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Edgar Wilson Nye

Humorist, Journalist

Country:United States

Lifetime: 1850 - 1896 Passed: ≈ 126 years ago

Edgar Wilson "Bill" Nye was an American humorist. He was also the founder and editor of the Laramie Boomerang.


Nye was born in Shirley, Maine. His parents removed to a farm on the St Croix River in northern Wisconsin in 1852, and he was educated at River Falls, Wisconsin, where he studied law. He moved to Wyoming Territory, and was admitted to the bar at Laramie City, Wyoming Territory in 1876. There he served as justice of the peace, superintendent of schools, member of the city council and postmaster. He began early to contribute humorous sketches to the newspapers, using the pen name of "Bill Nye" after a character in a famous poem by Bret Harte popularly known as "The Heathen Chinee". He was connected with various western journals, and afterward settled in New York City.


The Boomerang was founded while Nye was the postmaster of Laramie. It launched him to national fame, gaining subscribers in every state and some foreign countries. In 1892, he wrote in The Century Magazine:

There is a grim and ghastly humour -- the humour that is born of a pathetic philosophy -- which now and then strikes me in reading the bright and keen-witted work of our American paragraphers. It is a humour that may be crystallized by hunger and sorrow and tears. It is not found elsewhere as it is in America. It is out of the question in England, because an Englishman cannot poke fun at himself. He cannot joke about an empty flour-barrel. We can: especially if by doing it we may swap the joke for another barrel of flour. We can never be a nation of snobs so long as we are willing to poke fun at ourselves.


Some of his works include Bill Nye's Comic History of the United States, Baled Hay, Remarks, Bill Nye and Boomerang, Bill Nye's History of England, and Bill Nye's Red Book.


Late in his career, he was briefly associated with James Whitcomb Riley with whom he wrote two books. They also appeared together on the lecture circuit. He also travelled and lectured with Luther Burbank.


He passed the later years of his life in Arden, North Carolina where he died of meningitis, and was buried in Calvary Episcopal Churchyard in Fletcher, Henderson County, North Carolina. A historical marker honouring him is located in St. Croix County, Wisconsin, between the towns of Roberts and River Falls, and a second is located in Fletcher, North Carolina. A small monument marks his birthplace in Shirley, Maine.



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Books by Edgar Wilson Nye