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Public Holidays

Arbor Day originated in Nebraska in 1872, when the State Board of Agriculture adopted J. Sterling Morton’s resolution that April 10 of that year be set aside for tree planting. The board awarded premiums for the greatest number of trees, cuttings, and seeds planted. More than a million trees were planted in Nebraska on the first Arbor Day. In 1874 Governor Robert W. Furnas issued the first proclamation designating Arbor Day. The day became a legal holiday in 1885 when the Legislature set aside April 22, Morton’s birthday, as Arbor Day.



However, not all Nebraskans believed that the state needed any more public holidays or that they should be so faithfully observed. A reporter for the Lincoln Daily Call, while covering news from the state legislature on April 22, 1890, gave the opinion of one disappointed Nebraskan:



“‘Public holidays are public nuisances,’ said a gentleman from out in the central part of the state this morning as he emerged from the west entrance of the state capitol building. ‘Here I have come over 100 miles to transact some business and the offices I wished to enter are closed.’



“‘I knew before hand that this was Arbor day but I did not dream that the state officers and the chiefs of departments were going to go out personally and with spade and shovel celebrate the day in planting trees. I presumed that if they had any lots they wanted to beautify that they would have arranged with a man before hand and have him put the trees in the ground for them in a way which would make them sure to grow. What do these fellows know about planting trees anyway? I’m disgusted.’



“‘All the offices are not closed, are they?’ queried the World Herald man. ‘No, not all of them, but the very ones I wanted to enter. And now I have got to go home without attending to my business or stay over a day. I repeat it again, that Nebraska has too many public holidays and they are too faithfully observed.'”



Only the year before, on January 17, 1889, the Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln had expressed the same ambivalent view of public holidays (in this instance, Labor Day) as the Call: “Just exactly what a ‘labor day’ is wanted for does not appear, but there is no particular objection so far as THE JOURNAL perceives to the request if any large number of citizens really desire another legal holiday. The women suffragists may next demand a ‘woman’s day,’ the saloons a ‘whisky day’ and the prohibs a ‘temperance day,’ and so on until every organization in the land shall have a legal holiday all to itself. . . . But it would soon become fatiguing to keep the run of all our legal holidays if every society demanded one for itself.”


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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

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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 ...

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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 ...
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