Celebrating Robert Burns and Nebraska’s Scottish Heritage

Engraving from 1787 portrait of Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth.

Engraving from 1787 portrait of Robert Burns by Alexander Nasmyth.

The anniversary of the birth of Scottish poet Robert Burns on January 25, 1759, was once widely celebrated by Americans of Scottish descent in memory not only of Burns, but of their Scottish heritage. An 1876 celebration in Council Bluffs, Iowa, cosponsored by the Burns Club of Omaha, included bagpipe music by pipers in Scottish costumes, a meal of Scottish dishes, toasts, and dancing. The singing, dancing, and piping became standard entertainments at succeeding celebrations of Burns’s birthday, sometimes with recitations of his poetry.

Norfolk hosted a memorable Burns celebration in January of 1910 when Scottish descendants from Norfolk and Sioux City sponsored a parade, banquet, concert, and dance. “German Norfolk Goes Scotch,” reported the Norfolk Weekly News-Journal on February 4. Despite the winter weather, costumed Scottish dancers from Sioux City paraded up and down Norfolk Avenue. “A long line of spectators with admiring eyes watched the Scots who trudged through the snow, with the wind whistling around their kilted limbs.”

Undated photograph of Angus Street in Gretna, Sarpy County. The town’s name is probably derived from that of Gretna Green in Scotland. NSHS RG2499-5-1

Undated photograph of Angus Street in Gretna, Sarpy County. The town’s name is probably derived from that of Gretna Green in Scotland. NSHS RG2499-5-1

A banquet of traditional Scottish foods was followed at 8 o’clock that evening by entertainment for the community. The city’s Marquardt Hall was packed with an enthusiastic audience, including “probably every Norfolk man with a drop of Scotch blood in his veins,” reported the newspaper. Scottish dances and songs were followed by Dr. J. H. Mackay’s reading in Gaelic. After the program ended, chairs were cleared from the hall and performers and the audience danced.  However, Scottish dance steps were unfamiliar to some of the Norfolk dancers, “compeling them to take a back seat, and the hall was soon filled with Scotch lassies dancing by themselves in their Highland Costumes.”

For more information on Nebraska’s Scottish celebrations in 1876 and in 1909, the 150th anniversary of Burns’s birth, see the Nebraska State Historical Society’s website. Become a member of the NSHS and receive Nebraska History magazine, four issues yearly. Selected articles from past issues are posted online at the NSHS website. – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications

 

 

 

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2014’s Top Viewed Records from the NSHS Online Archives

RG2158.PH000010-000019 H. Herpolshiemer Company, Lincoln, Nebraska (The seventh most-viewed record of 2014!)

RG2158.PH000010-000019 H. Herpolshiemer Company, Lincoln, Nebraska (The seventh most-viewed record of 2014!)

As we look back on 2014, one of our favorite things to do here at the NSHS is to see which items from our archives spoke the loudest to the people of Nebraska and beyond. Our year-end statistics from PastPerfect (our online archive) show that thousands viewed our easily accessible database in 2014 and give us the most popular records of the past year.

So without further ado, here are the Top Ten most viewed records of 2014:

1. RG2845.PH000119-000020, 7th Cavalry returning to Pine Ridge Agency after their Fight with Big Foot’s band at Wounded Knee

2. 10645-1435, Clipping, Newspaper cartoon

3. RG2758.PH000102-000076, A play in the Nebraska-Oklahoma football game of 1942

4. 4600, Rifle, Cartridge, Eidgenossische Waffenfabrik, Vetterli Model 1878/81

5. RG2464.PH0-000007, Lolita, LaVerna, and Edna Riley at Christmas 1928

6. 10645-120, Poster; John Falter; Offset Lithograph; Sledding by Sunset; Saturday Evening Post; December 18, 1948

7. RG2158.PH000010-000019, H. Herpolshiemer Company, Lincoln, Nebraska

8. RG2158.PH000015-000003, Czech Children in Armistice Day Parade

9. RG3882.PH0004-1553, A studio portrait of dancer Betty Beh in her pirate costume

10. RG3882.PH0016-0121, Two women, three men and a team of horses in a field harvesting potatoes

So thank you for visiting our database, which is always growing! Keep your eyes peeled as our team of archivists continue to add photographic records to the nearly 14,000 photos already searchable online.

