Summer 2015 Kids’ Classes, On the Move!

Museum-on-the-MoveThe Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln may be closed for renovation, but there’s a summer full of fun and learning for kids at a variety of locations. Learn about Native American arts, make a civil war haversack, create a pioneer puppet show, drink tea Victorian-style, uncover family history and more. The Nebraska History Museum on the Move classes will (generally) meet at the Nebraska State Historical Society headquarters building at 1500 ‘R’ Street. A few special classes will be at the Great Plains Art Museum, 1155 Q Street or the Thomas P. Kennard House, 1627 H Street.

Classes being offered for young learners this summer include:

  • Native American Arts, Crafts, and Games, Grades K-12. 9:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Wednesday, May 27. Learn about Plains tribes, create a “hide” painting, do beadwork, play Native American games. $10/$8
  • Civil War Textiles, Grades K-12. 9:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Friday, May 29, Great Plains Art Museum, 1155 ‘Q’ Street. Tour the “Homestead and Battlefield: Quilts & Context in the Civil War” exhibit.
  • Learn about the importance of textiles to everyday life in the Civil War. Make a Civil War flag. $10/$8
  • Make a Housewife/Husswif, Grades K-12. 9:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Thursday-Friday, June 4-5, Great Plains Art Museum, 1155 ‘Q’ Street. Make a Civil War era sewing kit like on in the “Homefront and Battlefield: Quilts and Context in the Civil War” exhibit. Tour the exhibit and see other Civil War artifacts. $20/$16
  • Nebraska “Grandscapes,” Grades K-12. 9:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Wednesday, June 10. Learn about and create a watercolor painting of one of Nebraska’s beautiful landscapes. $10/$8
  • Make a Haversack, Grades K-12. 1:30-4:00 p.m., Tuesday, June 16, Great Plains Art Museum, 1155 ‘Q’ Street. Learn about and make a bag like those carried by Civil War soldiers. See a haversack used in the Civil War. $10/$8
  • Covered Wagons, Bumpy Trails – Puppet Show, Grades K-3. 9:30 a.m. -12:00 p.m., Thursday and Friday, June 18-19. Learn about how pioneers traveled in covered wagons. Create puppets. Parents and others are invited to a puppet show performance at 11:45 a.m. on Friday, June 19. $20/$16
  • What Did Nebraskans Do in World War II?, Grades 4-12. 1:30-4:00 p.m., Wednesday, July 8. Learn how WWII affected people at home in Nebraska and in military service. $10/$8
  • Nebraska History Heroes and Heroines, Grades 3-12. 9:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. Thursday and Friday, July 9-10.
  • Choose a famous Nebraskan and learn about him/her. Bring a plain t-shirt to design about your hero/heroine. $20/$16
  • Where Does History Begin? Genealogy for Kids, Grades 5-12. 1:30-4:00 p.m. Tuesday-Wednesday, July 14-15. Learn how to find information about your ancestors. Use resources in the NSHS reference room. $20/$16
  • Etiquette for a Proper Victorian Lady Grades K-3 (a.m.) or Grades 4-12 (p.m.) 9:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m. or 1:30-4:00 p.m. Friday, July 24, Thomas P. Kennard House, 1627 H Street. Learn about the Victorian era etiquette and dress styles. Learn about and make your own calling cards. $10/$8
  • Archeology, Grades 4-12. 9:30 a.m.-12:00 p.m., Thursday, July 30. Learn how we know what we know about the past. Learn about various eras in the past. Examine artifacts. $10/$8
  • A Day in the Life of a Pioneer Child, Grades K-12. 9:30 a.m.-4:00 p.m., Thursday, August 6. Bring a sack lunch. Learn about Nebraska pioneers’ daily life. Make a cornhusk doll. Do schoolwork with quill pens. Play games enjoyed by pioneer kids. $30/$24

Classes are filled on a first-come, first-served basis. Class sizes are limited. Registration fees are listed for the general public or at discounted rate for Nebraska State Historical Society members. To register, just follow THIS LINK. For more information call 402-471-4757 or email judy.keetle@nebraska.gov.

