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Volume 99 / Number 2 / Summer 2018


Front cover: Louise Vinciquerra, Omaha bootlegger known to the press as “Queen Louise,” 1923. Reprinted with permission from the Omaha World-Herald Left: Looking south along 16th Street from Douglas Street in Omaha, circa 1920. RG3382-32-22.

Become a member! And receive four issues a year of this magazine. Subscriptions are $32 annually. Full memberships with additional benefits start at $40. See or call 1-800-833-6747 (402-471-3270). David L. Bristow, editor Ebbeka Design Co., design and layout

History Nebraska (formerly known as the Nebraska State Historical Society) Trevor Jones, Director

Board of Trustees Kim Elder, Paxton, President Cherrie Beam-Callaway, Fremont, First Vice President Bryan Zimmer, Plattsmouth, Second Vice President Lance Bristol, Ansley, Treasurer Jeff Barnes, Omaha Spencer Davis, Bellevue Katherine Endacott, Pleasant Dale Heather Fryer, Omaha Tom Kraus, Madrid Marilyn Moore, Lincoln John E. Nelson, Omaha Vickie Schaepler, Kearney Connie Spellman, Omaha Eileen Wirth, Omaha Nebraska History (publication number ISSN-0028-1859) is published quarterly by History Nebraska, 1500 R St., Lincoln, NE 68508-1651, and distributed to members as part of their dues. Single issues, $7. For rates on microfilmed copies of Nebraska History, write Böwe Bell & Howell, 300 N. Zeeb Rd., Ann Arbor, MI, 48106. Nebraska History publishes well researched articles, edited documents, and other annotated primary materials relating to the history of Nebraska and the Great Plains. See for guidelines. Communications should be addressed to the editor. Articles are reviewed by qualified scholars before publication; authors’ opinions do not necessarily express the views of History Nebraska. Periodical postage paid at Lincoln, NE, and additional mailing offices. Postmaster: Send address changes to History Nebraska, 1500 R St., Lincoln, NE 68508-1651; phone 402-471-3270. © 2018 by History Nebraska. Incorrectly addressed magazines returned by the post office will be forwarded only on receipt of $3 to cover remailing costs.

Nebraska History


Volume 99 / Number 2 / Summer 2018

82 Louise Vinciquerra, Nebraska’s Bootlegger Queen • Kylie Kinley “Queen Louise” thumbed her nose at the law throughout the Prohibition era, usually avoiding punishment despite frequent arrests across the state. Her story provides new insight into crime boss Tom Dennison’s Omaha, and shows how a woman could exercise power in the underworld.

102 Changing Consensus on the European Discovery of the Platte River • Harlan Seyfer People have lived along the Platte for millennia, but not until the eighteenth century was the river known to European explorers—and the consensus for who was the first is less than a century old.

116 A Farmer’s Passion for Knowledge: Benton Aldrich and the Clifton Library Association • John Irwin In the late nineteenth century, one of the best-stocked lending libraries in Nebraska was housed in a sod dugout on a Nemaha County farm. It was the project of an eccentric nonconformist committed to sharing knowledge and raising moral standards.

132 Book Reviews 144 Book Briefly 148 Postscript ABOUT OUR NEW NAME As of April 30, 2018, the Nebraska State Historical Society is now known as History Nebraska. Why the change? Well, it’s less of a mouthful, for one thing, and the word “Society” has come to sound more exclusive than we’d like. The new name and logo shown on the left are part of a larger effort to raise our profile and connect with more people. We remain committed to preserving and sharing the history of our state. As the seal at the top of this page reminds us, we have done so since 1878. Learn more at

History Nebraska collects, preserves, and opens to all, the histories we share.



n the afternoon of October 17, 1925, a Ford Sedan careened through the neighborhood of 27th and D Streets in Lincoln, Nebraska. “Queen” Louise Vinciquerra sat in the passenger seat with two gallons of illegal moonshine whiskey on her lap. Her future second husband, exProhibition agent Earl Haning, was at the wheel. A mutual acquaintance named Joseph Holder crouched in the back seat with the burlap sacks that had hidden the jugs only moments earlier. Karl Schmidt, a federal prohibition agent for Nebraska, pursued them for over a mile through Lincoln neighborhoods and finally edged his car closer. The trio knew they were caught.