Happy 2015 and happy searching!

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Major North’s Buffalo Hunt Ended by a Blizzard

Minnie Freeman, heroine of the blizzard of 1888. NSHS RG2411-1692

Minnie Freeman, heroine of the blizzard of 1888. NSHS RG2411-1692

Minnie Freeman Penney was a young schoolteacher who during the blizzard of 1888 led her pupils from their Valley County school to the shelter of a neighboring farmhouse. A collection of Nebraska pioneer reminiscences published in 1916 by the Nebraska chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution, includes both her memory of this storm, and an account of an earlier one in 1871 taken from the diary of her father, William E. Freeman. This earlier blizzard befell a party of buffalo hunters led by Major Frank North, famed leader of the Pawnee Scouts.

After leaving Grand Island, the party, including six wagons and four buffalo horses, crossed the Platte River and went into camp. About midnight the wind changed to the north, bringing rain and sleet, and within an hour a blizzard was raging on the open prairie. The horses were covered with snow and ice and there was no fuel for the campfires. It was decided to try to follow an Indian trail south. Little progress could be made and they soon camped near some willows that afforded a small amount of protection to their horses.

Frank North in uniform about 1867. NSHS RG2320-39

Frank North in uniform about 1867. NSHS RG2320-39

For two days the storm continued, accompanied by intense cold. The men finally determined to find shelter and in groups of two and three left camp, following a creek along which they hoped someone had settled. A sod house occupied by two English families was found, where the group was received hospitably.

During the night the storm abated and next morning, finding all the ravines choked with heavy snowdrifts, the hunters decided by vote to abandon the hunt. They dug out their belongings from under many feet of snow and started their return trip. The journey home was full of accidents, bad roads, and drifted ravines. North later admitted that of all his experiences on the prairie, including those with the Pawnee Scouts, “this ‘beat them all’ as hazardous and perplexing.”

Read the historical markers commemorating two of Nebraska’s worst blizzards: the Blizzard of 1888 and the Easter Blizzard of 1873 on the Nebraska State Historical Society’s website. “I’m Never Going to be Snowbound Again, the Winter of 1948-1949 in Nebraska,” from the Winter 2002 issue of Nebraska History, is also online at the NSHS website.  – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications

 

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Prairie Imperialists: Expansion from Nebraska to Cuba and the Philippines

As a result of the Spanish-American war of 1898, the United States was suddenly a colonial power, untested in the administration of overseas territory. George Meiklejohn, Charles Magoon, and John J. Pershing were three men who had seen the “taming” of the American frontier, and as they rose to national power they applied what they had experienced in the Midwest to colonies abroad. In the Winter 2014 issue of Nebraska History, Katharine Bjork explains how these three friends with roots in Nebraska had a lasting impact on U.S. colonial policy.

The three friends had relatively successful careers in Nebraska: Meiklejohn as a congressman, Magoon as a lawyer, and Pershing as a military instructor at the University. But the friends’ rise to prominence was only just beginning with Meiklejohn’s appointment as Assistant Secretary of War in 1897.

George D. Meiklejohn, as a U.S. congressman representing Nebraska's Third District, 1893-97. NSHS RG2411-4975

George D. Meiklejohn, as a U.S. congressman representing Nebraska’s Third District, 1893-97. NSHS RG2411-4975

The U.S. was emerging as a world power. In 1898, Congress approved involvement in Cuba’s rebellion against the Spanish, sparking the Spanish-American War. At the end of the conflict, the U.S. gained control over Cuba, Puerto Rico, Guam, and the Philippines. Meiklejohn, Magoon, and Pershing took an interest in these international affairs. Policies that had been tested on the Midwest, such as the Homestead Act, helped shape how these men believed territory should be organized. With Meiklejohn’s help, they were soon in positions where they could implement those visions.

