The Governor and the Guard in the Omaha Tram Strike of 1935

At the height of violence in the Omaha streetcar strike of 1935 Nebraska’s new governor, Robert Leroy (“Roy”) Cochran, called out the National Guard and declared martial law. This brought immediate peace, national attention, and praise from the press and even from labor, which usually dreaded the march of the troops. Not since the late nineteenth century had Nebraska governors resorted to military force to maintain order. Then, according to Ronald Gephart, the primary role of state militias or the National Guard was shifting from fighting Indians to breaking strikes. This shift conformed to the thinking of many businessmen who argued that the main purpose of government was to protect and promote the interests of property. Government officials routinely used state or federal troops as “the prescription applied to industrial disputes” with the usual effect of crushing a strike.

Several things were unusual about the Omaha tram strike of 1935. The Omaha World-Herald said it was the first time the city had had a “military dictator.” Though Cochran employed the traditional response of calling out troops, his subsequent handling of the 1935 strike represented a more balanced approach to resolving a labor-management conflict. He used his brief assumption of power in a city accustomed to anti-unionism to force the tram company to arbitrate. He was adamant that the National Guard was in Omaha only to maintain order and not to take sides.

Read the full article here. 



Universal newsreel footage showing U.S. troops on the streets of Omaha, Nebraska, in the midst of a streetcar strike, 6/16/1935.

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

Buffalo Bill’s Big House

Buffalo Bill’s Big House

Marker Monday: The Seedling Mile

Marker Monday: The Seedling Mile

Vacationing on a Budget in 1909

Vacationing on a Budget in 1909

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.