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Nebraska Corn Helps Win the War

Farm Crop Processing Corporation's alcohol plant

Farm Crop Processing Corporation’s alcohol plant, Fourth & Jones streets, Omaha. NSHS RG1963-14

 

In a blog post a few years ago we showcased the gas station operated by Earl Coryell that pioneered the production and sale of an ethyl alcohol blended motor fuel. That was not the only pioneering effort for the use of ethanol that came from Nebraska.

In 1942 a group of prominent Nebraskans including, among others, former state engineer George Johnson, former governor Arthur Weaver, former attorney general C. A. Sorensen, and food magnate Carl Swanson, formed the Farm Crop Processing Corporation in Omaha to produce ethyl alcohol that would be made into synthetic rubber to replace imported natural rubber supplies cut off during World War II.

The plant did not begin production until 1944, tangled by government red tape, perhaps at the behest of the oil industry, which was also producing synthetic rubber. Nevertheless, the tires of many vehicles that rolled ashore on Normandy Beach in June 1944 were made from synthetic rubber that “grew” in Nebraska cornfields.

At war’s end, despite the efforts of Nebraska Senators Hugh Butler and George Norris, federal funds waned. Competition from petroleum interests increased. The company struggled on for a few years, but finally closed in 1949, ending an early chapter in the long history of ethanol production in Nebraska.

–John Carter, Senior Research Historian

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The Camp Fire Collection

With generous support from the NSHS Foundation, the Library/Archives was recently able to purchase archival supplies and hire a temporary archives assistant to organize, describe and rehouse two large archival collections in order to better preserve them and make them more accessible to the public. The first collection to be worked on was that of the Camp Fire organization.

The Law of the Camp Fire

The Law of the Camp Fire

The Camp Fire Girls organization was established in 1910 by Dr. Luther Halsey Gulick and his wife, Charlotte. The purpose of the organization was to guide young girls in self discovery while developing a home spirit. Camp Fire Girls was heavily influenced by American Indian lore and culture. Participants used American Indian inspired symbols, wore “ceremonial gowns,” and chose American Indian sounding names. Girls were able to learn valuable lessons as they worked for honors to make rank within the organization. These honors were divided into seven crafts: Home, Health, Camp, Hand, Nature, Business, and Citizenship/Patriotism. Once a girl received enough honors, she would make rank. There were four ranks available to achieve: Trail Seeker, Wood Gatherer, Fire Maker, and Torch Bearer.
Haigler, Nebraska charter

Charter – Haigler, Nebraska, 1941 (B29, F80)

A group was started in Lincoln in 1912 when the Camp Fire Girls became nationally known. However, it wasn’t until 1922 when the Lincoln group received its official charter. The Lincoln Council (later known as the Pioneer Council) had jurisdiction not just in Lincoln but other surrounding towns, including but not limited to Milford, Seward, Auburn, Hallam, Sutton, and even Columbus at one time or another. The Lincoln Council Camp Fire Girls leased Camp Kiwanis, near Milford on the Blue River, from the Kiwanis Club for many years. Here the girls learned the essentials of camping including making a fire, field cooking, canoeing, swimming and archery.

In 1975 Camp Fire headquarters made it allowable for boys to join – thus changing the organization’s name to Camp Fire, Inc. Today, Camp Fire serves in twenty-eight states. It was America’s first nonsectarian and multicultural organization – open to all children no matter their race, sex, religion, or sexual orientation – and continues to stay true to its core values. The Lincoln Council continued to operate until the mid-1990s when the chapter was dissolved.

Swim Staff 1, V7, 1937

Scrapbook volume from 1937 showing members of the Swim staff.

Swim Staff 2, V7, 1937

Scrapbook volume from 1937 showing members of the Swim staff.

This collection contains documents ranging in date from 1913-1994 with a large portion dating from the 1960s and 1970s. The content of the collection revolves mainly around the organization’s Board of Directors, committees, events, day camps, scrapbooks and award ceremonies.

