Timeline Tuesday: Nebraska’s Bees and Wasps

The Omaha Daily Bee was certainly the largest and most influential Nebraska newspaper to include “Bee” in its name. Its longtime editor, Edward Rosewater (1841-1906), in 1870 entered the newspaper business and founded the Omaha Daily Tribune. Later the same year, however, he retired from the paper and was elected to the Nebraska Legislature, where he sponsored a bill providing for the creation of an Omaha school board, a measure which was to be submitted to the voters of Omaha. To counteract opposition to this proposal, Rosewater began, on June 19, 1871, a small paper which he named the Omaha Daily Bee. The Bee soon flourished and in a few years, became one of the leading newspapers in the West. Rosewater used the Bee as a forum for his outspoken political philosophies, which most often favored the Republicans. He opposed prohibition and woman suffrage, and was largely responsible for the promotion and planning of the Trans-Mississippi Exposition of 1898. However, other Nebraska towns and villages had a journalistic Bee, although none rivaled the one in Omaha. The Benkelman Bee had only a brief life. Edgar Howard (1858-1951), Nebraska newspaperman and politician, established the paper’s antecedent, the Dundy Democrat, at Benkelman in 1887. He considered it the Democratic answer to the Republican Dundy County Pioneer, established in 1885 by Frank Israel. Within a year or two Howard sold the paper to John A. Anderson, who later renamed it the Benkelman Bee. Anderson discontinued the paper in 1894 and moved the plant to Galesburg, Illinois. The Blue Springs Bee enjoyed a twenty-year run between January of 1926 and September 26, 1946. Editor Christopher L. Peckham (1892-1974) founded and guided the weekly throughout its life. Peckham was also associated at various times with newspapers at Burchard, Lewiston, Liberty, Steinauer, Wymore, and Shellsburg, Iowa. Other Bees were published at Minden, Palmyra, Spencer, and Glenville (later Glenvil). Perhaps the shortest-lived newspaper that shared part of its name with Rosewater’s Bee was the Daily Bumble Bee, which appeared on the streets of Omaha for less than a week just before election day in November 1890. At issue was a proposed constitutional amendment prohibiting the sale of alcohol within the state. Rosewater’s Bee opposed such an amendment, and the Daily Bumble Bee, edited by prohibitionist William E. (later “Pussyfoot”) Johnson, favored it. The amendment was soundly defeated on election day, and the Bumble Bee was discontinued. Fewer Nebraska newspapers were Wasps than Bees. Perhaps the best known was the Wahoo Wasp, formed by John Alexander MacMurphy (1837-1898), an influential territorial pioneer. MacMurphy combined the Wahoo Independent and the Wahoo Tribune to form the Wasp. Other Wasps were published at South Omaha and McGrew.

The Omaha Bee building (left) founded by Edward Rosewater. From Omaha Illustrated (1888)

The Bee Building, copied from page 168, History of Omaha and South Omaha, Nebraska.

(Updated 7/20/2023)

 

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