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Vinciquerra picked up the jugs and smashed them one after the other against the car’s interior. Broken glass sliced her hand, and the moonshine soaked into her dress.1 Haning stopped the car, and when Agent Schmidt wrenched open the car door, the whiskey ran down the running boards and seeped from Vinciquerra’s skirt. Schmidt borrowed an empty milk bottle from a neighborhood housewife, mopped up what evidence he could, and arrested Haning and Vinciquerra on a charge of conspiracy to violate the prohibition laws.2 Haning and Vinciquerra were convicted in March 1926, but served no time and won on appeal in 1927. Joseph Holder served as a government witness and was not charged. At first Vinciquerra said she was on her way to a Nebraska football game. Later she said she was in Lincoln to get a suit of clothes for her brother.3 Either way, she claimed that she met Haning unexpectedly while waiting for a streetcar. Her defense was that she couldn’t have conspired to violate prohibition laws because she had no idea the moonshine was in the car. Her lawyer argued that the car chase and consequent breaking of the jugs prevented Louise’s transportation and since transportation was the sole reason why she had entered Haning’s car, no conspiracy had been committed.4 Consequently, Federal Judge Walter Henry Sanborn of the Court of Appeals for the Eight Circuit, reversed their conviction. So Vinciquerra and her lover Haning went free, and no one was surprised. Louise Vinciquerra was the queen of Nebraska bootleggers, and she bribed, argued, or charmed her way out of court more times before she was thirty than many male bootleggers did in their entire careers. The authorities and her peers often underestimated her because she was a woman, and she swindled them appropriately. She was a mother of two, a shrewd businesswoman, a champion for her family members, a habitual criminal, and a ruthless human being. During Prohibition—one of the most violent, chaotic, and politically and socially charged periods in American and Nebraskan history— Louise Vinciquerra navigated a world hostile to immigrants, bootleggers, and women—and she was all three. She was certainly not the only female bootlegger in Nebraska, but she was probably the best, and without doubt the boldest. Her career and her personal life give twenty-first century readers insights into those tempestuous times, and challenge stereotypes of women’s roles in Prohibition. Vinciquerra’s story also adds another

lens to our understanding of organized crime in Omaha under crime boss Tom Dennison. Many Prohibition scholars focus on women as the force that brought about national Prohibition from January 17, 1920, to December 5, 1933. Many Nebraskans, particularly German Catholics, opposed women’s suffrage because they feared women would vote for Prohibition.5 Nationally, famous Prohibitionist women included Carrie Nation, Kansas’s axe-wielding temperance fiend, and Susan B. Anthony, whose anti-alcohol views came from genuine horror at the rampant alcoholism, domestic abuse, and deplorable child welfare conditions that could be directly tied to the country’s dependence on alcohol.6 Americans drank an average per-capita equivalent of 90 bottles of 80-proof liquor each year, which breaks down to about four shots a day. Modern-day alcohol consumption is about a third of this. The pre-Prohibition era remains the highest measured volume of alcohol consumption in U.S. history.7 Women were often assumed to favor Prohibition simply because of their sex. Women who opposed Prohibition, even on moral grounds, were dismissed, bullied, and even threatened by other women, particularly by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union (WCTU).8 Women who went so far as to manufacture, smuggle, sell, or even drink alcohol were regarded with shock that they could betray the mothering, morally superior instincts of their sex. Or they were pitied, as people assumed they were selling hooch from financial desperation or out of loyalty to a husband or a male relative. At first, women were even used as protection against police raids; police were reluctant to search cars with women in them, and they would never search for flasks or bottles hidden under skirts.9 Many records exist of women, especially working class and immigrant women, who manufactured alcohol to make money. Their stated reasons ranged from a need to buy Easter dresses for their children, to supplementing an existing laundry business.10 Courts seemed more sympathetic to a woman who was supporting her family than the one who was merely supporting her man. Either way, they were sensationalized in the press, and a favorite title for these women was “bootlegging queen.” Probably the most famous was “Bahama Queen Cleo” Lythgoe, a rum smuggler who fought in gun battles and against economic sexism from men who declared “no skirts” and offered her insultingly low prices for her smuggled goods.11 Louise Vinciquerra occupied an even smaller sphere of female bootleggers. She wasn’t extending

Left: Louise Vinciquerra, circa 1928. Adams County (Nebraska) Historical Society Photograph Collection

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“Yes, I have made $45,000 since October, 1921, but I have spent easily two-thirds of it. Easy come, easy go.”

a previous restaurant or grocery business.12 She was a mother, but she wasn’t selling alcohol solely to support her family. Her world in South Omaha was far removed from hotel ballrooms and campaign rallies of anti-prohibition women groups. Her Prohibition experience was more violent and favored corn whiskey over cocktails. And, like a sliver of other enterprising Prohibition women, she bootlegged because she loved it, and she was good at it.


ouise Pirruccello was born in Lentini, Sicily, around 1900 and immigrated to Omaha in about 1910, part of a wave of Italian immigration that grew Omaha’s Italian population from less than 500 in 1900 to 2,361 by the end of the decade.13 She married Sebastiano Vinciquerra when she was thirteen. By age fifteen she had given birth to her two sons, Carl and Sam. Vinciquerra made her first federal court appearance at age twenty-two, when she was fined $200 on November 17, 1922.14 Because the Volstead Act was a federal law enabling Prohibition enforcement, its violators were tried in federal court. At one point, liquor violations constituted two-thirds of all federal criminal indictments.15 Much to the frustration of federal judges such as Judge Joseph William Woodrough, who often tried Vinciquerra’s cases, most defendants were petty offenders, and the crime bosses never appeared in court.16 Still, these were rosy Prohibition days for both sides. Bootlegging was highly profitable and not very competitive.17 Prohibition authorities were making enough arrests to feel that they were upholding their end of the experiment. The Omaha World-Herald said Omaha was “a city where the wheels of justice move more swiftly in enforcement of Prohibition than anywhere else in the country… practically all cases in Omaha are disposed of within twenty-four hours.”18 In fact, those wheels of justice were heavily influenced by crime boss Tom Dennison, who ruled Omaha’s underworld and its political sphere for nearly forty years, from the 1890s to the early 1930s. Standing six feet tall and weighing 200 pounds, Dennison was usually immaculately dressed and tastefully adorned with flawless diamonds. Even so, he preferred to avoid public attention. He had built his fortune as a frontier gambling house proprietor, and he ran Omaha like he played poker—he never missed anything, and he was relentless.19 Vinciquerra, on the other hand, loved the limelight. While the extent of their association is


