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Unlike the philosophical chicken-or-egg dilemma, there’s an easy answer to this question: the Paul Bunyan Room came first. The replica logging bunkroom was part of the original layout of Memorial Union when the building opened in 1928. James Watrous ’31, MS’33, PhD’39 didn’t add the matching paintings until the Public Works of Art Project gave him a job as a muralist in 1933. According to a 1976 press release from the university, the government gave Watrous the position with the following stipulation: “If you can find someone to give you the walls, fine.” Porter Butts ’24, MA’36, director of the Wisconsin Union at the time, gave Watrous the walls and the inspiration when he pointed the artist to the Paul Bunyan Room. Despite only receiving funding for six months, Watrous spent three years on the 11-panel mural while he also pursued his graduate studies and worked as a teaching assistant. When painting in the Union, Watrous did often encounter a more practical egg dilemma: he’d run out of yolks for his tempera pigments. He usually solved the issue by convincing the Rathskeller cook to give him a raw egg at two cents a pop.

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