Check out the completed Camp Fire finding aid on our website for more detailed information about the collection.

-Tom Mooney, Curator of Manuscripts

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Original Omaha “foot ball”

Even before Nebraska had the Husker football team, it had Omaha “foot ball” clubs that played what we now call soccer. The game’s growth in Omaha was similar to its growth in the rest of the United States: introduced by immigrants and spread by word of mouth. In the Spring issue of Nebraska History, author Bruce Gerhardt explores the earliest appearances of this old game in a young state.

Illustration from Montague Sherman, Athletics and Football (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1887).

Illustration from Montague Sherman, Athletics and Football (London: Longmans, Green, and Co., 1887).

On September 29, 1880, a group of Omaha men met at a gun store to have a football club meeting. They elected officers and admitted thirty-five members, including the Omaha mayor, Champion S. Chase. Although this club would only have one recorded season, it was the beginnings of associated soccer in Omaha.

Other small clubs would come and go, but by 1895, Omaha soccer was being actively promoted to the public. One January 1895 article in the Omaha World-Herald praised the benefits of soccer over rugby, which was also growing in popularity. The author wrote that soccer did not require “the strength and bucking power which is essential in Rugby, and one need never be afraid of being hauled around, knocked down, and the weight of six or eight men piled on top of him.”

Omaha in 1897, two years after the city's first soccer season. NSHS RG2341-1340

Omaha in 1897, two years after the city’s first soccer league season. NSHS RG2341-1340

The YMCA, a group of “bona fide Scotchmen,” railway clerks, and the high school each had an established team in 1895. As the groups organized a league and resolved to perfect the game, the Omaha Daily Bee wrote that the sport was “destined to become the popular outdoor sport” the coming winter.

As the season progressed, the league drew decent crowds and multiple newspaper articles, while sparking team rivalries. Amongst commentary on players, crowds, and strategy, one reporter for the World-Herald said of the sport:

“The chief thing in Association foot ball is for every man to keep his place irrespective of where the ball is. A great many players are attempting individual work, which is a great mistake. They must learn to pass the ball to their own men, because team work is necessary to win…”

It is unclear why soccer did not remain popular throughout the next century, but the sport had definitely established itself. To learn more about Omaha soccer around the turn of the century, you can order a copy of this Nebraska History issue by calling the Landmark Store at 402-471-3447.

Joy Carey, Editorial Assistant, Publications

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Nebraska Prisoners “in the biting stage”

The prisoners called it a protest. The guards called it a riot. But on August 16, 1955, fires blazed and smoke billowed out of the Nebraska State Penitentiary…and the inmates’ activism could be called anything but quiet. In the Spring 2015 issue of Nebraska History, Brian Sarnacki writes about the incident and the circumstances that led Nebraska inmates to violently demand prison reform.

The Lincoln Star, August 17, 1955

The Lincoln Star, August 17, 1955

In January of 1955, the Nebraska prison system was already under some review. Riots in 1954 had led to an investigative committee, and the Board of Control hired prison expert Sanford Bates to examine Nebraska prisons. Bates’s review was less than stellar. He criticized the State Penitentiary’s poorly-educated guards and lack of purpose, as well as some of its punishment practices.

Bates had particular criticism for “the hole,” which was a section of concrete cells used to punish troublesome prisoners. Inmates assigned to the hole got a slab of concrete to sleep on, barely any light, and little more than bread to eat.

In his memoir, former inmate Ray “Ramon” Tapia described the Nebraska State Penitentiary as “a bleak and miserable place to live.” Tapia remembered being sentenced to the hole indefinitely for minor infractions, or as pressure to confess to breaking the rules. The prisoners told the investigators that the warden, deputy warden, and certain guards were abusive. They protested the lack of sufficient medical attention and reading materials.

Despite Bates’s report, political attempts at prison reform continually stalled or fell short. Lacking much of a public voice, some prisoners saw violence as the only way to get attention for their complaints. Ninety-four inmates signed a letter to the Omaha World-Herald, warning, “When a sleeping dog gets kicked just so long he will eventually get up and bite, and it’s in the biting stage as far as we convicts are concerned as we had the share of kicking.”