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murky, Vinciquerra’s bootlegging success depended on Dennison’s approval and involvement, and there is some evidence that he bankrolled her court cases because she was a good distraction from his more nefarious operations.20 He controlled much of the police force. Bootleggers paid Dennison’s collector and bought from Dennison-approved wholesalers. If they followed the rules, their homes and stills avoided raids.21 Vinciquerra didn’t know much about those “wheels of justice” at this time. After her 1922 fine, she continued selling alcohol. Indeed, she thought so little of the laws that she distributed cards among high school and university students advertising her liquor. Many Omahans looked the other way where bootlegging was concerned. The city had a thriving red light district, with saloons, gambling houses, and an estimated one hundred brothels and 2,500 prostitutes within city limits.22 It was even once called the “wickedest city in the United States.”23 But some citizens drew the line at selling booze to minors. While Vinciquerra created and distributed the fliers, her husband, Sebastiano, was also involved. His case was brought to trial, and he was fined $100 on April 3, 1923, for conducting a bootlegging establishment.24 Vinciquerra did not appear in court for this incident, but it was the launch pad for her notoriety. Her next move is bewildering. She could have just quit printing flyers that advertised to high school students or adjusted her market. Instead, Vinciquerra called reporters to her home. She announced her “retirement” from bootlegging so she could spend more time with her sons, who were seven and eight. She boasted of making $45,000 in the last seventeen months on bootlegging, a salary four and half times what Nebraska’s governor made during the same period.25 “Yes, I have made $45,000 since October, 1921, but I have spent easily two-thirds of it,” Vinciquerra told reporters. “Easy come, easy go. I have sold only wine, rye whiskey and 188 proof alcohol and I have been careful to test all of the liquor I have sold. I was born in Italy and I know liquor. I have never manufactured liquor, have bought the best that could be obtained, have not allowed any ‘parties’ in my home, and have never sold to minors when I knew it.”26 Vinciquerra’s immigrant status points to one of the contributing factors to Prohibition’s ultimate failure: immigrant populations were even more likely than the native population to use alcohol for social, religious, or medicinal purposes.27 Consequently,

Vinciquerra did know a lot about alcohol, and her expensively-furnished home was proof of her ability to move and sell alcohol effectively. When the reporter visited, it was also festooned with flowers that were tokens of sympathy from friends on “the occasion of her husband’s recent arrest,” which suggests that her community thought Sebastiano getting arrested was a good joke and sent flowers to be ironic, or it was a genuine moment for grief, such as a death in the family. Vinciquerra also told reporters that she was the mastermind behind the bootlegging business, and that she managed the place more than three-fourths of the time.28 The day after the story ran, April 6, 1923, Vinciquerra was in jail. Before she was arrested, she asked permission to “doll up,” was refused, and then had the further gall to ask Prohibition Agent Robert “Raiding Bob” Samardick to detour to her uncle’s house on the way so he could take care of her bond. “I’m not a chauffeur,” Samardick replied. Other Prohibition authorities were similarly unamused. “She ought to be able to pay because she’s told the whole world she had made $45,000 by bootlegging,” said Assistant District Attorney George Keyser. “She can’t expect to violate the law and then come out openly and boast to newspapermen how clever she was. This sort of stuff don’t go with the government.”29 Later that day, reporters caught up with Vinciquerra again, but this time she was subdued and nursing a headache. “I am sorry I talked so much about the money I made bootlegging for it has done nothing but get me in trouble since,” she said.30 Vinciquerra was a brazen individual, but bragging about her income to a reporter was perhaps the most uncalculated move of her career. The only clue as to why she would abandon her sense of self-preservation was that she also possessed a great deal of pride. The article says Vinciquerra “was stung by the statement of a welfare worker, she said, that she had accepted charity.” Mrs. Rogers, a disgruntled mother who testified in Sebastiano’s trial about selling alcohol to minors, had remarked that the Human Society had helped Vinciquerra when she came to the agency after Sebastiano allegedly beat her in 1920.31 While Vinciquerra loved making and spending money, she also preferred to handle her own problems. Mrs. Rogers’s testimony about her asking for help apparently needled her so much that she decided to bring attention to her prowess and her wealth instead of her vulnerability.

