publications

Nebraska Territorial Fair, 1859

The first Nebraska territorial fair was held at Nebraska City, beginning Wednesday, September 21, 1859, and lasting three days. Robert Furnas, later governor of Nebraska, wrote in Brownville’s Nebraska Advertiser on September 29:



“Last week we attended the first Territorial Agricultural and Mechanical Fair at Nebraska City. The result of this, not only the first Nebraska Territorial Fair, but the first Territorial Fair ever held in the United States was most gratifying. It was a perfect success when we take everything into consideration. The times are hard, and many at a distance felt that they could not incur the expense of attending. The regular steamboat packets were all out of order–one sunk, and the other fast on a sand bar–and going to and fro in that way cut off; we are in the midst of election excitement, and everybody thinking and talking politics. Taking everything into consideration, we repeat, the result is the most sanguine friends of the enterprise could expect. . . .



“The exhibition of stock, farm products, mechanism, works of art, etc., were creditable indeed. Of course there was not that variety to be found in the county or state fair in the states. What there was, however, was unequalled anywhere. The attendance on the last two days especially was large,–all classes were there, from the chief executive to the humblest citizen.”



The Morton-Watkins history of Nebraska indicates that the chief orator for the occasion was J. Sterling Morton, well qualified to address an audience of practical agriculturists. Morton was the winner of premiums awarded at the fair for blooded horses, best draft stallion over four years old, and best Suffolk boar one year old. Furnas was awarded three first premiums for Devon cattle.



A notable event of the fair was Morton’s address, which presented a realistic picture of agriculture in the early years of Nebraska Territory. He foresaw the prosperous future of the state’s agriculture and said: “The first steamers that came up the Missouri in 1857 brought us corn to keep us and our stock from perishing by hunger and starvation. But now, by the energy of our farmers, Nebraska in less than two years has been transformed from a consumer to a producer.”


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 RG2955.ph).   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.

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.