New Year’s Calls by Joseph Barker

Omaha resident Joseph Barker described his New Year’s Day activities in an 1869 letter to his parents in England: “On new year’s day I went out calling with Frank Murphy, Al Patrick, Dr. Caufman, Mr. Saunders & Dr. Pinney. It had snowed some inches the night previous so we had a nice sleigh & drove round and called on nearly all our friends and acquaintances. We started about half past eleven and made forty calls by half past five . . . .

“All the town was out calling, and there were a many very handsome & some very expensive tables. One lady’s table, Mrs. Jack Morrow’s, cost over $500. He has made a fortune on the [Union Pacific] Road & has just bought Ruben Wood’s house for $16,000 & furnished it at an expense of $6,000 and is determined to make a sensation. We all went to see it.” Barker noted that the Morrows served a large variety of refreshments to callers: “large & splendid iced cakes, pyramids of fruit & confectionery, ice cream, boned turkey, chicken salads, ham, buffalo tongues, jellies & everything. On a splendid walnut side board . . . was champaign, egg nogg, claret, sherry, brandy & whiskey & cigars. Hot coffee & hot oysters were brought in on silver plated salvers.”

During the afternoon Barker and his party called on a former territorial governor, Alvin Saunders. “His is a splendid house on the top of Farnam Street. The hall opens into a large conservatory with a lot of fine plants & some few flowers. From that into a large parlour then with folding doors into another large drawing room and out of that into a large dining room. All the rooms have fine plate glass French windows, mirrors from the top of the room to the floor, heavy gilt cornices, fine carpets, pictures and furniture. The Gov. & Mrs. Saunders received us, showed us through the house.”

Barker admitted the fatigue produced by a long day of social calls: “We were dressed in our best evening dress & had to take off our overcoats & put them on until we were tired. I, we, hardly did more than just bite at any house, at lots of houses took nothing. The sight of so much seemed to satisfy us.” He ended his New Year’s Day with a supper of hot oysters and “music & a little dancing” at the home of friends, noting, “I left about twelve quite tired.”

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.