Unconcerned about her pride, Omaha authorities were determined to make an example of Vinciquerra, and “the ‘Queen of Omaha bootleggers’ found the law staring at her from a different direction” when she was summoned to appear before the Douglas County Commissioners on April 8, 1923, to explain why her income taxes didn’t reflect $45,000 worth of income. This was the first time she was called “queen of the Omaha bootleggers” in the press.32 The title followed her the rest of her life. But Vinciquerra’s troubles did not keep her from running her business, which was so successful that her patrons’ cars filled the street and blocked traffic near her home at 810 Forest Avenue just a few weeks later in April 1923. As a result of a complaint about the traffic, police raided her house and found only three pints

Louise Vinciquerra, circa 1922, around the time of her first appearance in federal court. Adams County (Nebraska) Historical Society Photograph Collection

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Omaha World-Herald, October 10, 1923, p.1

of alcohol, one bottle of corn whiskey, and some crème de menthe hidden under a mattress. “If you had gotten here earlier, you would have found more,” Vinciquerra told them.33


inciquerra managed to stay out of trouble for two months before she was arrested again in June 1923. Prohibition agents “raided a dilapidated, one-story house at the northeast corner of Second and Cedar streets,” a home that Vinciquerra rented, and found equipment, mash, jugs, and three gallons of liquor.34 Vinciquerra responded by suing Samardick and Dan B. Butler, police commissioner, for $25,000 in damages for false arrest and imprisonment. While such a suit seems extravagant, even for Louise, it was later revealed in court that crime boss Dennison bankrolled this suit because it took attention away from his own doings.35 “Oh, that’s just part of the program,” Butler said when he was informed of Vinciquerra’s suit. “Just as long as we can close up places like hers I don’t mind. They’d better get busy down in Washington, however, and regulate this immigration system better. As it is now, these people come over here, don’t even take the trouble to learn our language—bootleg all they please, and they ride around on Fourth of July with American flags on their fine automobiles.”36 While typical of the time, Commissioner Butler’s xenophobia is ironic; Robert “Raiding Bob” Samardick— ruthless and violent upholder of Prohibition laws and one of Omaha’s few honest law enforcement agents—was from Serbia.


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Samardick alternately served as a policeman, federal Prohibition agent, federal parole officer, and, later, as Omaha’s chief of police. Early on in his career, he resigned in protest of the corruption he saw on the Omaha police force. However, he was not afraid to beat men or women he arrested or chop through doors with an axe when in pursuit of upholding the letter of the law. He also entered screaming matches with criminals and his superiors alike.37 Vinciquerra was exactly the kind of flippant rule-breaker that Samardick despised. “That’s a laugh!” Samardick said in response to a claim in Vinciquerra’s lawsuit that he refused to leave the room while she dressed and then threatened to choke her. “She declared she would not go to jail. I tried to reason with her. She cursed me, calling me names. I took her by the arm and led her to the car. As far as choking her while in the car, I sat in the front seat with the driver, and she sat in the rear seat with Commissioner Butler.”38 In other words, Samardick might have wanted to choke her, but he couldn’t reach her from his spot in the front seat. Later, after it had served its purpose of being a distraction, the suit was dropped. Louise continued to have run-ins with Prohibition agents, but one in particular, Earl Haning, was no longer interested in arresting her. Haning’s first experience on the other side of Prohibition enforcement was at Vinciquerra’s house in September 1923. After agents raided the house, he was found a half block away leading Vinciquerra’s sons away from the chaos. He and

Vinciquerra were charged with the sale of whiskey and wine. Haning’s boss, U.S. Rohrer, Prohibition director for Nebraska, immediately came to Haning’s defense and said he had never suspended Haning and didn’t expect to do so.39 But Haning wasn’t just protecting Vinciquerra’s children. He was also sending her romantic gifts, such as nine sacks of sugar that he raided from one of her competitors. In addition, Haning had become part of a bootlegging ring with Sebastiano and Vinciquerra. He and Sebastiano were arrested on October 10, 1923, in a raid on a farmhouse seven miles west of Irvington. Three stills were found in a barn, and “Raiding Bob” Samardick gave Sebastiano a black eye and a cut on the forehead that was so severe it was originally categorized as a “fractured skull.” Haning was fired as a result of this arrest.40 Sebastiano was recovered enough to get arrested in Lincoln just three weeks later, where he was delivering six gallons of liquor with Haning’s brother Paul.41 Lincoln had a much drier outlook on Prohibition and took liquor violations more seriously than did Omaha.42 Omaha papers tended to glorify bootlegger exploits, but the Lincoln paper ridiculed them. Sebastiano was “crowned king of the royal boozers in Lincoln

Monday morning… the head of the house of hooch nobility found the crowning distasteful and in order to return to his subjects at Omaha, paid $100 and permitted his royal car, a Nash roadster one week old, to be confiscated.”43 It appears that the money and the car were no longer being used for bail because the papers report that Sebastiano couldn’t make his $3,000 bond and was back in a Lincoln jail by November 8. He was incarcerated for much of the next few months. Vinciquerra had legal woes of her own, but she stayed out of jail. She had moved to Council Bluffs in late summer or early fall of 1923 in an attempt to get away from the Omaha police. She told reporters that she was “like a poor, hunted deer, seeking a cool place in the forest shade away from the hunters.”44 But Vinciquerra’s house at 730 Avenue F in Council Bluffs was raided in September 1923, right before Haning and the liquor ring were caught in October. Even in Iowa, Vinciquerra could not escape “Raiding Bob.” Newell Roberts of Carter Lake, on the request of Samardick, testified that Vinciquerra had sold him liquor on September 20, 1923. Her trial was scheduled for May 1924. Vinciquerra’s name stayed out of the papers during the waning months of 1923. But that changed when she preoccupied herself with a murder in early 1924. On New Year’s Eve 1923, she traveled by car to Council Bluffs with a man named Peter Sferas. After they stopped at a hotel together, Sferas told her that he had “got” Vinciquerra’s cousin, Louise Salerno, when she was a child. Sferas was also Louise Salerno’s uncle by marriage. He told Louise Vinciquerra he would kill her if she ever told anyone else. “But I was not afraid,” Vinciquerra testified later.45 She was testifying because two weeks after the New Year’s Eve conversation, Louise Salerno shot Peter Sferas to death. “Slays Uncle She Says Stole Honor” a banner headline screamed on January 14, 1924. Another read: “Married [sic] Slays Man She Asserts Talked About Her—Pierce Street Beauty Summons Man to House; Greets Him With Two Pistols. Wronged as a Child; Says He Told Secret.”46 The following day the Omaha World-Herald ran photos of Louise Salerno’s sisters, Helen and Antoinette Pirruccello, ages fifteen and twelve.47 They said Sferas had attempted to rape them, and he had given them money. The paper reported delicately that the girls “had been annoyed by Sferas.”48 More than any other publicity about Louise Vinciquerra, this case illuminates the world she

