The Prohibition Party’s 1920 Dream Ticket: W. J. Bryan and Billy Sunday

Prohibition was the law of the land by 1920, but the Prohibition Party was still uneasy. As the presidential campaign season got underway, they feared that neither a Republican nor a Democratic president could be trusted to vigorously enforce the new law. Already there were proposals to weaken prohibition by modifying the law to allow the manufacture of light wines and beer.

This 1918 postcard shows evangelist Billy Sunday (left) shaking hands with William Jennings Bryan in Chicago, where Bryan was helping Sunday support local temperance forces in their efforts to prohibit the sale of alcohol in the city. RG802-112-4

This 1918 postcard shows evangelist Billy Sunday (left) shaking hands with William Jennings Bryan in Chicago, where Bryan was helping Sunday support local temperance forces in their efforts to prohibit the sale of alcohol in the city. RG802-112-4

So when the party held its national convention in Lincoln in July, they decided to draft two high-profile candidates: three-time Democratic presidential nominee William Jennings Bryan for president, and evangelist Billy Sunday for vice president. Patricia C. Gaster writes about it in the Fall 2014 issue of Nebraska History.

The choice of Lincoln for the convention city made a lot of sense. Gaster writes:

The city had a number of advantages. It was centrally located between the two coasts, with good railroad connections, and had a reputation of being friendly to temperance. The large number of churches had in some circles earned it the nickname “The Holy City.” It was the home not only of the University of Nebraska, but of several religious colleges in its suburbs: Nebraska Christian University (Cotner College), sponsored by the Christian (Disciples of Christ) Church, in Bethany; Union College, sponsored by the Seventh-day Adventists, in College View; and Nebraska Wesleyan University, Methodist, in University Place. All three of these denominational schools, especially Nebraska Wesleyan, favored temperance. At Wesleyan few national issues, other than presidential campaigns and the coming of World War I, surpassed on campus the fervor in support of prohibition as dry campaigns to amend the state and national constitutions unfolded in the late 1910s.

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Selling the “‘Eat Out’ Idea” in the 1950s

This photograph of a family at Lee’s Restaurant, Lincoln, in 1952 is from the Macdonald Studio Collection. NSHS RG2183-1952-318-5

This photograph of a family at Lee’s Restaurant, Lincoln, in 1952 is from the Macdonald Studio Collection. NSHS RG2183-1952-318-5

American consumers today spend less of their disposable income on food than those in past decades, but statistics indicate that many of these dollars are spent for foods consumed away from home. Active marketing campaigns on behalf of the burgeoning restaurant industry helped bring about this change in eating habits.

Nebraska was not immune to the trend. “Big Budget to Sell ‘Eat Out’ Idea,” reported the Lincoln Star on November 1, 1955. “A $10 million advertising expenditure to entice the public to eat out more often was explained Monday evening at the State Restaurant convention in Lincoln by Marion W. Isbell, president of the National Restaurant Association.”

From Kearney Daily Hub, May 12, 1952

From Kearney Daily Hub, May 12, 1952

Speaking at the annual banquet, Isbell told the group that $2 million in advertising had already been pledged. He pointed out that the restaurant industry outlook was “optimistic, with an annual sales now of over $16 billion; by 1973, he said, that is expected to increase to $35 billion.”

A talk on “the use of ‘gimmicks’ as necessary in successful restaurant operations” was also delivered to the convention delegates. One of the most successful gimmicks was said to be the drive-in restaurant. Others included personalized books of matches for customers, cakes for special occasions, and special equipment and menus for children.

Although the popularity of eating out increased as the 1950s became the 1960s, it was sometimes hindered by another innovation in American life, television. Some preferred to eat at home while watching a favorite TV program, giving rise to the “TV Dinner,” first mass produced and marketed by Omaha-based C. A. Swanson and Sons.

