards of wool-plaid material. Paul wears a size 80 boot with soles 5 feet long.


BRAINERD. Babe the Blue Ox.
Constructed in Kansas City, Mo. by Joe T. Bowen. Shipped in one piece by railroad flatcar over five railroads. Weight 3600 pounds, height 15 feet, length 23 feet, width between horn tips 10 feet.


CHISHOLM. Iron Ore Miner.
Located near the entrance to "Ironworld USA", this memorial stands as a tribute to the iron miner. Dedicated on July 4th, 1987, it stands as the 3rd largest sculpture in the United states surpassed only by the Statue of Liberty and St. Louis arches — it stands 35 feet tall — atop a 45 foot base. Affectionately rererred to as "Iron Man", he will greet the visitors to Minnesota's Mesabi range.


CLOQUET. Voyageur.
This statue/monument honors the spirit and contribution of the early voyageurs who played such a vital role in the opening of this frontier.


CRANE LAKE. The Voyageur.
In a Minnesota area of still unspoiled wilderness, near Crane Lake is this large statue of "The Voyageur" in memory of early voyageurs who came to the border country in 1635.


DULUTH. Neptune, Symbolic Ruler of the Sea
This statue was given Duluth by the State Fair Board and the land loaned by the Corps of Engineers at Canal Park, Duluth, Minn. to commemorate the arrival of the first deep draft ocean going vessel into Duluth on May 3, 1959. Neptune was God of the Sea — son of Cronus and Rhea. The Greeks called him Poseidon. He was Jupiter's brother. Neptune controlled all the waters of the earth and was worshipped by sailors. The 3 prong spear he carried was called Trident.


ERSKINE. Northern Pike.
the largest Northern Pike in Minnesota. It is located in a park on the shore of Beautiful Lake Cameron in downtown Erskine.


FERGUS FALLS. Otter.
A joint community project with the high school students providing the labor and the Jaycees providing the material, this huge Otter was built on the shores of Grotto Lake in Fergus Falls, the Hub of the Ottertail Empire.


GARRISON. Walleye.
Located on the shores of Lake Mille Lacs at Garrison, Minn. is this statue of the walleye — the prize of Minnesota's fishermen.


HACKENSACK. Lucette Diana Kensack.
Paul Bunyan's Sweetheart.


INTERNATIONAL FALLS. Smokey the Bear.
Smokey the Bear, National Forest Fire Prevention Symbol, 26' tall. Erected by the Koochiching county Keep Minnesota Green Committee, Inc., on October 13, 1954. Dedicated to forest fire prevention and conservation. Financed by contributions of farmers, loggers, businessman and the general public.


NEVIS. World's Largest Tiger Muskie.
Nevis is located in the Minnesota Heartland vacation area.


NORTH ST. PAUL. World's Largest Snowman.
Standing 44 feet tall, it is a replica of the city's logo.


PELICAN RAPIDS. World's Largest Pelican.
The world's largest Pelican is at Pelican Rapids, Minnesota on the Pelican River which flows through the Pelican Chain of Lakes. Built of steel and Cement. The huge bird stands 15½ feet high — an exact proportion of 5 to 1 of a Mounted Pelican.


RAY. Lake Kabetogama Walleye.
World's largest walleye. Near Ray and International Falls, Minnesota.


SAINT PAUL. Fairchild.
Fairchild, the friendly mascot of the Minnesota State Fair, welcomes fair visitors in front of his gigantic statue on the State Fair Grounds.


SAINT PAUL. Pioneer Woman.
Pioneer Portrait Hall, Minnesota State Fair.


SILVER BAY. Jolly Mr. Taconite.
"Jolly Mr. Taconite" — an image created at silver Bay, Minnesota to symbolize the "Taconite Industry: and one that brings new hope to the iron mining industry of northeastern Minnesota.


STARBUCK. Hobo.
Hobo Park Campground. Located on Lake Minnewaska, South Highway29, Starbuck, MN.


THIEF RIVER FALLS. Chief Moose Dung.
Monument to the memory of chief MON-SI-MOH (Also known as Chief Moose Dung).


TWO HARBORS. Pierre the Voyageur.
Hear and see Pierre the Voyageur at the Voyageur Museum. ½ Mile West of Two Harbors, Minnesota. Pierre's head moves back and forth as he talks. His piercing eyes watch over the Gateway to the Voyageur Country, which is Two Harbors, Minn. The voyageurs were the early French-Canadian fur traders who landed here in 1660 naming it Agate Bay. Voyageurs traded with the Indians along the North Shore. They traveled from grand Portage to Rainy Lake making many portages.


VERGAS. Loon.
This statue of the Minnesota State Bird was built on the shore of Long Lake, through the efforts of the Vergas Fire Dept. The statue, which weighs 6500 pounds and is 21 feet tall was dedicated on June 20, 1963.


WHEATON. Mallard.
The mallard statue located along U. S. 75 on the south side of Wheaton, MN was constructed in 1961 to proclaim the "Land O' Ducks" theme for the area.

 

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