Bedbugs

The current resurgence of bedbugs in the United States has brought the little pests once again into the limelight after decades of obscurity. Our pioneer ancestors, however, were well acquainted with bedbugs, as revealed by contemporary diaries, books, and newspapers. The Omaha Daily Bee on February 23, 1891, included an unsigned poem that must have expressed the feeling of thousands of sufferers.

Bedbugs on the frontier in 1888



Bedbugs were a scourge on the frontier because of primitive living conditions. Solomon D. Butcher’s 1888 photograph of the Hoffaker family of east Custer County, Nebraska, included what appears to be the frame for a rope bed that is being used to dry food. 

NSHS RG2608-1745

THE BEDBUG



Twas on a sultry summer night,

The moon was shining calm and bright,

When from my couch I rose to fight

The bedbug.



I uttered many a sad lament,

As on my murderous search intent,

Into each hidden crack I went

For bedbugs.



My wretched limbs were smarting well,

And O, my anguish who can tell,

As oft I caught the sickening smell

Of bedbugs.



Their stinging bites, how well I know

When, with a sure, death-dealing blow,

I pounce upon my luckless foe,

The bedbug.



And ever, how my spirit grieves,

As ‘mong the Bible’s sacred leaves

I find those dirty, skulking thieves,

The bedbugs.



And oft I start, in dread affright,

When on the parson’s collar white

There scrambles out, in plainest sight,

The bedbug.



And through my head this query ran:

How in the name of mercy can

To church a decent, Christian man

Bring bedbugs?



And let them run and dodge about,

Play ‘hide and seek,’ and in and out

Upon the carcass of the lout,

Unheeded.



Should ‘auld Nick’s’ pitchfork need a prong,

Wherewith to probe the tortured throng,

He only needs to send along

Some bedbugs.

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

Lending a Helping Hand: Social Settlement of Omaha

Lending a Helping Hand: Social Settlement of Omaha

Nebraska and the resettlement of displaced persons after World War II, part 1

Nebraska and the resettlement of displaced persons after World War II, part 1

Marker Monday: Evelyn Sharp

Marker Monday: Evelyn Sharp

About History Nebraska
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.
Explore Nebraska
Discover the real places and people of our past at these History Nebraska sites.

Upcoming Events

View our new and upcoming events to see how you can get involved.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.

Latest Hall of Fame Inductee

The Nebraska Hall of Fame was established in 1961 to officially recognize prominent Nebraskans.

Become a Member

The work we do to discover, preserve, and share Nebraska's history wouldn't be possible without the support of History Nebraska members.
Nebraska Collections

History Nebraska's mission is to collect, preserve, and open our shared history to all Nebraskans.

Our YouTube Video Collection

Get a closer look at Nebraska's history through your own eyes, with our extensive video collections.

Additional Research Resources

History Nebraska Research and Reference Services help connect you to the material we collect and preserve.

Support History Nebraska
Make a cash donation to help us acquire, preserve, and interpret Nebraska’s history. Gifts to History Nebraska help leave a legacy and may help your taxes, too! Support the work of History Nebraska by donating to the History Nebraska Foundation today.

Volunteers are the heroes of History Nebraska. So much history, so little time! Your work helps us share access to Nebraska’s stories at our museums and sites, the reference room, and online.