Mr. Otis and Mr. Holbrook
Introduction by Brian Booth

Stewart Holbrook and Bernard DeVoto
Holbrook (right) with Bernard DeVoto, well-known American historian and critic
(Courtesy of Brian Booth)
The close association
between author Stewart H. Holbrook and the artist Mr. Otis, founder of the Primitive-Moderne School, first came to public attention in 1949.

Holbrook had a national reputation as a popular historian and journalist and was perhaps the best-known personality in the Pacific Northwest. His byline had been a standard feature in the Oregonian since 1928, and with the publication of Holy Old Mackinaw: A Natural History of the American Lumberjack in 1938, he became the nation's leading authority on the life and lore of loggers. Works such as Murder Out Yonder (1941) and Lost Men of American History (1946), and articles in publications ranging from the American Mercury to the New York Herald Tribune established his reputation for what he called "lowbrow or non-stuffed shirt history."

But Holbrook's celebrity also came from his reputation as a "24-karat character," a witty raconteur and storyteller, who reminded some of Will Rogers and who was proud to be called the only logger to lecture at Harvard; a colorful dresser in his derby or rumpled Stetson, who carried a snoose can in his pocket; and an irreverent and skeptical social critic who gleefully took on institutions such as the Church, chambers of commerce and the Cult of the Pioneers. His circle of friends, scattered from Madison Avenue to skidroads, included H. L. Mencken; Alfred Knopf; Bernard DeVoto; and assorted loggers, radicals, and Wobblies.

Holbrook linked the remote Northwest with the glamorous literary and publishing world of New York and was a leading spokesperson for what he called the Far Corner.

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