More information on Nebraska in the 1950s is available in an online article from Nebraska History magazine, a benefit of membership in the Nebraska State Historical Society. Both full members and subscription-only members receive 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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Brown County’s Sod High School

Lakeland High School, believed to be the only sod high school in the nation, was built in Brown County, Nebraska, in 1934. NSHS RG3183-4-5

Lakeland High School, believed to be the only sod high school in the nation, was built in Brown County, Nebraska, in 1934. NSHS RG3183-4-5

During the Depression years of the 1930s, Nebraskans were faced with a shortage of funds for school construction. Due to the lack of available wood in many areas of the state, early settlers had constructed some buildings of sod, abundant on the prairie and a good insulator against heat and cold. In 1934 in Brown County the residents took a lesson from their ancestors and constructed a sod high school. Accounts of this undertaking are recorded in a 1935 report of the Nebraska Emergency Relief Administration (NERA), a copy of which is in the Library/Archives of the Nebraska State Historical Society.

Three Brown County rural school districts, located about twenty miles southwest of Ainsworth, decided to build a consolidated school, with sod as the basic construction material. After receiving NERA approval and funding, work was begun on July 20, 1934. Sod was cut from old lake beds in the area and a foreman was hired from relief roles. A sod roof supported by pole rafters topped a two-room structure, consisting of a classroom and living quarters for the teacher. It was completed on September 10. Several outbuildings, including two toilets and a barn for the students’ horses, were also built of sod.

This photograph by Solomon D. Butcher depicted a sod school about sixty miles west of Merna, Custer County, in 1889. NSHS RG2608-1774

This photograph by Solomon D. Butcher depicted a sod school about sixty miles west of Merna, Custer County, in 1889. NSHS RG2608-1774

The dedication of the building on September 19 was attended by over fifty persons, including State Superintendent of Public Instruction Charles W. Taylor. The school opened with eleven students under the tutelage of E. E. Holm. Ninth, tenth, and eleventh grades of study were offered. The first graduates of Lakeland High School were Robert Vanderlinde and Sterling Wales in 1936. Altogether thirty-three students attended Lakeland. Eventually the building began to deteriorate, and the school was closed in 1941.

More information on the construction of sod buildings is available in an online article from Nebraska History magazine, a benefit of membership in the Nebraska State Historical Society. Both full members and subscription-only members receive 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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The Nebraska History Museum’s Last Tour

Last week, two of the Nebraska History Museum’s docents made a bit of history. As they each led a group of elementary school students through exhibits focused on the First Nebraskans and Building the State, they gave the very last school group tours that would be offered in the Museum prior to its closure for renovation. It’s the end of an era, but the newly renovated Museum (which has a planned reopening in 2016) will be even more valuable for generations of Nebraskans to come.

The last school group tour at the Nebraska History Museum before renovations

The last school group tour at the Nebraska History Museum before renovations

But, of course, the NHM closure isn’t going to stop the museum’s staff from offering educational opportunities to the children of Nebraska. In fact, they haven’t slowed down one bit!

As part of the NHM’s “Museum on the Move” program, presentations and educational experiences will be offered to school groups at the Nebraska State Historical Society HQ building, located at 1500 R Street in Lincoln. These sessions will be led by the same engaging docents that have educated Nebraska’s youth for years and will cover one of a variety of topics, such as First Nebraskans, Pioneers, or Pony Express!

The NSHS HQ will also play host to Free Family Fun Days and Hours at the Museum, both of which are free and open to the public!

September's Free Family Fun Day

September’s Free Family Fun Day

October 14 - Hour at the Museum

October 14 – Hour at the Museum

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nebraska History Museum staff will also be leading tours for older groups of students through the Nebraska State Historical Society’s library and archives, with emphasis on special historical themes and topics and the use of primary sources. The general public is also still welcome to visit the NSHS Library (located in the HQ building) Tuesday-Friday, 10 am – 4 pm and Saturdays from 8 am – 5 pm.

Finally, the Nebraska History Museum is working with the Great Plains Art Museum (located at 12th and “Q” Streets) to bring a national touring exhibit to the people of Nebraska. “Homefront and Battlefield: Quilts and Context in the Civil War” will open in early February, 2015 at the Great Plains Art Museum. NHM docents will conduct tours of this exhibit, which will be shown at only four venues across the country!