Omaha World-Herald, October 10, 1923, p.9

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Louise Salerno, sister-in-law of Louise Vinciquerra. Omaha Bee, January 15, 1924, p.2

and many women—especially young immigrant women—experienced during the Prohibition era. Sexual molestation, domestic abuse, and lack of education and opportunity are evident, but so is an unassailable loyalty to each other. Both Vinciquerra and Salerno described the shooting as spontaneous. However, it appears that once Louise Vinciquerra discovered that a man had raped her cousin for nearly a decade, he was soon dead. Their stories eventually firmed up the motive to be self-defense instead of revenge, but that wasn’t until several weeks after the shooting. Salerno said she confronted Sferas because of his advances on her younger sisters, but her reaction suggests that Vinciquerra’s support also played a role. Vinciquerra helped Salerno question her sisters, watched as Salerno loaded two pistols, and then took Salerno’s little girl into another room. Vinciquerra apparently understood that while a jury might acquit a woman for killing her molester, a jury was less likely to acquit two people for a premeditated revenge killing, even if those two people were women.


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The papers focused on Salerno in reporting the details of the murder. She had telephoned Sferas and said they needed to talk. When he arrived fifteen minutes later, she accused him of trying to molest her sisters. According to Salerno, he kept his hand in his pocket and told her to shut up. “Then you got to pay,” Salerno said, and started shooting. Unhappy with her first shot, she followed him out of the house, emptying the gun as she ran out into the street. Louise Marino, a young girl on her way to the movies, was shot in her arm. Sferas, shot twice, ran into a pool hall and died on the floor.49 Salerno said later that she was certain that Sferas had been holding a gun in his pocket, and that she had shot in self-defense. Vinciquerra gave mixed statements about this. “Louise (Salerno) had two guns and told me that if one did not get him the other would,” Vinciquerra said. The gun, which Salerno could “almost swear to God she saw in Sferas’ hand” was not found on Sferas’ person.50 Vinciquerra changed some details when she told the story a second time. In the second version, Salerno had the pistols because she had become afraid after talking to a violent Sferas on the phone. Aspects of the story that suggested that Salerno was incensed, revengeful, and fully supported by Vinciquerra quietly disappeared from the second version.51 By the time the case went to trial in May 1924, Salerno was calm and collected, her story apparently well-rehearsed. Sferas had been a boarder at her parents’ house when he started assaulting her. Later, he married Salerno’s aunt.

Then the day of the terrible cyclone here in 1913, he stopped me in the hallway and asked me for a phone number. I looked for it in the telephone book. While I was doing that, he became familiar with me and I fought him off. He finally pushed me down in the hallway and assaulted me. I began to cry and he warned me that he would kill us all if I told my parents. He seemed to be my master, for I always feared him and many times he forced me to meet him in outhouses and barns where he assaulted me.52

Louise Salerno’s husband, Tony, was supportive of his wife.

“If she’d told us, we’d taken care of him,” he said. “But she didn’t want to get us into trouble. That’s why she did it herself. It shows what kind of a woman she is.” “It wasn’t Tony’s business,” Louise Salerno explained. “If Sferas ever was going to pay for what he did, it had to be to me.”53 Violence was familiar to this family. Tony Pirrucello, who was Louise Salerno’s father and who ran the pool hall where Sferas ran to die, had been convicted of shooting Vinciquerra’s husband Sebastiano two years earlier. Tony Salerno’s brother had recently been slain by a Prohibition agent.54 When Salerno was indicted on a charge of second-degree murder in Sferas’s death, both she and Louise Vinciquerra wept.55 The Omaha Bee described Salerno as having “only a remnant of the beauty which has made her the pride of Little Italy.” When Salerno was eventually led screaming from the courtroom, the Bee noted that at that time, she shed no tears.56 While Salerno awaited trial, Vinciquerra was sued for the more than $2,000 in rent she owed on the falling-down house at Second and Cedar that