Meiklejohn used his power in the War Department liberally. The Secretary of War who was supposed to oversee him, Russell Alger, was frequently sick or absent. When Alger was gone, Meiklejohn became the Acting Secretary of War. On one such occasion, Meiklejohn used his authority as acting secretary to send a directive to himself as assistant secretary, ordering himself to “take charge of all matters relating to customs duties to be levied and collected in Cuba, Porto Rico (sic) and the Philippines.” He willingly accepted the orders from himself, and began to handle all incoming insular matters.

Lt. John J. Pershing wearing the Tenth Cavalry insignia. NSHS RG2378-1-19

Lt. John J. Pershing wearing the Tenth Cavalry insignia. NSHS RG2378-1-19

John Pershing preferred field work over administration. More than once he wrote to Meiklejohn requesting particular positions that would allow him to stay abroad with the military, first in Cuba and later in the Philippines. In both places he held influential positions, including military governor of a Philippine province for several years

Charles Magoon’s role in overseas affairs mirrored his Nebraska law experience, but on a much grander stage. As Bjork writes: “As law officer for the Bureau of Insular Affairs, one of Magoon’s main tasks was to survey the entire body of civil law pertaining to the formerly Spanish colonies to make recommendations as to what should be retained and what adapted.” In 1906, President Theodore Roosevelt appointed Magoon as the provisional governor of Cuba, charged with maintaining stability and protecting U.S. interests in the aftermath of a fraudulent election.

Charles Edward Magoon as the governor of the Panama Canal Zone, 1905-6. Library of Congress

Charles Edward Magoon as the governor of the Panama Canal Zone, 1905-6. Library of Congress

Together, George Meiklejohn, Charles Magoon, and John J. Pershing had a substantial amount of power. They entered U.S. colonial policy when it was still being developed, and had the opportunity to implement ideas that would remain for generations.

- Joy Carey, Editorial Assistant, Publications

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New Year’s in Paris for a Nebraska Soldier

An American ambulance during World War I in France. NSHS RG2841-23-200

An American ambulance during World War I in France. NSHS RG2841-23-200

The Cornhusker, yearbook of the University of Nebraska, in 1918 was dedicated to “Nebraskans—Students, Alumni, Faculty—here and over there” who were serving in World War I. Included was a series of “Camp Sketches” consisting of letters and reports from servicemen associated with the school. Sgt. John Leslie Putt of Omaha, stationed in France with the American Expeditionary Forces, described his recent visit to Paris during the New Year’s holiday:

Chow time for World War I soldiers in a trench. NSHS RG1951-1639

Chow time for World War I soldiers in a trench. NSHS RG1951-1639

“When I arrived at the Paris depot a United States marine grabbed me and asked for my pass and then I walked out into the street to get a taxi, as instructed, but there were no taxis for blocks around at that hour of the night and no subways or street cars.” A policeman recommended the YMCA hotel, about eight blocks away. When it proved to be closed, Putt returned to the depot “and sat around in the cold until 5 o’clock. I felt like the only American in France. I returned to the hotel at 5:30, got a room (four francs a day), and slept for a few hours.”

Putt soon met two fellow Nebraska soldiers, Frank S. Proudfit and Charles L. Whedon, both of Lincoln, and the group went to the Casino de Paris, “to see a good show again. It was a wonderful orchestra, and about half the show in English, wonderful chorus and dancing, with real American jazz band.”

Putt tried shopping for souvenirs and “got some shoes (50 francs), gloves (32 francs), and looked in the windows the rest of the time. There is nothing here that you cannot buy at home, and cheaper, so I won’t attempt to send anything home. I’ll bring some souvenirs when I return. Paris has beautiful buildings of all kinds, statues, and parks, etc., but Omaha would look pretty fine to me.”

Putt was disappointed with New Year’s Eve in Paris: “[I]t wasn’t like it is at home—no whistles, bells or anything.” But dinner the following day with Proudfit and Whedon “in a classy restaurant” was memorable. “It cost lots of money, but it was worth it (83 francs for the three of us) a wonderful omelet, broiled chicken, French fried potatoes, ice cream, cake, etc.“ Putt left Paris the next day.