So, while they keep busy, you should, too! Join in the fun and we will see you at all of the Museum on the Move events!

 

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Ann Lowe and the Intriguing Couture Tradition of Ak-Sar-Ben

Pages from Nebraska History, Fall 2014, showing Ann Lowe in 1966.

Pages from Nebraska History, Fall 2014, showing Ann Lowe in 1966.

How could such a prominent fashion designer remain so unknown to the public?

Ann Lowe’s fairytale-like gowns appeared in magazines, at the Academy Awards, and were worn by Jacqueline Bouvier and her bridal party when she married John F. Kennedy in 1953—but in 1964 The Saturday Evening Post called her “Society’s Best-Kept Secret.”

Her race may have been a factor. Lowe was the first African American designer to establish a couture salon on Madison Avenue.

Born in rural Alabama, Lowe opened a dressmaking business in Tampa, Florida, before moving in 1928 to New York City, where she spent the rest of her career. She has an important connection to Nebraska, one that offers “a treasure chest of information about the work of this mysterious fashion personality,” according to historian Margaret Powell, whose article, “Ann Lowe and the Intriguing Couture Tradition of Ak-Sar-Ben” is featured in the Fall 2014 issue of Nebraska History. Continue reading

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Kester Planing Mill listed on the National Register

Kester Millwork Shop:  South and West elevations, facing Northeast

South and West elevations, facing Northeast.

The Kester Planing Mill in Neligh has been listed in the National Register of Historic Places as of July 28, 2014.

Commonly called the Neligh Planing Mill, it is a fully equipped millwork shop dating to 1911-1912, complete with period mill working equipment and power system. It is the finest known example of the types of planing mills to have once operated across Nebraska.  These operations served in the upbuilding of communities through supplying local and regional carpenters and contractors.  The shop once built windows, cabinets, wood trim, and other custom wood products.

The Kester shop characterizes the evolution, adaptation, and development of motive power used in small, light manufacturing operations between the late 19th and early 20th century in Nebraska and nationally.  It is therefore an important example of the technological advances in motive power adapted to these smaller operations during this period across the state, following national trends in these industries. It is also has a rare surviving example of a power-drive line-shaft system with its array of line shafts, pulleys, and belts still connected to a number of pieces of its original woodworking machinery.  Kester’s use of this system represents the technology of line-shafts in industry, again a trend nationally and within the state.

Main Floor, workbench on right, planer at extreme left, facing Southwest.

Main Floor, workbench on right, planer at extreme left, facing Southwest.

Howard Kester, the son of a carpenter himself, and the operation he founded profited from Neligh’s early 20th century economic growth.  By 1910, the population had risen to 1,566.  After Kester built the mill, his crew grew to nearly twenty seasonal workers. They produced milled lumber, window sashes, doors, and cabinetry for numerous buildings, and contracted for remodeling houses in Neligh and throughout Antelope County.  Howard Kester built several Neligh business buildings and Neligh’s West Ward School.  He contracted for more than 100 new homes in Neligh and a similar number in the Neligh vicinity, as well as numerous barns and remodeling jobs.

In addition to the scores of Kester-built buildings throughout the area, much custom-built cabinetry and interior woodwork survives in the area as well, according to family and others.  Perhaps most recognized is a stairway in the former Matt Hoffman home, later the Hoepfinger-Beyer Funeral Home in Neligh.  Howard Kester was a master with wood in any form and made at least two violins.  Howard passed the craft to his sons.  He was joined in the business by sons Harold and Homer as Kester & Sons Construction Company.

Some additional images from the Nomination are below. And next time you’re in Neligh, give the Kester Planing Mill a look yourself!

North and East elevations, facing Southwest.

North and East elevations, facing Southwest.

Main Floor, “Warm Morning” stove, storage, facing Southeast.

Main Floor, “Warm Morning” stove, storage, facing Southeast.

Main Floor ceiling detail, line shaft and hangers, pulleys, and belts, reflected on ceiling.

Main Floor ceiling detail, line shaft and hangers, pulleys, and belts, reflected on ceiling.

Attic, facing East.

Attic, facing East.