On March 27, 1955, one prisoner, John Ward, broke out of his cell using a spoon and took prison guard Warren Miller as a hostage. Soon, a group of twelve prisoners had control of the three-story jail building, which stood separately from the rest of the complex. The inmates had captured one small structure, but more importantly they had captured the attention of the public, the media, and the governor.

Shown here many years before the 1955 riots, the "jail" housed prisoners in solitary confinement. The lower level was known as "the hole." NSHS RG2418-5-05

Shown here many years before the 1955 riots, the “jail” housed prisoners in solitary confinement. The lower level was known as “the hole.” NSHS RG2418-5-05

Nebraska Governor Victor Anderson promised to meet with the rebels personally to hear their grievances, if they let the guards go safely. It was a momentary victory for the inmates. However, in contrast to their hopes, the only lasting change resulting from the meetings was the replacement of the warden. The new warden was inexperienced, and inmates feared that he would not be able to monitor abusive guards.

The prison administration and guards found ways to retaliate against the inmates for making a stir. The public had also hardened towards the prisoners, embracing “get tough” discipline policy.

The months of conflict boiled over into the August fire-settings: a 13-hour uprising by more than 200 convicts, that resulted in more than $100,000 worth of damage. The prisoners were determined to be noticed.

Lincoln Journal, August 20, 1955

Lincoln Journal, August 20, 1955

To read the whole story and learn more about the 1955 prison protests and reform, check out the Spring 2015 issue of Nebraska History. You can order a copy by calling the Landmark Store at 402-471-3447.

- Joy Carey, Editorial Assistant, Publications

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Man Seeking Wife, with help from the Mayor

Here’s an oddball story to kick off your Saturday.

In 1934, a thirty-year-old farmer from South Dakota named John Sourbier wrote the mayor of Omaha with a unique request. “Maybe you can help me out,” the farmer wrote. “I can make some nice girl a good husband and home, [but] the girls around here are not the kind like. So let me hear from you, and hoping you can help me.”

Letter from Sourbier to mayor of Omaha

Letter from Sourbier to mayor of Omaha

While even in 1934 the job description of mayor did not include ‘matchmaker,’ the story of the letter did apparently make it into the Omaha World-Herald.

And upon reading word the farmer’s plea, the World Theater in Omaha contacted Mr. Sourbier and made him an even more unique proposition.

Letter from Omaha World Theater to Mr. Sourbier

Letter from Omaha World Theater to Mr. Sourbier

“We can, and will secure for you, a wife, provided you will appear on the World Theatre stage for one week, starting May 25th, afternoon and evening, and abide by the decision of our audiences in the selection of the wife,” the theater manager kindly offered. “Our plan is to secure applicants who wish to marry, and have them appear on the stage with you, make speeches to our patrons, giving their qualifications of why they should be chosen to become your wife.”

After further research, it is still unclear whether or not the lonely farmer accepted the theater’s bid. But what we know for sure is that decades before The Bachelor and other shows of its ilk ever appeared on television (heck – years before the advent of television!), one Omaha showman knew exactly what kind of spectacle the public would be clamoring for, for many years to come.

You can view these letters (and much, much more) in the NSHS Photograph & Artifact Collections Search!

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When cowboys shot up Niobrara

For a short period of time, cattle drives were big business in Nebraska. After the Civil War ended in 1865, growing demand for beef plus a surplus of longhorn cattle in Texas led to thousands of Texas cattle being herded north to Nebraska, where the Union Pacific railroad transported them to the eastern states. Some cattle drives went even farther north, taking beef to Indian reservations in Dakota Territory. Early on, drives brought cattle to eastern and central parts of the Nebraska. Kearney was common destination in the mid 1870s. But as settlement migrated west so did the cattle drives, often ending at Ogallala. By the mid 1880s, the cattle-drive business was already declining in Nebraska, to be replaced by permanent ranches and home-grown cattle.

