Buffalo Bill Center of the West Curators Revise 1900s Tale about Fictional Grizzly Bear, Wahb

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After an 1899 trip to Wyoming, Ernest Thompson Seton published a story about a fictional grizzly bear. More than a hundred years later, Buffalo Bill Center of the West Curators Jeremy Johnston and Charles Preston have teamed up to revise Seton’s historic book, "Wahb: The Biography of a Grizzly."

Wahb: The Biography of a Grizzly
Although fiction, Seton based this tale on various bear stories.

After an 1899 trip to a ranch near Meeteetse, Wyoming, in the northwest part of the state, Ernest Thompson Seton published "Wahb: The Biography of a Grizzly" through a series of three articles for "Century Magazine," and then the story appeared in book form in 1900.

Now in 2015, Buffalo Bill Center of the West Curators Jeremy Johnston and Charles Preston have collaborated on a revised edition of Seton’s book. In an illustrated presentation, the co-authors share their endeavor on Thursday, September 24, 2015, 2 p.m. in the Center’s Coe Auditorium. The talk is free to the public. Afterward, Johnston and Preston sign copies of their book at the Center’s Museum Store, where the book is available for purchase in both softcover and hardcover editions. The Center of the West produced the hardcover version of Wahb, and it is available only through the Museum Store, on site and online.

Seton’s story details the life of a fictional grizzly bear named Wahb and his struggles to survive in the Yellowstone region. Although classified as fiction, Seton based this tale on various bear stories, many from this area. Seton’s work was very popular but raised concerns among other naturalists—including President Theodore Roosevelt—about its accuracy in depicting grizzly bear behavior.

Preston’s and Johnston’s new edition combines “Seton’s classic tale and original illustrations with historical and scientific context for Wahb’s story, providing a thorough understanding of the setting, cultural connections, biology, and ecology of Seton’s best-known book,” writes University of Oklahoma Press, the book’s publisher.

On Thursday, Preston discusses information gleaned about grizzly bear biology and ecology since Seton’s time, the changing status and management of grizzly bears through the 20th and early 21st centuries, and the current status and pending delisting of the Yellowstone grizzly bear population. As a historian, Johnston shares how Seton’s book influenced the public’s perceptions of grizzly bears within the Yellowstone region and how this popular work shaped local bear tales.

For more information, contact Johnston at 307-578-4032 or Preston at 307-578-4078.
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Since 1917, the award-winning Buffalo Bill Center of the West in Cody, Wyoming, has devoted itself to sharing the story of the authentic American West. The Center, an affiliate of the Smithsonian Institution, is now in its fall schedule, 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. daily. For additional information, visit the Center's website or its pages on Facebook and Google+.

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Jeremy Johnston
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