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Why Kearney Will Become a Second Minneapolis

By David L. Bristow, History Nebraska Kearney was booming in 1889 when city boosters commissioned a promotional book The City of Kearney, Nebraska. A copy of this boastful, lavishly illustrated book is in History Nebraska’s collections. Divided into brief sections, the book covers topics such as “Why Kearney Must Become a Railroad Center,” “Why Kearney Will Be a Large Manufacturing Center,” “Why Kearney Will Become a Second Minneapolis,” and others. Most pages also feature beautiful engravings of local scenes. Kearney …

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Cross Nebraska Rivers by Ferry

By David L. Bristow, History Nebraska We take bridges for granted, but river-crossing Nebraskans mostly relied on ferries into the 20th century. The ferry was a seasonal operation. When the river iced over, you could simply drive your team across, as long as you trusted the thickness of the ice. During the westward migration along the Oregon, Mormon, and California trails, emigrants first had to pay ferrymen to take them across the Missouri River. Early ferries were rafts propelled by …

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Replacing the Offensive

By Eric Fowler While on a hunting trip in the Pine Ridge in northwestern Nebraska in 2010, I photographed a picturesque butte in northwestern Sheridan County. When I got back to the office, I looked, as I often do, at the U.S. Geological Survey topographical maps to see if it was named. I couldn’t believe that, in the 21st century, a feature could still carry a name that was both sexist and racist. It no longer does. In September, the …

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Nebraska’s Civil War Flags

By David L. Bristow, History Nebraska As we’ve just celebrated another Veterans Day, here are three flags belonging to the first soldiers to formally represent Nebraska in the U.S. Army. Nebraska Territory had only about 9,000 men of military age when the Civil War began, but it sent more than 3,000 of them into the Union armies. The First Nebraska Infantry Regiment fought in two major battles in 1862, playing a crucial role at the Battle of Fort Donelson and …

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Paddlefish

I probably should have blogged about this last month during the paddlefish snagging season.  Sorry, I did not get around to it then, but I am not going to miss this opportunity to highlight a Nebraskaland story you should check out. One of our Missouri River fisheries biologists, Kirk Steffensen, wrote a story on paddlefish and our Nebraska paddlefish fishery on the Missouri River.  I know the fish, that fishery and its history will be of interest to a lot …

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Pigments of the Fur Trade

By Dr. James A. Hanson, Historian, Museum of the Fur Trade The following excerpt originally appeared in the Winter 2021 edition of Museum of the Fur Trade Quarterly, a publication based in Chadron, Nebraska. Because of our reverence for Nebraska history, this quarterly publication has been a mainstay for the editors of Nebraskaland Magazine for many years. There is no doubt that early Native Americans were ingenious in developing earths and other natural products as pigments for face painting and …

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Early License Plates and Driver’s Licenses

By David L. Bristow, History Nebraska You drive your shiny new car home from the dealership and park it out front where your jealous neighbors can see it. Now, it’s time to make the license plate. That’s what Nebraska motorists did for 10 years in the early 20th century. The state began registering automobiles in 1905, but didn’t manufacture license plates until 1915. In the meantime, the Secretary of State’s office registered cars and issued numbers. Owners made their own …

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Rescuing a Child from the Path of a Speeding Train

By David L. Bristow, History Nebraska In 1905, George Poell was a railroad fireman, soon to be a hero. One day the Grand Island resident was shoveling coal into a locomotive’s red-hot furnace as the train rounded a curve. Suddenly, the train lurched as the engineer put on the emergency brake. Poell looked out the window to see what was wrong. He saw a child walking on the track, a toddler with blond curls bobbing. “The little fellow seemed to …

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Ash Hollow State Historical Park Rendezvous

Ash Hollow State Historical Park will host its annual rendezvous Sept. 9-11. The rendezvous will allow park visitors to absorb themselves in pre-1840 history, unique culture and educate themselves of an era gone by. Rendezvous were historically held in the fall between fur traders and local Native American tribes and were a time to gather, share trade goods such as skins, furs, beads, food items, weapons, and knowledge. It was a time to relax, make money, and have some fun. …

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Clouds of Grasshoppers in 1874

By David L. Bristow, History Nebraska On a clear, hot July day a haze came over the sun,” Addison Sheldon recalled. “The haze deepened into a gray cloud. Suddenly the cloud resolved itself into billions of gray grasshoppers sweeping down upon the earth. The vibration of their wings filled the ear with a roaring sound like a rushing storm. As far as the eye could reach in every direction the air was filled with them. Where they alighted, they covered …

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