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Omaha Proclaims Lindbergh Day to Welcome Aviation Hero

Lindbergh and his plane in Omaha, August 30, 1927. NSHS RG3882.PH0-5-a

Lindbergh and his plane in Omaha, August 30, 1927. NSHS RG3882.PH0-5-a

Following his historic trans-Atlantic flight in May of 1927, Charles Lindbergh made a three-month goodwill tour of the United States to promote aviation. Sponsored by Long Islander Harry Guggenheim, the trip took America’s newest hero and his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis, to all of the then forty-eight states. Lindbergh made 92 stops, gave 147 speeches, and rode in parades covering more than 1.200 miles.

Everywhere he went, he was given an enthusiastic welcome. The photograph above depicts Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis during a brief stop in Omaha on August 30, 1927, proclaimed “Lindbergh Day” by the city. Nebraska governor Adam McMullen, Omaha mayor Jim Dahlman, the Seventeenth Infantry Band, the Boy Scouts, several friends from his early flying days at Lincoln, and a crowd estimated at more than 250,000 welcomed Lindbergh to Omaha.

“Omaha has known street crowds in the past, and has accorded notable welcomes, such as those attending the coming of a Wilson or a Roosevelt, to illustrate but never was there such a crowd or such a welcome as when Colonel Charles A. Lindbergh came here Tuesday,” said the Omaha World-Herald the next day. Businesses were closed in honor of the event. Lindbergh was escorted by a parade of cars from Omaha’s Municipal Airfield to the Ak-Sar-Ben racetrack, where addresses of welcome were made. He was then taken to the Fontenelle Hotel.

In response to Lindbergh’s request, all entertainment ceased at eight p.m. so that he would be well rested for his departure for Denver the next day. Despite the attention paid him, he had a strict schedule to keep. He did fly over several other Nebraska cities enroute, including Kearney, where he honored an advance commitment to circle the Buffalo County fairgrounds on his way west from Omaha.

For more information on early Nebraska aviation, see Vince Goeres’s Wings Over Nebraska: Historic Aviation Photographs, available at the Nebraska State Historical Society’s Landmark Stores. Published by NSHS Books in 2010, it was written with Kylie Kinley and features an introduction by Roger Welsch and more than two hundred photographs from NSHS collections. – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications

 

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Nebraska History Museum-on-the-Move Offers Programs Around Town

Museum on the MoveThe Nebraska History Museum may be closing (on September 1) for renovation, but there are plenty of ways for you and your families to experience the great educational opportunities the Museum has to offer through its new Museum on the Move programming! Keep reading for a full list of everything you can see and do in the coming months.

The monthly Brown Bag History Forum lecture series, held the third Thursday of each month, will continue at the Lincoln County/City Building, 555 S 10th Street. The free programs will be offered at 12 noon in the 5CityTV studios and recorded for later broadcast on government access cable and posting on YouTube, courtesy of the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation.

The dates and topics for this fall are:

September 18 – “Orphan Trains” by Linda Hein

October 16 – “Women Homesteaders,” by Gail Blankenau

November 20 – “Enclosed Army Forts on the Northern Plains, 1819-1872,” by Thomas R. Buecker

December 18 – “Archeology Q & A,” by Nebraska State Historical Society archeology staff

For more information on the Brown Bag Lecture Series, call 402-471-4764 or email tom.buecker@nebraska.gov

The museum will also continue to offer its family-oriented programs through the fall at the Nebraska State Historical Society headquarters at 1500 R Street.

October 14 - Hour at the Museum

October 14 – Hour at the Museum

“Hour at the Museum” story and activity sessions are open for all ages from 10 to 11 a.m. and here are those dates and featured books:

October 14Eight Hands Round: A Patchwork Alphabet by Ann Whitford Paul

December 23One Splendid Tree by Marilyn Helmer

December 30A Boy Becomes a Man at Wounded Knee by Ted Wood

Free Family Fun Days for children and families will also be held at the NSHS Headquarters, 1500 R Street. Each of the following events will be held between 2:00 and 4:00 p.m.:

September's Free Family Fun Day

September’s Free Family Fun Day

September 13 – Celebrate Nebraska Archaeology Month by meeting archaeologists and digging to find your own artifacts

November 15 – Civil War Remembrance Day, celebrated with the help of the Sons of Union

December 13 – Veterans of the Civil War, pioneer Christmas decorations for attendees to make and take home

For more information on family programming, call 402-471-4757 or email judy.keetle@nebraska.gov.

