July 31, 1942, marked the final day of Lancaster County’s month-long campaign for war bond sales. Conducted as a part of the World War II “Retailers for Victory” campaign, the drive sought to use the nation’s merchants and their employees to raise money for the war effort. Highlighting the closing day’s festivities was the appearance of “Hollywood’s good humor boys–‘Bud’ Abbott and ‘Lou’ Costello. The screen and radio comedians were met at Boys Town early this afternoon and whisked here with a state police escort,” said the July 31 Lincoln Star.
Abbott and Costello were among the most popular and highly paid entertainers in the world during World War II. At the peak of the team’s popularity, they made two nationwide tours selling war bonds. They raised an estimated $85 million for the U.S. government. Their July 1942 stop in Omaha was followed by a quick trip to Lincoln, where they were received by Nebraska Governor Dwight Griswold at the State Capitol.
Later that evening the comedy team attended and performed at a “Victory Dinner” at the Cornhusker Hotel and then saw a variety show at the Lincoln Air Base. Nebraska provided its two guests with several souvenirs: an ear of corn for each labeled “From Nebraska, the Cornhusker State,” and certificates designating them as admirals in the mythical Nebraska Navy.
More information and photographs of Nebraska activities on the home front during World War II are online at the Nebraska State Historical Society’s website, along with other articles from past issues 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