Edgar Wilson Nye
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|Edgar Wilson "Bill" Nye|
August 25, 1850|
February 22, 1896 (aged 45)|
Arden, North Carolina
Nye was born in Shirley, Maine. He was educated at River Falls, Wisconsin, moved to Wyoming Territory, studied law, and was admitted to the bar in 1876. 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 City, Wyoming Territory. It launched him to national fame, gaining subscribers in every state and some foreign countries. His humor was uniquely American. In 1892, he wrote in The Century Magazine:
There is a grim and ghastly humor -- the humor 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 humor 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 traveled and lectured with Luther Burbank.
He died of meningitis in Arden, North Carolina. He is buried in Calvary Episcopal Churchyard in Fletcher, Henderson County, North Carolina. A historical marker honoring 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.
Cover to Nye and Riley's Railway Guide (1888)
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|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Edgar Wilson Nye.|
- Works by Bill Nye at Project Gutenberg
- Works by or about Edgar Wilson Nye at Internet Archive
- Works by Edgar Wilson Nye at LibriVox (public domain audiobooks)
- Many Bill Nye stories read in Mister Ron's Basement Podcast, now indexed for convenience
- Edgar Wilson Nye at Find a Grave
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