More information and photographs on Nebraska’s role in World War I, on the home front and on the battlefield, are online at the Nebraska State Historical Society’s website. Become a member of the NSHS and receive four issues yearly of Nebraska History magazine. Selected articles from past issues are posted online. – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications

 

 

 

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Celebrating the Holidays with the Cumings

Thomas B. Cuming. NSHS RG2411-1134

Thomas B. Cuming. NSHS RG2411-1134

Omaha in 1854 was a village without churches and social organizations, but Margaret Cuming, widow of Thomas B. Cuming, who was acting governor of Nebraska Territory (1854-55, 1857-58), remembered celebrating Christmas there. “As I now recall it, we had no place of public worship here then,” she told the Omaha Evening Bee on December 24, 1906, “We were just a small settlement and visited back and forth during the day. In the evening there was a dance at the Douglas house [hotel] and I attended it.”

Several years later, on Christmas Day Mrs. Cuming lived in a cottage at the southeast corner of Eighteenth and Dodge Streets, where she said the family enjoyed a feast of turkey and partridges. She remembered the following New Year’s Day “through the association of three dozen eggs for which Governor Cuming paid $1 each, and with which she made Virginia egg nog, Mrs. Cuming being a Virginian.”

On New Year’s morning, “Mrs. Murphy, Mrs. Cuming’s mother, called and suggested the egg nog. Mr. Cuming took a walk down the village road and met a man from Council Bluffs with a basket of eggs. The best dicker Governor Cuming could make was $36 for three dozen.” When Cuming later told Mrs. Murphy that he had bought “extra fine” eggs for the beverage, “Mrs. Murphy said she thought they seemed to be just every-day eggs. Then the governor quoted the price.”

Want to see photos of Nebraska Territory’s chief executives, including Thomas Cuming, from 1854 to 1867? Check “A Governors’ Gallery” from the Winter 2003 issue of Nebraska History magazine. Receive current copies of the magazine as a benefit of membership in the NSHS. Both full members and subscription-only members receive four issues yearly. – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications

 

 

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Nebraska’s “Ghost” Counties

It seems that one incorrect map led to more than a decade of confusion regarding six nonexistent counties in Western Nebraska. How did such a mistake happen? In the Winter 2014 issue of Nebraska History Brian P. Croft explores the origins of Nebraska’s county boundaries, real and imagined.

After Nebraska became a territory in 1854, the legislature quickly began organizing counties. Nebraska’s original eight counties had become forty by 1861, when the expansion slowed due to the Civil War. County creation picked up again following Nebraska’s statehood in 1867, and the map business was competitive as commercial printers strove to keep up with the changes.

In mid-1867, the well-known Colton firm published Colton’s Township Map of the State of Nebraska, which showed the counties of Lyon, Taylor, Monroe, Harrison, Jackson, and Grant. Collectively, the six counties covered almost one-fifth of the state’s land. There was just one problem: those counties were never legally established.

One of the many maps that copied the mistake, New Rail Road and Township Map of Nebraska shows the nonexistent Lyon, Talor, Monroe, Harrison, Jackson, and Grant counties, and mistakenly places Julesberg, Colorado, inside Nebraska. Croft Collection

One of the many maps that copied the mistake. New Rail Road and Township Map of Nebraska shows the nonexistent Lyon, Talor, Monroe, Harrison, Jackson, and Grant counties, and mistakenly places Julesberg, Colorado, inside Nebraska. Croft Collection

But the Coltons weren’t simply making up boundaries. The map follows the exact guidelines of a bill called H.R. 104 that passed in February of 1867. It was then sent to Governor Alvin Saunders. But for some reason Saunders never signed it, and his pocket veto meant that, legally, the western third of Nebraska remained blank.

General Land Office maps do not show the six counties, and there are no records of them with the County Clerk. But once the counties appeared on the Colton map, other maps began to copy them. The more times the mistake was repeated, the more legitimate the counties seemed.

The map even caused errors in the 1870 census. The Colton firm didn’t remove all six from their maps until 1873, and some of the “ghost” counties appear on other maps as late as 1877.