had been raided in June 1923. Vinciquerra went to trial on the Carter Lake liquor charges in early May 1924. Sebastiano was in jail, but Earl Haning was a staunch support for her through the trial—until his wife had him arrested on desertion charges and hauled back to her in Lincoln.57 On May 2, 1924, Vinciquerra—who arrived at court alone and fifteen minutes late—received her first substantial punishment for bootlegging: sixty days imprisonment and a $500 fine. She was taken into the marshal’s office, where she wept furiously and refused to be consoled. Then Haning arrived, pushing his way into the room. He calmed her and telephoned a relative to take her home.58 But Vinciquerra still avoided going to jail for her crimes. Two days later, the United States Circuit Court of Appeals chastised Federal Judge Woodrough for letting jurors smell and handle liquor as an exhibit in a bootlegging case, which was an error because it was making the jurors witnesses in determining whether the liquid was whisky or not. This had also happened during Vinciquerra’s trial, so she appealed her conviction, won, and never started her sixty-day sentence.59 Louise Vinciquerra in court with her lawyers, undated. Reprinted with permission from The Omaha World-Herald.

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This break allowed Vinciquerra to disappear in time for Louise Salerno’s trial, which started just a few weeks later in May 1924. When Vinciquerra’s name was called as a state witness, she was reputed to be in Oklahoma. The World-Herald even referred to her on May 28, 1924, as the “former ‘Queen of Omaha’s bootleggers.’” Without an eyewitness to the shooting, the jury acquitted Louise Salerno on May 30.60


maha was not without its Queen of the Bootleggers for long. Vinciquerra was back by July 1924, when she met with federal Prohibition officer Elmer Thomas. The reason for the meeting wasn’t made clear, but reporters who attended recorded a startling occurrence: “Raiding Bob” Samardick gave Vinciquerra a rose.61 Bob Samardick was not a romantic man. Either he was mocking her with a sarcastic “welcome back” gift, or perhaps he needed something. His motivation isn’t certain, but in November Vinciquerra testified before a federal grand jury.62 Her testimony was not made public. During this time, she and her children lived in Wichita, Kansas, where she supposedly ran a restaurant. Two months later, in January 1925, Vinciquerra, Haning, Sebastiano, and six other men were indicted on charges of operating a still six miles west of Irvington in 1923.63 This was the incident which had ended Haning’s law enforcement career and given Samardick an opportunity to nearly bash in Sebastiano’s skull. The courts were determined to make an example out of this liquor ring. Vinciquerra, Sebastiano, Haning, and two associates named Tony Curtese and Frank DeWolfe all agreed to plead guilty and testify for the government. The other four men, Joe St. Lucas, Tony Nanfito, Rosario Gibilsco, and Sam Gibilisco, stood trial. The trial opened on July 9, 1925.64 Vinciquerra and the others testified that they had manufactured hundreds of gallons of hooch


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and that Rosario, the Gibilisco brothers, and Sebastiano Vinciquerra had transported it. A reporter commented on Vinciquerra’s muchchanged demeanor: “Mrs. Vinciquerra, once the haughty, flippant ‘bootleg queen’ who all but snapped her fingers in the faces of Prohibition agents and dared them to catch her, presented a vastly different picture in court Thursday. She kept her head down low and tears continually fell from her eyes. She and the others who plead [sic] guilty sat apart from the other defendants.”65 Haning testified that he had joined the group in June 1923. He and the eight others had paid $150 each to become stockholders. The business never made him much money, he said. Vinciquerra was the group’s treasurer.66 Haning further testified that after the group members were arrested, Tony Nanfito (who had been Vinciquerra’s bondsman for years) and Joe St. Lucas approached Haning and promised to pay him $1,000 if he would help save St. Lucas, who had a respectable job at Union Pacific. The $1,000 would support Vinciquerra and her two children, and hire an attorney for Haning. They also promised to use their connections to make sure Haning wouldn’t go to trial. But when Nanfito and St. Lucas reneged on their deal, “I decided to be a man,” Haning said. “Make a clean breast of the whole affair and throw myself upon the mercy of the court.”67 Reporters described Vinciquerra as morose when the trial began on July 9, but by July 11 she seemed renewed. The Scottsbluff Herald commented: “Knowing that her testimony might mean that she would be ‘bumped off’ by former associates, now bitter enemies, Vinciquerra went through with her bargain with federal officers and turned state’s evidence.”68 The fact that a paper in western Nebraska covered this story shows Vinciquerra’s influence not just in Omaha, but across the entire state.

Louise Vinciquerra, circa 1928. Adams County (Nebraska) Historical Society Photograph Collection

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Omaha World-Herald, July 5, 1933, p. 1

On the stand, Vinciquerra didn’t shed tears or shield herself with her husband’s or lover’s misdeeds, as many female bootleggers did. When she got annoyed with defense counsel Raymond T. Coffey’s questions about the kind of company she invited to her house, she retorted, “You were there, too, weren’t you? You ought to know as well as me.” Coffey hurriedly took the stand and denied that he had ever been to Vinciquerra’s home. Later, St. Lucas swore that he just happened to be at Vinciquerra’s house because he was with Tony Nanfito, who was there about a bond: “Then, after she had gotten me into this—some time later—she called me on the telephone, said she was heartbroken at what she had done and intended to get me out of this mess. She said she’d take poison before she testified against me. She


