Jury Duty

It’s safe to say that jury duty isn’t the most enjoyable thing in the world. But for one Omaha jury in February 1893, things got so bad that they actually went on strike!

“It is painfully apparent to the man who is called upon to serve his country in the capacity of a juror in district court that very little pains have been exercised to ensure the comfort of patriots in that line of duty,” said the Lincoln Weekly News on June 29, 1893. A few months earlier, on February 18, the Nebraska State Journal had noted that a group of Omaha jurors were on strike:

The jurors in Judge [Cunningham R.] Scott’s [court]room made a complaint today against the kind of food being furnished them, and the outcome of the protest is liable to raise a pretty row. It is, and always has been, a custom to lock up the juries while deliberating on the separate cases, and not allow the members to repair to their respective homes until the verdict has been reached. Such being the case, the county has been obliged to furnish such jurors their daily meals while so deliberating, and in order to have a place where the men could be fed the commissioners have always invited bids for furnishing these meals.

At the last letting the Grand Central hotel [at Fifteenth and Jackson in Omaha] was the lowest bidder, the proprietor agreeing to supply all of the meals at the rate of 25 cents each. During the time of the holding of the last term of court there were no kicks registered on the fare, but now there is a long drawn wail which has become public. For several days the rumblings of the storm have been heard coming from a number of empty stomachs.

This morning the men who have been feeding at the place above mentioned declared a rebellion and stated that if they were to be kept there they would break away. Judge Scott, before whom the appeal was made, said that he could not allow his jurors to work upon empty stomachs and that he would not keep them at a place where they were put on half rations. The jurors were with the judge and at once they flashed a paper setting forth the wrongs that they had suffered. This paper was signed by all the men who had been fed at the Grand Central, . . . The court took the document and stated that he would lay the case before the county commissioners and if those gentlemen would not act in the premises the jurors would be discharged and sent to their homes.

The News, in its June 29 article also criticized the “catch-as-catch-can fare and miserable sleeping accommodations” then given sequestered jurors and said, “It would be a much more equitable plan to allow the jurors to enjoy the comforts of their homes and the society of their families, while the litigants and their lawyers may be locked up to enjoy the scant accommodations of the jury room. This would certainly come as near preventing corruption of jurors as does the present system.”

Image(above): Fourteen men, identified as the Ossenkop Jury. The photo was taken in 1909 (RG3384.Ph000010-000112)

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

The Huskers wore blue jerseys for Memorial Stadium’s first game

The Huskers wore blue jerseys for Memorial Stadium’s first game

Recent Archeological Work at Ft. Atkinson

Recent Archeological Work at Ft. Atkinson

Willie Nelson FarmAid Concert

Willie Nelson FarmAid Concert

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.