“Women, High Living, and Diamonds” for Omaha’s Bartenders

Omaha in 1886 boasted about 150 saloons manned by a host of bartenders who ministered to the city’s thirst for beer and hard liquor. The Omaha Bee on September 26, 1886, noted the “many things, interesting and curious, that might be written about the Omaha bartenders.”

Emanuel Wolfe photographed these bartenders and customers in Neligh about 1907-17. RG2836-783

 

The Bee noted that each saloon usually employed two men behind the bar. However, “not more than a score . . . are first-class bar tenders.”

A first-class bartender, according to the Bee, should have a number of attributes. “He must not only be a machine, [but] an accurate machine at that–able to compound a list of drinks as long as your arm—putting together the proper ingredients in the proper proportions. He must he a close student of human nature, affable and agreeable under all circumstances and at all times. . . . If a customer is sleepy and stupid, the man behind the bar must possess the ability to give him a decoction which shall open his eyes and make him feel wide awake and ready for business; if he, on the other hand, [is] unable to sleep and in need of rest, the bartender must call to his aid the magic of his art and give him something to soothe his nerves and insure him a night of sweet sleep.”

Bartenders were not paid high salaries, noted the Bee. “Twenty dollars a week is the amount earned by the majority of Omaha’s best drink-mixers. A few are paid $100 a month and one or two perhaps a trifle over that amount.”

Although wages were not high, bartenders had the reputation of spending freely. They were said to be “well-dressed, gentlemanly fellows, who live well and know how to spend their money. A bartender who saves his money is a very rare exception. The majority of this class of men prefer to spend it on women, high living and diamonds.” – Patricia C. Gaster, Assistant Editor / Publications

 

Become a Member!

Our members make history happen.

Join Now

You May Also Enjoy

Sewing the Flag

Sewing the Flag

Buffalo Bill’s Big House

Buffalo Bill’s Big House

Marker Monday: The Seedling Mile

Marker Monday: The Seedling Mile

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.