publications

The Dangerous 4th

In some ways, the Fourth of July is the perfect kid’s holiday. Noise is central to the

celebration, and so is danger in the form of fireworks. Each year’s Independence Day

festivities are preceded by warnings about potential injury from improper use of fireworks.

So it was in earlier Nebraska days. At the turn of the century, the threat was not only from

injuries, but an injury-related disease rarely seen today: “lock jaw.”



In 1906, the State Medical Society appealed to the public for help in preventing deaths from

lockjaw (tetanus). “No words or space need be wasted to emphasize the folly of the use of

highly explosive fireworks, and when they are permitted to be used by children, such practice

certainly becomes a crime against which the strong arm of the law should be wielded with

emphasis.



“Especially deplorable, besides the crippling of many children, are the deaths from lock jaw,

from injuries by toy pistols, giant crackers and other fireworks, because most of these deaths

are owing first to the wanton practice of using deadly toys and secondly because those injured

are not immediately attended to by a competent surgeon.



“The people are especially warned that penetrating wounds, similar to those cause by a nail, if

soiled by the dust of the street or the dirt of the barn-yard are very dangerous, because the

dust and dirt of these places contain quite often the germs of lock jaw; and these germs, if

grown into a wound from which the air is excluded, will rapidly multiply and cause the

terrible disease tetanus, and almost invariably death precipitated by the most horrible

convulsions.



“If, therefore, law and parental discipline cannot prevent the use of toy pistols, giant

firecrackers, and other deadly fire works, then, upon injury, the child should be quickly

brought to the family physician who, knowing the great danger of punctured wounds in these

cases, will unhesitatingly and thoroughly convert those wounds into open surfaces to every

part of which outside air may have access, the only means which will, with thorough

antiseptic, prevent the growth of the lock jaw germ and hence, save precious lives.”

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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

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 ...
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