A Story Shared

Even in larger cities like Lincoln and Omaha, Nebraska always feels like a small town where everyone knows everyone else.  And the mission statement of the Nebraska State Historical Society is:“The Nebraska State Historical Society collects, preserves, and opens to all, the histories we share.”  Occasionally, the “histories we share” can be quite serendipitous!  I’m Megan Griffiths, a conservation technician at the Ford Center.  I had the distinct pleasure of witnessing one such story.

On the morning September 1st, Ryan Reed of the Nebraska State Historic Preservation Office, another division of the NSHS, had posted to the former @NE_SHPO Instagram account about what used to be known as the “Union Block” at 10th & O Streets in Lincoln, NE, and famous resident George Flippin.  He wrote this post with the following photos:

Map view of 10th & O Street, Lincoln, Nebraska, with Union Block highlighted   Photo of University of Nebraska Football team, circa 1890, George Flippin in the center

 “If you find yourself in the vicinity of the northeast corner of 10th and O Streets this Saturday for the Huskers football season opener, pause for a second.  This site, now the home to a seven story building, was once occupied by a row of two story mixed use buildings known as the Union Block in the 1890s.  On the second story of one of these buildings, 1012 O Street to be exact, was the residence of one of most interesting alumni at @unlincoln .  The individual’s name was George Flippin and he attend UNL from 1890 to 1894 and was the first African American football player for the University.  The 6 foot 2, 200 pound Flippin became a successful running back for the Huskers.  When he lived at this building between 1890 and 1891, which is indicated in red, the Huskers were not provided a coach and 3 out their 4 games were against Doane College from Crete, Nebraska. They ended their six week long season with a 2-2 record.  After his stint with the Huskers, Flippin began medical training at the College of Physicians and Surgeons in Chicago, Illinois.  After graduating in 1900, Dr. Flippin worked briefly as an intern at Cook County Hospital in Chicago. In 1907 he returned to his hometown, Stromsburg, Nebraska, were he opened the Maywood Hospital. He remained in Stromsburg until his death in 1929. Swipe left for a picture of Dr. Flippin.”

That afternoon, I was working in the Paper Lab when Kenneth Bé brought a client around for a brief tour.  Her name was Ann Ostberg and he mentioned that she had driven all the way from Stromsburg, Nebraska.  “Stromsburg?”  I asked.  “I just read about that on Instagram.”  I got out my phone and proceeded to show her the post.  As luck would have it, Ms. Ostberg is the great-niece of George Flippin!  His wife, Mertina Larson Flippin, was her great-aunt, the sister of her paternal grandfather.  The painting she had brought in to be examined for treatment was painted by Mertina herself!

One of our favorite things about conservation is being able to share the stories of the objects that come in to the Ford Center.  And as luck would have it, this time, the Historic Preservation Office got to share the story, too!

(Updated on July 18, 2023)


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History Nebraska was founded in 1878 as the Nebraska State Historical Society by citizens who recognized Nebraska was going through great changes and they sought to record the stories of both indigenous and immigrant peoples. It was designated a state institution and began receiving funds from the legislature in 1883. Legislation in 1994 changed History Nebraska from a state institution to a state agency. The division is headed by Interim Director and CEO Jill Dolberg. They are assisted by an administrative staff responsible for financial and personnel functions, museum store services, security, and facilities maintenance for History Nebraska.
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