Colton's Nebraska, published 1874 (copyright 1873), finally omitted the nonexistent counties, correcting errors that had been in circulation since 1867. Croft Collection

Colton’s Nebraska, published 1874 (copyright 1873), finally omitted the nonexistent counties, correcting errors that had been in circulation since 1867. Croft Collection

To learn more about the creation of Nebraska’s counties, you can purchase a copy of the magazine by calling the Landmark Store at 402-471-3447, or by visiting the Capitol Building location at 1445 K St., Room 1417.

- Joy Carey, Editorial Assistant, Publications

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Midwest Archives Conference Presidents’ Award

Has an individual or organization in your community done extraordinary work or given support for your archives? If so, consider nominating him or her for a Midwest Archives Conference (MAC) Presidents’ Award. The award has been established to recognize significant contributions to the archival profession by individuals, institutions, and organizations not directly involved in archival work but knowledgeable about its purpose and value. Each MAC state has a representative for the Presidents’ Award Committee. Nominations are initiated by contacting the state chair directly or through solicitations of nominations by the state chairs or members of the committee. The award will be presented at the members’ meeting at the annual MAC meeting.

Only one nomination per year may be put forward by each state committee, but as many as three awards can be presented each year. The deadline to submit nominations to a state chair is January 15.

Eligibility:

A. The nominee shall be any individual, institution, or organization not directly involved in archival work who has contributed significantly to a repository, archival organization, and/or the archival profession. The Award shall recognize significant contributions in such areas as legislation, publicity, advocacy, and/or long-term fiscal support.

B. The Award shall be a recognition of support that has improved the preservation of or accessibility to historically-valuable documents or records (in any format), or has contributed to a better public appreciation of archival work and activity.

C. Greater weight shall be given to archival support that has had a broad, long-term effect, but such emphasis shall not preclude the recognition of outstanding support of a single institution, organization, repository, or archival project.

D. Only support affecting archival work or activity within the MAC region shall be recognized.

E. Professional or volunteer archivists or curators shall not be eligible. Archival organizations and repositories, or corporations with archives, shall generally not be eligible unless the support recognized has reached and benefited the wider archival community in a significant way.

Nomination forms are available at: MAC Presidents’ Award nomination form

To nominate a person or organization in Nebraska, send your completed nomination form to:

Tom Mooney, Curator of Manuscripts
Nebraska State Historical Society
PO Box 82554
Lincoln, NE 68501-2554
tom.mooney@nebraska.gov

For the complete list of MAC states and state representatives, go to: MAC Presidents’ Award

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Shot Down Over the South China Sea: Recollections of WWII

Ens. John R. Doyle, USN. Courtesy of the Doyle Family

Ens. John R. Doyle, USN. Courtesy of the Doyle Family

It took luck, skill, friendly Filipinos, and contracting malaria for U.S. Navy Ensign John “Dugie” Doyle to survive World War II. In the Winter 2014 issue of Nebraska History, you can read Doyle’s recollections of the war as told to friend and fellow Lincoln attorney, Samuel Van Pelt.

When Doyle was a freshman at Yale in 1942, it seemed like classmates were going into the military daily. He and 80 classmates signed up for the navy air cadet program, and Doyle was called for active duty only a few months later.

Although training was intense, Doyle’s most memorable war experiences came in late 1944 as a dive bomber pilot with the aircraft carrier Ticonderoga.

On November 25, 1944, Doyle was assigned to an airstrike on a Japanese cruiser. But a miscommunication meant that Doyle was the thirteenth plane in a formation that was supposed to have twelve. This put Doyle as the final plane to dive: the most vulnerable position.

A Curtiss "Helldiver" circles above an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific, January 1945. U.S. Navy photo, 80-G-320999

A Curtiss “Helldiver” circles above an aircraft carrier in the South Pacific, January 1945. U.S. Navy photo, 80-G-320999

In the strike Doyle was able to score a hit on the cruiser, but was unaware that he had been hit by the anti-aircraft until his gunner, W.W. King, radioed that the plane’s wing was on fire. Hundreds of miles from the Ticonderoga, Doyle was able to successfully land the plane in the water about ten miles west of the Philippine island Luzon.

