Cruelty to Men

W. S. Shoemaker, a correspondent to the Public Pulse column of the Omaha World-Herald in July 1897, asked why the patrolmen of the city were compelled to wear heavy coats buttoned to the chin during hot summer days. His letter, titled appropriately “Cruelty to Men,” was published July 6, 1897. Shoemaker said, “We have societies to prevent cruelty to animals and children. Why not enlarge the scope of these societies and include man?

“Can anybody conceive of anything more cruel than the torture inflicted on the police force of the city by compelling them to wear the regulation uniform these hot summer days, with the coat buttoned up tight to the throat? It is against the rules to even unbutton the coat for a few moments when on duty and let in a breath of air. This summer uniform is called a fatigue suit. It is rightly named. I should say it would fatigue any man to wear this policeman’s uniform these days.

“It is positive cruelty to compel the force to wear such uniforms in such weather. There is no reason why a sack coat made of the same material as the regulation army blouse could not be adopted and used in all the cities east and south of the Rocky Mountains during the summer months. A negligee blouse adopted with white collar, with this blue blouse made with light woolen goods, would look quite as well as these hot uniforms. The police officer, while on duty, cannot drop down in a chair in the shade of a building, throw off his coat, grab up a fan, and cool himself off. He must keep right along on his beat in the boiling hot sun with his coat buttoned up tight to his throat and the perspiration running down into his shoes. There is discipline and discipline and then again, there is too much discipline.

“At this time the members of the fire and police board are all wearing the negligee shirt and white, loosely woven linen suits, sitting around in the shade trying to keep cool while the patrolman is plodding along on his beat in the hot sun with his great heavy blue regulation uniform on, almost ready to drop from the intense heat. It is time the press of the country should take this question up and put a stop to this torture of human beings when there is no necessity for it.”

Unfortunately, dressing to beat the heat in 1897 was only slightly easier for the average citizen than it was for the police. A “picturesque and striking bathing costume,” seen in 1902 at Courtland Beach, an Omaha area resort, sported a “blue taffeta silk skirt, the seams laced with white silk cord; a white silk shirt waist, blue collar and cuffs and blue hose with white toes and heels” (Omaha World-Herald, July 27, 1902). 

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

Other Publications

The Bachelors’ Protective Union of Kearney

When the Bachelors' Protective Union gave a gala reception for two of its newly married, former members and their brides in March of 1890, the social club for young, ...

U.S. Weather Bureau in 1890s Nebraska

The U.S. Weather Bureau was established by an act of Congress on October 1, 1890. It took over the weather service that had been established in the office of the Chief ...

Canning the Way to Victory

During American participation in World War I the U.S. Food Administration, under the direction of Herbert Hoover, launched a massive campaign to persuade Americans to ...

The Shoemaker’s Ashes

"Edward Kuehl, one of the most peculiar characters that ever lived in Omaha, or anywhere else, was found dead in his bed last night in the back room of his place of ...

Crazy Horse Surrender Ledger Foreward

Red Dog, an Oglala Lakota who lived at the Red Cloud Agency, Nebraska, 1876-77 (Nebraska State Historical Society   In the summer of 1876, following the ...

Darryl F. Zanuck

Darryl F. Zanuck Darryl F. Zanuck (1902-1979), a native Nebraskan, produced some of Hollywood's most important and controversial films. He helped found 20th Century Fox ...

The Burlington’s Profitable Pork Special

Nebraska railroads were much concerned with developing an adequate economy in the areas they served. The Burlington, for example, had a long history of caring for the ...

Bungalow Filling Stations

After the giant Standard Oil Company was broken into thirty-four separate companies in 1911, the newly independent Standard Oil of Nebraska dominated the state's market ...

The Bull Fight

This is the perfect time of year for a visit to the old fishin' hole. But a group of fisherfolk from Plainview discovered that this bucolic pastime sometimes has ...

Buffalo Soldiers West

African-American soldiers on the western frontier are the focus of an exhibit at the Nebraska History Museum in Lincoln. Buffalo Soldiers West, on loan from the Colorado ...

Protection for Buffalo

The extermination of the buffalo on the Plains occurred largely between 1870 and 1885. The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln on February 1, 1874, editorialized in vain ...

Buffalo Hunting

In late October 1877 young Rolf Johnson and three friends left their homes in Phelps County, Nebraska, for a buffalo hunt in northeastern Colorado. The hunt was not very ...
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.

History Nebraska Education

Learn more about the educational programs provided at our museums, sites, and online.

History Nebraska Programs

Learn more about the programs associated with History Nebraska.

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.