Nebraska State Historical Society Blog Archive


White Lance, Joseph Horn Cloud & Dewey Beard, 1907 [RG1227.PH000025-000004]


Eli Ricker Wounded Knee interviews

Judge Eli S. Ricker of Chadron, Nebraska, April 1916, age 73. The button on his lapel says, "Votes for Women." [RG1227.PH000001-000002]   Eli Seavey Ricker was born in Maine in 1843. Following his service in the Civil War with Company I, 102nd Illinois Volunteer Infantry, he became a farmer, researcher/writer for a company that published county histories, lawyer, judge, politician, rancher, and newspaper editor. Ricker was in his sixties in the early 1900s when he began research for a book he intended to call "The Final Conflict between the Red Men and the Palefaces." He spent years gathering sources and interviewing participants -- both Indian and white -- about conditions and battles on the Plains in the last half of the nineteenth century. He interviewed at least fifty Native Americans, and was one of the first historians to recognize that their viewpoints were as valid to the history of the Plains as those of whites. He recorded the interviews, along with comments, notes...
(page 65) ... Shakes Bird went round on the outside of the council singing ghost songs. When the shooting began the women ran to the ravine. The shooting was in every direction. Soldiers shot into one another. [Indians in the circle were] Many of the Indians in the circle were killed. Many of them mingled with the soldiers behind them, picking up guns from dead soldiers and taking cartridge belts. They took guns they had turned over and the cartridge belts they had turned over with (Page 66) them. Many Indians broke into the ravine; some ran up the ravine and to favorable positions for defense. Beard (who is a brother of Joseph Horn Cloud, but is not called Horn Cloud, called Beard only); and William Horn Cloud, Daniel Horn Cloud, who is now called White Lance, & Sherman Horn Cloud, and is a brother of Joseph; and George Shoot the Bear and Long Bull both cousins of Joseph; and two old men, one of whom belonged to Big Foot's band and the other to...

Workers at the 24-hour canning center in Norfolk, Nebraska


Throwback Thursday Photo, FERA Canning Center in Norfolk

Who has been doing some canning this fall? Today’s Throwback Thursday photograph features a group of men seated a table preparing beans for canning. The men worked under the direction of Miss Helen McGinnis at the 24-hour canning center in Norfolk, Nebraska during the Great Depression. Canning centers like this one were operated by the Federal Emergency Relief Administration (FERA) during the 1930s. FERA was established as a result of the Federal Relief act in 1933 and was replaced by the Works Progress Administration in 1935. FERA’s main goal was to alleviate household unemployment by creating new unskilled jobs in local and state government. FERA provided work for over 20 million people from May 1933 to December 1935. NSHS has a large collection of photographs FERA used to document federally funded projects across Nebraska. Over 2,500 images have been digitized and are now available online as part of the NSHS Online Collections Search. 
The 24-hour canning center in Norfolk was the leading canning center in Nebraska. It canned 40,000 cans under the direction of Miss Helen McGinnis (center). The tables and benches used in the canning operation were also a FERA project. (RG4290.PH0-000314) The equipment used at the Norfolk canning center duplicated home methods. The center operated 24-hours a day in three shifts during the canning season. (RG4290.PH0-0000325) When the canning center was not using the tables and benches, they were moved the Norfolk Sewing Center. The sewing center was led by Mrs. Sanmann. (RG4290.PH0-001645)

Blueprint drawing for the Lincoln Sport Plane, February 25, 1925. [RG3726.AM: Encil Chambers]


Discover the NSHS Manuscript Collections

Lincoln Sport Plane, blueprint drawing [RG3726.AM: Encil Chambers] For this October’s celebration of Archives Month, we would like to tell you a little more about accessing the manuscript collections here at the NSHS.  When we use the term, “manuscript,” here at the NSHS, it refers to any set of documents in our collections that come from a private source.  Our manuscript collections include the personal papers of families and individuals, as well as records relating to businesses and organizations.  To see a listing of all of our different manuscript collections, visit our Manuscript Collections page on our website.  The listings are alphabetical by type, including Business Records, Church Records, Family/Individual Records, Organizational Records, and Political Records.  Items within the collections may include letters, diaries, financial statements, minutes of meetings, legal documents, architectural drawings, etc.  To make the collections more accessible, we try to...
  So, if you know you are interested in records relating to the Royal Highlanders out of Aurora, Nebraska, or the Northwestern School of Taxidermy out of Omaha, you can click on the links and bring up the detailed inventory for each collection.  If you don’t know what specific collection you are interested in, you can browse the alphabetical listings or you can always do a key word search using the “Search” icon located at the top right of each page on our website.  While we don’t have detailed inventories available online for each and every collection, we are always working to place more online.  If you see a listing for a collection you are interested in, want to order copies, or just have questions about a collection, you can always contact our Reference Services department for more information. Course catalog, Northwestern School of Taxidermy [RG5451.AM]

