Over the years, Nebraska has been “number one” in a lot of categories. We’ve had the nation’s highest-rated football team, we’ve produced more popcorn than anyone else, we’ve had more school districts, and our state boasts the largest stabilized sand dune formation in the western hemisphere.
Nebraska also ranks number one in Czech immigration. Between 1856 and World War I, some 50,000 Czechs chose Nebraska as their new home. By 1910, first and second generation Czechs made up about fourteen percent of Nebraska’s foreign-born population. Per capita, we had more first and second generation Czechs than any other state in the Union. Along with clothing, tools, and household goods, Czechs brought their “cultural baggage” with them to their new home. Czech food, language, literature, art, social organizations and institutions found fertile fields on the Nebraska prairie. Some of the old country ways of Bohemia and Moravia faded as immigrants became “American.” But many legacies of Czech heritage remain.
Today the most obvious place to see Czech ethnic culture presented is at the numerous festivals in Czech communities across the state. But Czech culture is much more than polka bands and prune kolaches. Czechs have made many contributions to the history and culture of Nebraska. These “immigrant gifts” to Nebraska life were the focus of a traveling History Nebraska exhibit in 1993.