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said she had been forced by Bob Samardick to say what she did about us in the first place when he threatened to put her on trial before Judge McGee on an old case and recommend three years in case she was found guilty.”69 Vinciquerra’s panic is understandable; Judge John McGee handed down harsh sentences for minor liquor infractions so often that his nickname was “Ten-year” McGee.70 Vinciquerra, however, didn’t act like someone who was heartbroken about the “mess” she had gotten Nanfito and St. Lucas into. Nanfito became so disgusted that he decided to withdraw his bond for Vinciquerra and have her jailed. She broke for the door as soon as he yelled, “I want to have her put in jail.” Nanfito caught her arm, but she jerked away, fled down the stairs, and climbed into a waiting car.71 Ill will toward Vinciquerra continued when the trial re-convened after the weekend. The defense brought in witnesses to discredit her character and weaken the validity of her testimony. “I’ve known her (Vinciquerra) twenty years, and couldn’t believe her if I tried,” testified Mrs. Josephine Randoni of 1907 South Seventeenth Street. “She would ‘sell’ the city of Omaha.”72 The defense lawyers offered to call “fifty more witnesses who would testify similarly,” but the court allowed only seven to testify against Vinciquerra.73 During the trial, police raided a house where Vinciquerra and Haning had supposedly been living. Haning’s eighteen-year-old son, Dean, was arrested but released without charges. Dean told reporters that “they ransacked the house and took a bottle of flavoring syrup and a bottle of home brew, belonging to an aged woman who owns the house.” Vinciquerra was unruffled. “They probably were trying to scare me,” she said.74 The next day the jury deliberated only a little more than an hour before finding all four of the defendants guilty. On September 10, 1925, St. Lucas, Nanfito, and the Gibilisco brothers were each sentenced to seven months in jail and fined $500 for each of the seven counts on which they were convicted. The sentences were to run concurrently, but each defendant was still responsible for $3,500 in fines. More startling, the sentencing of Vinciquerra, Haning, Sebastiano, Curtese, and DeWolfe was “postponed indefinitely.” Vinciquerra was reported as having being present in the corridor, but disappeared before the sentence was read.75


he status of Vinciquerra and Haning’s relationship is unclear at this point. He had been in love with her for nearly two years, and Sebastiano had been in jail for some time. Haning’s wife, as she had done two years earlier, had Haning arrested on an abandonment charge. Haning’s father paid a $500 bond for his release. Mrs. Jesse Haning “testified that Earl left home two years ago and for a year did nothing toward the support of his family.”76 This is only the second time that Jesse Haning demanded that Earl return home, and it also coincides with a time in which Earl was publicly known to be with Vinciquerra, suggesting that Jesse only really cared when Earl’s association with Vinciquerra was splashed all over the papers. The story that opened this article, which detailed the 1925 arrest in Lincoln of Vinciquerra and Haning, shows that they were spending time together by then, either romantically or professionally. The first definite sign that they were lovers, though, occurred in March 1926, when Vinciquerra asked Sebastiano for a divorce, and he responded by emptying a revolver at her while she slept. Two of the bullets hit the pillow to the left of her head, two hit at the right, and a fifth lodged in the wall above her head. The sixth cylinder clicked empty, and Vinciquerra grabbed a revolver of her own and began firing it at Sebastiano, chasing him out of the house and two blocks away, where he escaped into a waiting car. “For six hundred dollars he was willing to kill me,” Vinciquerra said, referring to the value of the car the couple owned together. “We’ve got a sports model automobile, and he thinks I should give him six hundred dollars to keep the car. And for that, he would shoot me. Why, I’ve given him five hundred dollars since he got out. But I’m through with him. I just want him to let me alone. I’m not afraid of him, though. No man can make me run.” She also said that she had moved to her current house at 2002 N. 48th Street in Omaha to “rear her two boys in a proper environment.”77 The Vinciquerra family’s new neighborhood was more family-friendly than some of her previous houses. The World-Herald even ran a photo of an elaborate and dangerous-looking wooden roller coaster that the neighborhood children built. In the photo, Sam Vinciquerra is perched in the car and ready for his turn to ride.78 Sebastiano was arrested for shooting at her, but he claimed Vinciquerra had framed him, and he was never charged. Vinciquerra’s relatives

