John Nelson’s photograph of two couples seated in front of their tents was taken sometime between 1907 and 1917.
In the days before air conditioning, getting a good night’s sleep during the heat of summer was sometimes a problem. One obvious solution was to sleep outdoors. The Norfolk Weekly News-Journal on August 3, 1906, reported that many residents of that city pitched tents in their yards and spent sweltering summer nights under canvas. The News-Journal asked one Norfolk man how he felt after spending the night outdoors in a tent, and he replied: “I sleep more soundly, get more rest and wake up in the morning feeling like a prizefighter. Indoors I had a hard time getting to sleep before midnight and I was awake at 5 in the morning. In the tent I drop to sleep the minute I strike the cot and never wake up until I am called.” Some also slept outdoors during the 1930s. The heat during the Great Depression brought some of the hottest summer temperatures ever recorded in Nebraska. — Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor for Research and Publications