NSHS Government Records storage


Archives Month 2017

New Government Records storage.    October is American Archives Month! To celebrate the archivists and curators at Nebraska State Historical Society have planned an exciting month-long celebration. This year’s focus will be Access. From the online Collections Search to informative blogs, NSHS’s curators, volunteers, and staff have worked tirelessly to provide the public with better access to the amazing historical treasures NSHS cares for every day. If you haven’t explored the new Explore Collections NSHS website, let our curators give you a tour! is bursting at the seams with hundreds of archival resources and finding aids. And who better to explain them than the people who created them? Each week in October the NSHS Curators of Manuscripts, Photographs, Government Records, Audio Visual, Library, and Museum Collections will share What in their collections is available online How to use our finding aids and collections tools The types of online resources...
Check back every Wednesday and Saturday during the month of October and discover the exciting and helpful resources available on  Wednesday, Oct. 3: Discover NSHS Manuscript Archives Saturday, Oct. 7: Discover Paper Ephemera in the NSHS Museum Collections Wednesday, Oct. 11: Discover NSHS Audiovisual Collections Saturday, Oct. 14:  Discover NSHS Photograph Archives Wednesday, Oct. 18: Discover NSHS Government Records Saturday, Oct. 21: Celebrating Home Movie Day Wednesday, Oct. 25: Discover NSHS Library Special Collections Friday, Oct. 27: World Day of Audiovisual Heritage blog Tuesday, Oct. 31: Conservation blog from the Ford Conservation Center Cleaning glass plate negatives from the Legislative Portrait Collection. 

Cowles Mill Foundation near Nebraska City


Archeology of Nebraska's Territorial Period (1854-1867)

Looking for a new outlook on our territorial history? See what archeology reveals about the new people who came into Nebraska beginning in 1854. Five territorial-era towns and one rural mill were discovered buried in the path of planned transportation improvements beginning in the early 1970s. The Nebraska State Historical Society (State Archeology Office) and the Nebraska Department of Transportation teamed up to investigate the buried ruins. We share summaries below, along with historical background. Archeological data enhances the scant archival records and lets us capture a more robust and accurate understanding of the lives of these pre-1867 Nebraskans. Solving archeological problems often involves evaluating data from a ‘suite’ of related sites studied over a period of years. The territorial period archeology program is a wonderful example of that reality. Taken together, the artifacts, bones, and other field observations gathered at these six sites now allow...
Cuming City Plan view map of an archeological excavation of a buried Cuming City cellar. In 1855, a town company was fomed and plans drawn for Cuming City. The original plan called for 180 blocks. It is not known how many blocks were actually developed but within several years several stores, hotels, saloons and over 50 homes appeared (Bell 1876:43). When the railroad was built through neighboring Blair, Cuming City’s population quickly dwindled. By the 1880s several buildings remained extant, but all were gone by1900. Widening of US HIghway 73/75 in 1974 required archeological investigations in old Cuming City under the direction of NSHS staff Gayle Carlson and Terry Steinacher (Steinacher and Carlson 1984:87-114). The field work focused on a deep subfloor cellar that had been beneath a house or commercial building. A diverse assortment of glass, metal, and ceramic artifacts suggested a period of occupation in the mid-1860s. The collection was the first of its age to...

White Horse Ranch American Albino sign


White Horse Ranch memorabilia

Cal and Ruth Thompson, 1938 (RG1714.PH21)   In 1917 twin brothers Cal and Hudson Thompson from West Point, Nebraska, bought a white stallion, "Old King," and began a breeding program. The breed they developed had pink skin and dark eyes. In the 1930s Cal and his wife, Ruth, bought Hudson's share of the program and began a registry for the breed, which they called American Albino. In 1938 Cal and Ruth moved to a 2,400-acre ranch near Naper, Nebraska, originally called El Rancho del Caballo Blanco, although it was known by most as White Horse Ranch. In addition to the breed registry, Cal and Ruth trained the horses and began putting on regular Sunday afternoon shows at the ranch. Over time, they began to perform at horse shows, fairs, and rodeos. Ruth also started a riding school for young people. By the mid-1940s, some of the youths were part of the White Horse Troupe, which performed throughout the United States and Canada, as well as at the White Horse Bowl, a natural arena...
Ruth Thompson wore this outfit during a White Horse Ranch show called the Liberty Act. Ruth was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1990 for her role in the development and registry of the American Albino horse, as well as for the development of the White Horse Ranch's training and riding school. NSHS 13063-7-(1-3)  Ruth Thompson and her sister, Ruby Shumaker, made ceramics to sell as souvenirs at the White Horse Ranch. 13063-15 and 13063-16

Image of Wm. A. Wolfe from the Omaha World Herald, Sept. 5, 1920.


