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World’s Columbian Exposition – The Nebraska Building

The World’s Columbian Exposition, commemorating the discovery of America by Christopher Columbus, was opened May 1, 1898, in Chicago. The exposition’s 150 buildings of Greek, Romanesque, and Renaissance styles of architecture became known as the White City, and exhibited the talents of America’s foremost architects and sculptors. Popularly known as the Chicago World’s Fair, the exposition covered six hundred acres and brought exhibits from seventy-two countries. The architecture and landscaping had a powerful effect on the nation and were largely responsible for the City Beautiful movement, which sought to make American cities more attractive and livable through the planning of buildings and parks.



The 1891 Nebraska Legislature appropriated only $50,000 for a Nebraska exhibit at the exposition. That small amount did not go far in providing a suitable building to display the state’s products and achievements. On July 3, 1893, The Nebraska State Journal of Lincoln criticized both the building and Joseph Garneau, Jr., commissioner general of the Nebraska exhibit:



“The term ‘crackerbox’ [Garneau was an Omaha cracker manufacturer] that suggested itself to the first man who saw it, and will probably be repeated until the end of time, is a fairly good description of the low, square, white building, the ugliness of which is hardly relieved by a few Greek pillars and a gilded state seal. The porches are high and narrow and are usually covered with people sitting on the steps. There was once a time when the ‘fresh paint’ sign kept off all intruders, but now the paint is a thing of the past and even the boards themselves are fast wearing away because of the hard usage they receive.” The largely agricultural exhibits within were said to have “seen their best days at the county fairs.”



Fortunately, some criticism was less pointed. A previous article in the State Journal (June ll, 1893) remarked: “The latest epithet to be applied to the Nebraska building is that given by a Chicago newspaper which describes it as ‘quaint.’ This should remind the people who are condemning it as ugly that it is not always necessary to call things by their right names and that even if the above mentioned adjective is not correct from an architectural point of view it is more polite to use.”

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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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