A graduate of Yale University, Paul Semonin
received his Ph.D in history from the University of Oregon and an
M.A. in African Studies from the University of Ghana.
working primarily as a writer and independent scholar, he has taught
history at the University of Oregon, Oregon State University and Linfield
articles on natural history and American nationalism first appeared
in the Northwest Review and Leonardo. In these articles
he challenged the paradigm of dominance in natural history culture
and revealed the role of natural history myths in shaping early American
to becoming a historian, he worked professionally as a graphic artist.
The central theme of his artworks was the impact of mass media and
advertising upon American society.
interest in the origins of American consumer society led to doctoral
studies on 19th-century museum culture and the legendary showman P.T.
Barnum. His dissertation "Citizens and Strangers: The American
Museum Before Barnum," examined the early history of the New
York museum that subsequently launched Barnum's career.
was in the collection of this museum that he first encountered the
tooth of the American monster and the animal's existence as an icon
in early America.
publication of his book, he has continued to investigate the role
of natural history myths in American society and culture. In 2001,
he presented a paper entitled "The Myth of Wild Nature in Early
America" at the international conference "Taking Nature
Seriously: Citizens, Science and Environment" held at the University
present, he is working on an educational video based upon his book