Here is the transcript of one man’s memories of Nebraska life during the brief cattle-drive years.

REMINISCENCES OF THE DAYS WHEN BOHEMIANS FIRST SETTLED IN KNOX COUNTY, NEBR.

(Translated from an article written by Joseph P. Sedivy, Verdigre, Neb., in Bohemian, for the Bohemian weekly Osveta Americka, in 1911)

In the years between 1870 and 1875 it was the rule that large herds of Texas cattle were driven through our new settlement, each year, beginning in June and ending in September. The cattle was (sic) bought by the government in Texas for the military posts and Indian agencies along the upper Missouri. This wild cattle, with long horns, was in the care of equally wild cowboys, who often dealt roughly with the settlers, causing them loss and endangering their lives.

Nebraska, 1875. This geological map was included in Edwin Curley's 1875 book: Nebraska, Its Advantages, Resources, and Drawbacks.

Nebraska, 1875. This map was included in Edwin Curley’s 1875 book: Nebraska, Its Advantages, Resources, and Drawbacks.

I remember when a group of cowboys once held a veritable reign of terror in Niobrara and woe to him who refused to do as they bid. For instance, Mr. Frank Janousek had a log house in Niobrara in which he ran a saloon. A crowd of cowboys came with great noise and jumping off their horses, they hastened in. There were about twenty of them. They ordered everything in sight, some paid, some did not. They began to entertain themselves by drinking, playing cards and dice and teasing the proprietor.

When they began to feel pretty gay as a result of too much liquor, those that were playing cards got up a quarrel, just for effect. They pulled out their guns, began to shoot up the place and when the proprietor tried to restore order and demanded pay, they turned their weapons on him and the bar tender. Each of the latter was armed but each realized that discretion was the better part of valor. The proprietor lived in the back rooms, and so he and the bar tender made their escape there, barricading the door firmly.

The unwelcome guests sent a few shots after them, then amid general laughter, swearing and singing, they all fell on the stock at hand, and a wild orgy ensued. Revolver shots, an unearthly ding, singing, swearing, breaking glass, etc. resounded far and wide. They used everything for targets, even the bolt on the door. Niobrara was the county seat and the sheriff lived there, but he was afraid to come forth, knowing that he was practically helpless.

All the houses were fortified in various ways and the occupants trembled with fear. The men were armed and prepared to defend themselves and families. The racket lasted until dark, when a few sober cowboys came from the camp and with great difficulty got the rest to go with them. The camp was situated about two miles from town, but the quiet air during the whole night was rent with din. Mr. Janousek received no damages for his loss. This was but one example of what the cowboys used to do.

It was their custom, when driving a large herd, often numbering ten thousands, to take it across the vast prairies in somewhat the following order: the boss cowboy rode first with one or two cowboys, then came a herd of healthy stock, driven by cowboys who rode on horses, at the sides. Then came a herd of tame horses, generally led by a docile mare with a bell about her neck. Then came more cowboys, then wagons drawn by three pair of oxen each, with Mexican drivers. The wagons contained the provisions and necessities. Then came a herd of sick and lame cattle, driven by two or three cowboys.

Cowboys on Thomas B. Hord's "77" ranch in Wyoming were photographed at their chuck wagon dinner during the 1880s. NSHS RG4232-5

Photos like this one show what cowboy life was like in the late 1800s. Cowboys on Thomas B. Hord’s “77” ranch in Wyoming were photographed at their chuck wagon dinner during the 1880s. NSHS RG4232-5

 

When the herd reached the Missouri valley at Niobrara, which at that time was unsettled, with the exception of the little town and a few farms, the cowboys made camp. It was necessary now to drive all the animals over the Missouri River, to the other side. It was the custom to divide the herd into groups of three and four hundred head each. Local Indian half-breeds were hired to assist. They sat in their boats and helped to steer the cattle over. This was most dangerous work, when an enraged beast refused to go on and attacked the man in the boat. But Indian half breed were good swimmers and brave, and were eager to do the work for good pay. Later white men used to do this work too.