Luzon, the Philippines. Robert Ross Smith, Unites States Army in World War II, the War in the Pacific: Triumph in the Philippines (Washington, D.C.: office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1993)

Luzon, the Philippines. Robert Ross Smith, Unites States Army in World War II, the War in the Pacific: Triumph in the Philippines (Washington, D.C.: office of the Chief of Military History, Department of the Army, 1993)

Doyle and King climbed out of the plane and waved to the other fighters that they were OK. Just earlier that day, the pilots had been assured that the air-sea rescue plan was a good one. Doyle and King expected to be picked up by a rescue sub before long. But the sub never came.

To hear the rest of the story and find out how Doyle survived, pick up a Winter 2014 issue of Nebraska History. In it, you’ll read how Doyle met other stranded pilots, got help from the natives of Luzon, and how having malaria spared Doyle from being aboard an ill-fated transport plane. Truth is stranger than fiction!

You can get a copy of the magazine from the Landmark Store by calling 402-471-3447, or by visiting the Capitol Building location at 1445 K St., Room 1417.

- Joy Carey, Editorial Assistant, Publications

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Celebrating Nebraska’s Semicentennial, 1867-1917

This Arbor Day parade float at Nebraska City in 1917 also commemorated the state’s  semicentennial. The bust at the front of the float depicts J. Sterling Morton. NSHS RG2991-2-3

This Arbor Day parade float at Nebraska City in 1917 also commemorated the state’s
semicentennial. The bust at the front of the float depicts J. Sterling Morton. NSHS RG2991-2-3

The fiftieth anniversary celebration of the admission of Nebraska into the Union in 1867 took place in 1916 and 1917. John L. Webster of Omaha, then president of the Nebraska State Historical Society, was the instigator of the event. As 1917 approached, he proposed a celebration intended to symbolize not only the development of Nebraska but the relationship of the state to the opening and settlement of the West. A committee of one hundred members was appointed to take charge, with Omaha businessman Gurdon W. Wattles as chairman.

Hartley Burr Alexander, poet, historian and educator, wrote the semicentennial masque performed in Lincoln. NSHS RG2411-65

Hartley Burr Alexander, poet, historian and educator, wrote the semicentennial masque performed in Lincoln. NSHS RG2411-65

The plans for the celebration included a “Historical Pageant” (or parade) at Omaha on October 5, 1916, in connection with the Ak-Sar-Ben events for that year. President and Mrs. Woodrow Wilson attended and reviewed the parade, and President Wilson made an address to an immense crowd. The celebration in Lincoln took place June 12-14, 1917, at the time of the University of Nebraska’s commencement. Significant features included an address by ex-President Theodore Roosevelt and a “semi-centennial masque,” written by Hartley Burr Alexander.

Semicentennial observances were staged in many locations outside Lincoln and Omaha. March 1, 1917, Statehood Day, saw celebrations by individual counties, as well as by commercial clubs, historical societies, men’s and women’s clubs, Daughters of the American Revolution, and other civic and patriotic societies. February 12, 1917, Lincoln’s birthday, was the date set for observances in Nebraska’s rural and village schools. Appropriate exercises were held in Nebraska churches and Sunday schools on February 25, the Sunday nearest Washington’s birthday. The citizens of Nebraska City waited until Arbor Day in April, when they combined the two celebrations.

To stimulate interest in the events John D. Haskell of Wakefield, Nebraska, offered a prize of $100 in 1916 for the best poem adapted as a state song for Nebraska. (“Beautiful Nebraska,” composed by Jim Fras, has been the state’s official song since 1967.) One condition was that the 1917 poem to Nebraska be written by a state resident. The prize winner was the Rev. William H. Buss of Fremont for his “The Ode to Nebraska.” Haskell also gave a prize of $100 for the best musical arrangement for the poem, won by John Prindle Scott of New York City.

Nebraska’s 150th anniversary as a state will be celebrated in 2017, 100 years after the 1917 events. Members of the Nebraska Sesquicentennial Commission, appointed by the governor, will work closely with various state agencies, boards, commissions, and political subdivisions to plan commemorative events and to implement educational activities. More information is available online at Nebraska150.org. – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications

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