Carry A. Nation, famous as a Kansas “joint smasher” with her trademark hatchet, stopped in Omaha during her short lecture tour through Nebraska in early 1902. Chaperoned by three newspaper reporters, Mrs. Nation “‘did’ Omaha Saturday afternoon,” said the Seward Independent-Democrat on April 3, 1902. “She was desirous of going on a slumming expedition in the evening, but in order to catch her train, she was prevented from seeing the sights by gaslight.” After visiting the county jail, Mrs. Nation announced, “‘Now I want to see something interesting.’ Mickey Mullen’s theater, a famous resort for cheap sports, was suggested as a possible point of interest, and the ‘smasher’ readily fell in with the idea.
“‘What are you all doing here?’ she demanded of a dozen loungers who were sitting about the table smoking cigarettes. ‘Oh those nasty, vile cigarettes! I don’t see how you can stand them. Where is the proprietor?’ ‘Mickey’ stepped forward and announced that it was his privilege to welcome her to his place of business. She shook hands with him cordially and then announced: ‘You are Irish, Mickey. I love the Irish but you are in a bad business. Tell me, when you are dead and gone, what good thing can people say of your saloon or theater? Just tell me one thing.’ ‘Mickey’ scratched his head. He was plainly stumped, but finally ventured the assertion that posterity would say that he minded his own business, which he intimated was more than some women did. . . .
“From Mullen’s theater down to the ‘red light’ district Mrs. Nation was followed by a big crowd which increased rapidly at every step. Golden haired women appeared at every window, clapped their hands and cheered. By the time Goldsmith’s saloon, possibly the toughest joint in town, at Ninth and Capitol avenue, was reached, the streets were jammed with a motley mob struggling to catch a glimpse of the hatchet wielder.
“Mrs. Nation advanced to the rear of the saloon while the crowd of women and men, drunk and sober, surged about her. Some cheered and others cursed, but everybody yelled. With wild peals of laughter the women raised their glasses of beer, blew the foam from the amber fluid so that it almost fell upon the ‘smasher’s’ dress and drank to her health. Amid all the uproar Mrs. Nation stood upon a chair and surveyed the crowd with an expression of pity. . . .
“At the city mission Mrs. Nation addressed a crowded house in her characteristic style. ‘Nice, peaceable old lady, isn’t she?’ said a[n] [Omaha] Daily News reporter to a woman who was an interested listener. ‘Yes,’ said the woman, ‘She’s peaceable and sweet enough now, but I was in Kansas City when she smashed my father’s saloon all to h-l!'”
In summing up what she had seen Mrs. Nation said, “I have heard bad things about Omaha before I came. What I have seen fully justifies the reports.” She left the city for North Bend at 5 o’clock that afternoon.
Carry A. Nation with her trademark hatchet in 1910. From the New York Times Photo Archive