It was interesting to watch a mottled herd of cattle swimming in the river. The weak ones often perished by drowning or stuck in the mud, and such became the prey of Indians loafing on the banks. The red men sat in the tops of trees along the shores like vultures and used every occasion to get the unfortunate animals. When they thus gained a goodly supply of meat, they had a great celebration in the near-by village, from whence could be heard, the whole night long, their racket and din.

It happened also that during storms the cattle stampeded at night and many heads wandered away into the hills southeast of the Niobrara valley. Cows, feeling their hour of pain coming on them, got miles away from the herd. The cowboys did not care much about looking for lost cattle, except when a general stampede occurred. It was the rule that any lost heads became the property of the person who found them, be he white or red, each had an equal right.

"A Drove of Texas Cattle Crossing a Stream," Sketched by A. R. Waud. Harper's Weekly, October 19, 1867

“A Drove of Texas Cattle Crossing a Stream,” Sketched by A. R. Waud. Harper’s Weekly, October 19, 1867

I often helped to get such an animal and I could relate many an interesting episode of such occasions. But I will limit myself to one, which happened toward the end of September 1872.

I was but a boy at that time and it was my duty to look after father’s cattle, consisting of a pair of oxen, two cows and a heifer. In those days cattle roamed at will, for but a small share of the ground was under cultivation. The cattle usually came home at night by itself (sic), and if it did not, we had to get it.

I started out one evening to get our stock, but could see no signs of it, nor hear the bell. I took myself over the hills to the east until I came to a little creek that flows into Sturgis Creek. The sun was nearly setting and I could not find the cattle. I decided to go down to the creek and if I did not find anything, to return. I was about three miles from home. I started to cross the hill, to get to the creek, but when I reached the top I saw a large Texas steer lying there in the valley. I knew it was dangerous to approach him on foot, so I retraced my steps as quietly as I could. I hurried for help and wanted to get the steer before darkness came on. Mr. John Barta lived on his homestead on Vertigre Creek and was he was a good huntsman, I turned to him.

When I got to his dug-out and told him my mission, he was ready in a minute. Before we reached the place where I had seen the steer, twilight came on and it was necessary to go ahead carefully, so he would not see us first. But to our great sorrow he was gone. There were three of us, Mr. Barta with his trusty gun, Mr. J. H. with a knife and hatchet and I with my weapon.

Suddenly we heard a noise in the grass and we saw in the dark a black object. I was greatly excited and fired twice and my shots started up several other black objects. We all sped after them, when Mr. Barta cried: “Be careful!” and there we saw, about thirty feet away, our “boy from Texas.”

At the same time a dreadful odor spread around us which we knew to come from skunks and so we began to retire hastily, especially since the long horn showed signs of impatience. Mr. Barta took a shot at him, the animal reared and it seemed was struck. It took several wild jumps, as it seemed in our direction, and we ran as fast as we could, although we were well nigh suffocated by the horrible stench. I felt myself falling, so I grabbed hold of Mr. J.H. and dragged him with me into a pool. Mr. Barta fell over a log, stopped, and not seeing any danger, called for us.

We got out, I had lost my weapon and Mr. J. H. his hatchet. When Mr. Barta saw us, he had a good laugh. We decided to set out in the morning to look for what we had lost and see if we could not find the wounded steer. I got home tired and chilled, called my father out and told him what had happened. He brought me clean clothing which I put on in the barn, then I went up into the attic without any supper other than a cup of hot, black coffee.

The next day Mr. Barta and I went forth and found our weapons, but aside from a stench nothing was to be seen of the skunks. We found the tracks of the steer and a good deal of blood, and although we followed the tracks for six miles, we lost them in a deep ravine overgrown with high grass. Being hungry and tired we decided to return home. A few days later I met Mr. J. H., but he was minus his beautiful, blond beard. When I asked him why he parted with it, he replied that he was obliged to on account of the smell. He swore never again to look for lost Texas steers.

- Joy Carey, Editorial Assistant, Publications*

*Special thanks to Marty Miller of the NSHS reference staff for bringing this memoir to our attention.

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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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