The Society has a large collection of Nebraska-made/Nebraska-themed sheet music. While cataloging some a few weeks back I came across two pieces that piqued my interest–mainly because the composers were identified only by their prisoner numbers.
This sheet music has fabulous cover art. Don’t know who drew it, but it sure fits the music.
The second piece of sheet music isn’t as visually interesting but the prisoner numbers pop up again.
A little research shed light on the prisoners behind the numbers.
Prisoner #7280 was Louis Chobar (aka Lee Vaugh) who was convicted of murder in York County and sentenced to life.
Prisoner #8940 was Art Boyd (aka Floyd Denton) who was convicted of burglary in Otoe County and sentenced to three to ten years.
”Omaha, I Love You” was written around 1927 and I suspect the other was as well considering Art’s lesser sentence. I haven’t been able to dig up much on Art Boyd but our Librarian Cindy Drake has done some searching about Louis Chobar (at bottom right) and found that he was arrested for the murder of Albert A. Blender, a farmer he and his wife had been working for, on November 28, 1917. Although Chobar was accused of robbing and then murdering the farmer, he claimed to have been defending his wife. He was convicted of first degree murder in 1918 and sentenced to life. The sentence was commuted to twenty-five years in 1932 and he was discharged from prison the following year. While in prison, Chobar studied the Science of Music (composition), published several songs, and was director of the Nebraska State Prison Orchestra from 1924 until his release.
After prison, he returned to Illinois (where he claimed to have been born) and copyrighted several more songs into the 1940s and 1950s but little else is known about what happened to him.
Cindy is continuing to do research about the prisoner/composers so if you have any information about either of them, please feel free to contact her at email@example.com
–Deb Arenz, Senior Museum Curator