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Tag Archives: History Nebraska

Sketching Ash Hollow in 1851

Imagine sitting in a darkened theater watching a giant canvas on stage. The canvas is spooled at either end and advances like a giant scroll. Painted on the canvas are scenes of the Oregon Trail. A narrator describes the great journey that thousands of your fellow citizens are making. The giant scroll was called the Pantoscope, and it was big hit in Eastern theaters in the 1850s. Designed and promoted by entrepreneur J. Wesley Jones, it was based on sketches …

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150 Nebraska State Fairs

Nebraskans will celebrate the 150th Nebraska State Fair Aug. 23-Sept. 2. Can you name the fair’s five host cities, and the two years the fair was canceled? Nebraska City hosted a three-day territorial fair in 1859, and the first two state fairs were there in 1868 and 1869. Brownville hosted for a few years, then Omaha and Lincoln switched back and forth until Lincoln became the fair’s longtime home from 1901 to 2009. Grand Island has been the host city …

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When the Carnival Came to Town

Years ago, the peak of Nebraska summer entertainment came with the Walter Savidge Amusement Company as it pulled into the depot aboard its 20-car, red-and-yellow Pullman train. The Wayne-based traveling show and carnival toured Nebraska and surrounding states from 1906 to 1941. Walter Savidge was born in Holt County in 1886. He began dreaming of show business at age 12 after attending a Ringling Brothers circus in Humphrey. He practiced tightrope walking on a rope tied between his family’s barn …

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Sod Houses on Glass Plates

Solomon Butcher came to Nebraska in a covered wagon, but quickly found himself poorly suited to the hard life of a pioneer. He failed at homesteading, taught school, briefly attended medical school, served as a rural postmaster, and opened – and closed – the first photography studio in Custer County. Desperate to avoid going back to farm work, Butcher had a bold idea. He would produce a photographic history of Custer County. Starting in 1886, he hitched up a wagon …

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Nebraska Airmail in the 1920s

Early airmail pilots flew open-cockpit biplanes, navigated by landmarks and simple maps, and landed in grassy airfields. By 1930 their facilities and technology had changed dramatically. What seems quaint in hindsight was in fact a time of rapid change. Airmail service began in 1918. The first route was between Washington, D.C., and New York City. Regular coast-to-coast airmail flights began in 1920. Nebraska’s first airfields along the coast-to-coast route were in North Platte and Omaha. Airmail pilots used Omaha’s Ak-Sar-Ben …

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