Image of Edgar Wilson Nye


Lifetime: 1850 - 1896 Passed: ≈ 128 years ago


Humorist, Journalist


United States

Edgar Wilson Nye

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.

Books by Edgar Wilson Nye

Comic History of the United States Cover image

Comic History of the United States

History Humour
Witty America Civil War

For American journalist and humorist Edgar Wilson Nye who wrote under the pen name Bill Nye in the late 19th century, facts are not to be presented in their newborn, bare state. They should be properly draped and embellished before they can be presen...

Comic History of England Cover image

Comic History of England

History Humour
Discovery Invasion Oligarchy

The Comic History of England was published posthumously in 1896 after the writer's tragic and untimely death half-way through the project. Hence it remains incomplete and covers the history of the island nation only up to the Tudor period. However, b...

A Guest at the Ludlow and Other Stories Cover image

A Guest at the Ludlow and Other Stories

Fiction Humour
Social Short Stories Customs Life

Bill Nye was a respected journalist who also became known as a humorist. His short pieces range from a description of a visit to a friend residing in Ludlow prison, to “advice” to a son, to a wry commentary on his visits to Oakland, California. From...