History Nebraska Blog

Flashback Friday: Barbara and Ralph Fox Photo Exhibit

Today we’re highlighting one of the new exhibits at the newly-renovated Nebraska History Museum.

Barbara and Ralph Fox, 1943. Ralph C. and Barbara Rehberg Fox Collection (NSHS RG4701-2-116)

 

“American Dreams in the Cold War: Photos by Barbara and Ralph Fox” is dedicated entirely to the photography work of UNL alumni Barbara and Ralph Fox. This husband-and-wife photography team documented Cold War-era American life with the skill of professional photographers and the soul of philanthropists. Barbara Rehberg and Ralph C. Fox met on their first day of college at the University of Nebraska in 1940. She came to Lincoln from a remote ranch in Antelope County. He was from Logan, Iowa. They married on May 8, 1943, just before Ralph left for army boot camp during World War II. While Ralph trained with the army, Barbara finished college, graduating in 1944. Throughout her life, she lived by the principles she learned in journalism classes: “You have to tell the truth, even if it means risking your life.”

Kevin Fox with bakery case, 1955
Ralph C. and Barbara Rehberg Fox Collection (NSHS RG4107-2-43)

 

When Ralph Fox came home from the battlefields of Europe, he finished his degree in photojournalism. He worked for the Lincoln Evening Journal and was part of the team that won a Pulitzer Prize for its coverage of the 1948 Nebraska presidential primary. Ralph’s wartime experience contributed to alcoholism. In 1955, he lost his job at the newspaper due to his drinking. Barbara started a business, Fox Foto, to keep their family afloat. In 1957 Ralph embraced recovery and Alcoholics Anonymous with the same enthusiasm he had applied to his military service and his journalism career. In the 1950s, Barbara defied society’s expectations and raised two children while working outside the home. She often brought her children, Paige and Kevin, along on photo assignments.  She photographed everything from the Nebraska State Fair to the detonation of the atomic bomb nicknamed “Annie” at the Nevada Test Site on March 17, 1953. None of the witnesses were tested for radiation following the blast, and Barbara later developed lung problems that she attributed to radiation exposure from the event. Her photos of the event are part of the exhibit.

Man Riding a Bucking Horse in a Rodeo in Wahoo, 1948. Ralph C. and Barbara Rehberg Fox Collection (NSHS RG4107-2-75)

 

By the end of the 1960s, Barbara and Ralph Fox shifted their focus and dedicated themselves to helping people. The Foxes founded the Houses of Hope alcohol and drug rehabilitation center in Lincoln and helped thousands of people conquer addiction. Barbara’s memory lives on through numerous agencies that she helped start: Houses of Hope, Antler Center, St. Monica’s, Lincoln Action Program, and Lincoln Council on Alcoholism and Drugs. Ralph died in 1998 and Barbara passed away in 2009. Their photos feature daily life in the 1950s, photos of political figures who visited Lincoln, candid shots from the Nebraska State Fair, and photos from the Starkweather arrest and trial. Whether you enjoy photography or are interested in the Cold War era in Nebraska, this exhibit is something you shouldn’t miss. The Nebraska History Museum at 311 Centennial Mall North is open M-F 9:00-4:30 and Saturday and Sunday 1:00-4:30. Admission is free.

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