And, as always, for information on the Nebraska History Museum’s traveling programming, its collections, or its renovations, visit the Nebraska State Historical Society Website.

We look forward to seeing you at the Nebraska History Museum on the Move!

 

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Winter Quarters Monument and commemoration

During the winters of 1846-47 and 1847-48, more than six hundred members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints died in their encampment, called Winter Quarters, on the banks of the Missouri River near Omaha’s present-day Florence neighborhood. These men, women, and children were among the large group of church members immigrating westward to the valley of the Great Salt Lake under the leadership of Brigham Young. Today, their burial ground, which also memorializes the six thousand Latter-day Saints who died enroute West between 1846 and the completion of the railroad in 1869, is commemorated by Avard T. Fairbanks’s Winter Quarters Monument, a beautifully executed sculptural program.

Avard T. Fairbanks' Winter Quarter Monument

Avard T. Fairbanks’s Winter Quarter Monument

Amy Porter and her baby boys, Joseph and Benjamin, were buried in the cemetery at Winter Quarters. Bill Porter, a descendant, has sent the Nebraska State Historical Society a photograph of her grave marker, the only original pioneer marker on which the person’s name, “Amy,” can still be identified. In this picture the light of the setting sun highlights her name.

Amy Porter's grave stone at Winter Quarters

Amy Porter’s grave stone at Winter Quarters

 

 

 

 

 

 

In the Fall 2014 issue of Nebraska History, historian Kent Ahrens describes and illustrates the Winter Quarters Monument commemorating Amy and the other Mormon pioneers who died there. You can read an excerpt online (scroll down to the fifth article) at the NSHS website and order a copy of the magazine by calling 1-800-833-6747.

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The Telegraph Arrives in Brownville

A Pony Express rider saluting the telegraph builders (who would soon put the Pony Express out of business) was a popular motif in illustrations of the period. NSHS RG24090-144

A Pony Express rider saluting the telegraph builders (who would soon put the Pony Express out of business) was a popular motif in illustrations of the period. NSHS RG24090-144

The most thrilling event of the summer of 1860 for the residents of Brownville, Nebraska Territory, was the completion of a telegraph line from St. Joseph, Missouri, to their town and the transmission of the first telegrams over the wires. On August 28 the Stebbins telegraph line was linked to Brownville, with a grand celebration planned for the following day.

The first telegram sent by the citizens of Brownville from Nebraska Territory on August 29, 1860, went to the Associated Press and was entitled “Nebraska Sends Greetings to the States.” The first telegram received in Nebraska Territory also came into Brownville that day. The St. Joseph Gazette in neighboring Missouri returned the greeting sent by Robert W. Furnas, then editor of the Nebraska Advertiser.

Robert W. Furnas. NSHS RG4389-9

Robert W. Furnas. NSHS RG4389-9

A large celebration was held that evening in Brownville, complete with bonfires, music, speeches, and toasts. Rounds of ammunition were fired, one for each of the states, one for Nebraska Territory, and one for the telegraph line. A parade led by the Brownville brass band ended the official celebration, but it was rumored that a barrel of wine was carried up to the telegraph office in an upstairs room of the Hoadley Building, where an unofficial celebration continued.

For an account of Nebraska Territory’s role in the building of the first transcontinental telegraph, see First Telegraph Line across the Continent: Charles Brown’s 1861 Diary, edited by Dennis N. Mihelich and James E. Potter, and published by the Nebraska State Historical Society in 2011. Read the book’s prologue here. Brown’s lively narrative is the only known extensive source written about the daily construction of one segment of the first transcontinental line, and is filled with period detail. The book is available from the NSHS Landmark Stores. – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications

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