The Mystery of the William A. Wolfe Atlas Collection

Forty years ago on August 1, 1977, I started my career in the library of the Nebraska State Historical Society.  The Library was located on the second floor of the building at 1500 R Street, with the Reading Room (current Capitol View Room today) being the main focal point for research.  At that time the public was still allowed to conduct research in one library stack level.  The first thing I learned was that part of my job included responding to genealogical research inquiries.  The Alex Haley movie Roots in 1976 had introduced a new generation to researching their family history.  Unlike today with the use of so many online resources, those doing research beyond Nebraska were still using various sources that were not always readily available.  For example, computers were just starting to be used to index the various old U.S. federal census records before 1860.  A company produced various printed indexes for the U.S. census records from 1790 to 1850.  The...
  Image of Wm. A. Wolfe from the Omaha World Herald, Sept. 5, 1920. Fast forward to June 2017.  Linda Naticchioni contacts the Nebraska State Historical Society about a collection of maps that her great-grandfather Wm. A. Wolfe, a banker from Beatrice, was reported to have accumulated in his life time. The major source of reference was an Omaha World-Herald article dated September 5, 1920 in which a reporter had written an article about the valuable set of original maps and atlases that he had in his private collection.  The collection was already deemed valuable at that time and included atlases that were reported to be extremely rare.  He allowed the public to use his collection, including William Jennings Bryan, and he expressed his intentions to turn over the collection to the Nebraska Historical Society.  Mr. Wolfe, however, passed away from influenza in May of 1921. Wolfe left a wife and daughter who continued to live in the home where his reported collection was in a...

Doane Powell with wall of masks


Saving Face

Unusual objects have a way of showing up for treatment at the Ford Conservation Center. So in some ways the 69 masks by Nebraska artist Doane Powell were no surprise. But a little bizarre? Maybe. The Nebraska History Museum collection of mid-20th century faces, both famous and infamous, were made from a wide range of materials--including leftover lingerie! Fortunately Powell left a detailed book on how to make masks, complete with step-by-step instructions and diagrams. He described himself as a “Cartoonist. Portrait Painter. Sculptor. Art Instructor. Art Director. Lecturer.”  Powell had many talents, but conservator he was not. His wide range of layered paper masks were widely used for social events, theater productions, advertising, masquerades and early tv shows. The daughter of Powell's assistant donated them to the Museum and the staff brought them to the Ford Center for treatment as the evidence of their use was clear. 60+ years of hand grime and environmental residue...
  The Ford Center staff approached this project like we do every other one: 1) What can we do to stabilize the piece, to ensure it is structurally sound and to prevent further damage? 2) How can we best clean the surface?  3) What can we do to compensate for any aesthetic damage and return it to closer to its original intended appearance?  In this case, we examined each of the masks and came up with a general many-step treatment plan: consolidate any loose paint or fragments   vacuum the masks with a brush and a net over the nozzle, just in case any pieces came loose  clean the surfaces, testing the paint surfaces and using extreme caution so as not to disturb the original materials humidify warped masks either locally or in a humidification chamber  mend and fill tears or losses    inpaint repairs to visually integrate with the surrounding area.    

H. A. Brainerd. From Portrait and Biographical Album of Lancaster County, Nebraska (1888).


Timeline Tuesday: Brainerd and Furnas at the Fair

H. A. Brainerd. From Portrait and Biographical Album of Lancaster County, Nebraska (1888). In 1926 journalist and Nebraska press historian Henry Allen Brainerd (1857-1940) recalled his attendance at the Nebraska State Fair in 1886 or 1887 when it was held at Lincoln. Brainerd, a native of Boston, had come to Nebraska in the early 1880s. Staging the fair was the responsibility of the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture, of which Robert W. Furnas was longtime secretary. Brainerd said: "One instance of that early day is vividly before me and I never enter the fair grounds, and I have attended the most of them since that time, but what it comes to my mind. I went to the fair and entered the office of the secretary, and after a cordial greeting which was always Mr. Furnas' custom, he remarked-'Wait a minute, Brainerd, I want to show you something.' After he had finished with the party to whom he was talking he took his hat and told his clerk, Harry Shaffer, that he would be back...
The state fairgrounds, looking south from the Amphitheater, 1888. NSHS RG3356-3   "I gazed on the hog and answered 'Yes!' but compare that hog with the first prize winner of today [1926]. The hog referred to would not have weighed over 400 pounds, if he did that, [and] he was raw and rangy, but he took the first prize. And so with the horses, the cattle, the sheep, and all the exhibits of this wonderful fair that has just passed, where thousands of people attend, where automobiles bring the guests from all states in the union, where the natives come in trains loaded to the gun'ales; and by auto until there is not room on the grounds to receive them and arrangements are not far distant when greater facilities must be provided for the reception of the guests.   "Monday, it is said, was the banner day in all the history of the fair. 75,500 people and 12,500 automobiles passed the gates. . . . Of course there may have been more, for it would be impossible to get a...

