It’s Too Hot to Sleep Inside!

During the Great Depression Nebraskans became accustomed to living under trying conditions. People had to cope not only with hard economic times but with the intense heat accompanied by a drought that plagued this state and much of the rest of the country.

The lawn of the Nebraska State Capitol provided a resting place for Lincoln residents trying to escape the heat in July 1936. RG2183-725 (above).

During the Great Depression Nebraskans became accustomed to living under trying conditions. People had to cope not only with hard economic times but with the intense heat accompanied by a drought that plagued this state and much of the rest of the country.

The relentless heat was hard on everyone who suffered through the summer of 1936. The heatwave started in late June when temperatures across the United States exceeded 100 degrees. Temperatures reached record levels in July.

On July 25, 1936, the Lincoln Journal Star’s banner headline said it all: “Mercury 114; Breaks Record Here.”  The Star reported: “The merciless heat followed the hottest night in all Lincoln history. The lowest temperature of the dark hours was 91.”

Many people suffered from heatstroke and heat exhaustion, particularly the elderly. In the era before air-conditioning and public swimming pools, most people could rely only on fans and blocks of ice for some degree of cooling. Some could swim in lakes and rivers, and cities opened fire hydrants. Many slept outdoors.

The photo above, from the MacDonald Studio Collection at History Nebraska, depicts residents of Lincoln sleeping on the lawn of the Nebraska State Capitol to escape the heat. The summer of 1936 was the hottest and driest ever recorded. The heat wave and drought largely ended in September, though fields and lawns remained parched. – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor/Publications

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

How ‘Equality Before the Law’ became our state motto

How ‘Equality Before the Law’ became our state motto

Leap Year Once Viewed as Opportunity for Women

Leap Year Once Viewed as Opportunity for Women

Found at an Estate Sale: A Trophy from the Year Nebraska Banned Girls’ Basketball Tournaments

Found at an Estate Sale: A Trophy from the Year Nebraska Banned Girls’ Basketball Tournaments

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.

Listen to our Podcast

Listen to the articles and authors published in the Nebraska History Magazine with our new Nebraska History Podcast.

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.