Kearney bachelors newspaper article


Timeline Tuesday: The Bachelors' Protective Union of Kearney

When the Bachelors' Protective Union gave a gala reception for two of its newly married, former members and their brides in March of 1890, the social club for young, single business and professional men was already well known in Kearney. Formed in November of 1888, the club took for its motto "Divided We Stand, United We Fall," and held many of its social functions at Kearney's Midway Hotel. The Kearney Daily Hub said on March 6, 1890:
From the Kearney Daily Hub, September 25, 1889.   Solomon D. Butcher depicted the cigar stand inside Kearney's Midway Hotel, which hosted many social events sponsored by the Bachelors' Protective Union. NSHS RG2608-2628 "The brotherhood, as its votaries delight to call it, has become very popular among society lovers, as was very evident last night from the many smiling, happy faces of the tenderer sex. It has been a time honored custom among the bachelors that when one of their members stepped aside to take a peep at the other side of life-the matrimonial side-this breach of faith is punished by visiting upon the offender the punishment of dining and evening [sic] him." The gathering was held at Kearney's Midway Hotel, where the guests were seated at a table forming the letter "U" to designate the matrimonial unions of the two former club members. "Till nearly 11 o'clock the epicures feasted upon raw oysters on the half shell and other delicacies of the season," after which...

Assistant Objects Conservator Rebecca Cashman works on one of the Doane Powell masks


Flashback Friday: What’s more ghoulish than a historic mask of a long-dead celebrity?

What’s more ghoulish than a historic mask of a long-dead celebrity? Any mask of a long-dead celebrity with wrinkles, tears, missing ears, or discoloration – or at least that’s how the conservators at the NSHS’s Ford Conservation Center feel. “The large spots of discolored adhesive make it look like he has leprosy or something,” says Rebecca Cashman, Objects Conservator. The objects lab at the Ford Conservation Center in Omaha is currently busy with 30 masks that will soon be part of the “The Strange and Wonderful Masks of Doane Powell” exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum. In March, these masks will replace the first group of treated masks currently on display. That way, the masks aren’t subjected to the rigors of being on display for the entire ten months of the exhibit. The Doane Powell masks have been a huge group effort for the Ford Center. While each conservator usually works on projects related to his or her specialty (paper, paintings, or objects), the masks...
Kenneth Be, painting conservator at the Ford Center, is shown with a John Falter painting.   Paper conservator Hilary LeFevere and conservation technician Megan Griffiths work on paper objects at the Ford Conservation center.   Cashman works on a Doane Powell mask at the Ford Conservation Center. As a result, conserving these objects requires a one-of-a-kind approach to clean and repair each mask. “There are about 70 masks and they’re not all painted with the same media,” Cashman says. She picks up a mask of early 20th century entertainer Sophie Tucker and points to Sophie’s lips. “In some cases we think actual makeup, like lipstick, was used to color some of the lips. ,” Cashman says. “We have to be very careful.” At the beginning of the project, Cashman carried out extensive testing on a group of masks to gain a sense of cleaning methods and repair materials that could be safely used to treat them without interfering with the original materials. Lab technicians Megan...     

Legacy of Nebraska: Paintings by Todd Williams


The Legacy of Nebraska Exhibit Opens 6:00 p.m. March 1

Exhibit Opening at Nebraska History Museum Nebraska will celebrate 150 years of statehood throughout 2017, but the birthday bash at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln starts at 6:00 p.m. Wednesday, March 1.  “The Legacy of Nebraska: Paintings by Todd A. Williams” will open to the public on Statehood Day. Nebraska-born artist Williams spent five years creating paintings that depict historic, geographic, and figurative elements from each of the state’s 93 counties. He worked with historians, sponsors, and leaders in each county to identify significant subjects for the project. Some counties inspired more than one painting. A total of 124 pieces will be on exhibit through June 4 at 131 Centennial Mall North, Lincoln. In addition to the March 1 opening from 6:00-8:00 p.m., the museum will be open late on Friday, March 3 from 4:30-7:00 p.m. as part of Lincoln’s First Friday Gallery Walk. The museum is open daily except state holidays free of charge. Call 402-471-4782...
Summer Tour This summer parts of the exhibit will tour to Grand Island’s Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer (June 17-August 20), and Omaha’s Gallery 1516 (September 1-October 15). Regional selections will be simultaneously exhibited at Bone Creek Museum of Agrarian Art, David City; Homestead National Monument of America, Beatrice; Gallery 92 West, Fremont; Dawson County Historical Society Museum, Lexington; and the West Nebraska Art Center, Scottsbluff throughout the rest of 2017.


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