were unhappy with this decision. In 1926 one of her cousins shot Sebastiano, wounding him in the scalp.79 Vinciquerra moved on to her next problem: her looming trial in Lincoln, where she and Haning were charged with conspiracy to violate the liquor laws. She and Haning were convicted on March 25, 1926, after the jury deliberated twenty-two hours, but their sentencing was deferred upon appeal, which they won in August 1927.80 The United States Court of Appeals reversed the conviction because there was not enough evidence to prove that Vinciquerra knew the liquor was in the car when Haning picked her up; therefore, there could be no conspiracy.81 Vinciquerra was by now so famous that her name appeared in an Omaha World-Herald Public Pulse letter arguing that Prohibition was a failure: “Now our bootlegger is a respected citizen and if convicted he gets a light sentence and is turned loose to practice his trade again. Our women-leggers are lauded for their beauty. Louise Vinciquerra has been given much publicity as Queen of the Bootleggers and our daily papers speak of her as Beautiful Louise. There is a certain element of sporting blood in the American people which causes them to feel that they will not be denied something which they feel they are entitled to enjoy.”82 Haning and Vinciquerra showed little concern for their Lincoln conviction while they waited for the appeal trial. They built a successful bootlegging route across western Nebraska in communities such as Grand Island, Hastings, Minden, Kearney, Indianola, and McCook. They were arrested in March 1926, days before their Lincoln conspiracy conviction, at a gas station in McCook. Haning was charged with carrying a concealed weapon, and soon after, Vinciquerra served a considerable jail sentence in Beaver City on a liquor charge in Furnas County.83 Haning received an eighteen-month prison sentence and served it in Leavenworth Federal Penitentiary. It’s unclear why Vinciquerra served in a county jail instead of a federal institution, or what exact charge Haning was serving time for, because the sentencing for their conspiracy case was deferred.84 After they served their sentences, the pair continued their bootlegging business throughout the small towns of Nebraska.85 But Vinciquerra’s luck ran out on a highway near Friend on September 23, 1927. She and Haning led Deputy State Sheriff Frank Weygint on a high-speed chase

Two of the bullets hit the pillow to the left of her head, two hit at the right, and fifth lodged in the wall above her head. The sixth cylinder clicked empty.

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in Vinciquerra’s Buick Master Six touring car before Haning lost control and wrecked it. They were both thrown from the vehicle. Haning then lunged for his shotgun as the unarmed Weygint approached, but Weygint tackled him and the men fought until Haning gave up.86 It soon became apparent why Haning and Vinciquerra were so desperate to get away: the deputy found sixty gallons of liquor in the car. Haning was given a year in the state penitentiary and a $500 fine while Vinciquerra was sentenced to sixty days in jail and fined $100.87 The sentence marked the beginning of a low period for Vinciquerra. Gone was the glamorous and haughty woman who had captivated reporters. She was losing money as more and more bootleggers crowded the market and as the government became more organized in its prosecution efforts. In July 1928, ten months after wrecking her luxury Buick touring car, Vinciquerra filed a poverty affidavit with federal banking officers after she was arrested for writing a bad check. She then disappeared before her court date and forfeited her $1,500 bond.88 She resurfaced in August 1928 at a jail in Holdrege, where she and Haning had been arrested and jailed on concealed weapons charges, the same offense that McCook law enforcement had charged them with in March 1926. Police did not find any alcohol in their Willys-Knight sedan, but “the car carried a rank odor of hooch,” according to The Holdrege Citizen. The Citizen also reported that Haning had just been released from the state penitentiary on July 21, 1928.89 In addition, the sedan’s license plate was registered to a Ford; Vinciquerra was subsequently charged with operation of a motor vehicle without proper license registration. Haning was then transported to serve a ninety-day sentence on an outstanding liquor charge from 1926 in McCook. Vinciquerra paid her fines for the concealed carry charge and the improper registration charge and was released.90 After Haning was released early, Vinciquerra and Haning decided that if they were going to keep getting arrested together, they might as well marry. They were wed on October 27, 1928, at a Methodist parsonage in Glendale, Iowa. When World-Herald reporters went to her house, the usually chatty Vinciquerra was reticent: “At her home, 2002 North Forty Eighth Street, Monday night, the new Mrs. Haning said she had ‘nothing to say.’”91


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inciquerra stayed out of the news for much of 1929, and she and Haning spent part of 1929 in Italy. Their house was still watched, and, while they were gone, federal officers found twenty barrels of fermenting mash during a raid on September 8, 1929. Whoever was using her house was not a good houseguest; upon her return to Omaha in October 1929, Vinciquerra filed a complaint with police that she was missing her vacuum cleaner, her kitchen sink, her silverware, and some other furnishings. Her next appearance in the papers concerned a ninety-day sentence for liquor possession from Federal Judge Woodrough in May 1931, which she appealed in July.92 Her North 48th Street home was raided again on August 15. This time authorities seized ninety gallons of liquor and arrested Jack Thomas, an African American man who was found alone in the house. The house was raided again on September 20, and a woman named Marion Ringle was arrested and three gallons of liquor were found. Police raided again in December but found only one gallon of liquor. Vinciquerra was charged with sale and possession of liquor for all three raids. 93 Vinciquerra’s charges from the August raid were dismissed and Haning and Jack Thomas were charged instead.94 In December, 1931, after three years of marriage, Vinciquerra filed for divorce from Haning. “I told him to get out about a week ago,” Vinciquerra said. “We can’t get along together. I’d rather live here alone with my boys.”95 She charged cruelty, the same charge she made against Sebastiano when they divorced. Almost fifty years later, Sam Vinciquerra disputed the charge in a letter. “My dad was cruel and brutal to her, a typical Sicilian custom in those days. [Haning] was kind and gentle to her. Haning was kind and gentle with us, but he was a shrewd, vicious, and dangerous man when pursed by liquor law men,” Sam wrote in 1974.96 But Haning had loved Vinciquerra for the better part of a decade, and he refused to quit. They reconciled within months, and Haning was with her one night in April 1932, when Sebastiano came to the house on 48th Street. Vinciquerra and Sebastiano quarreled over a liquor deal. Sebastiano threatened his ex-wife, who ran upstairs. Haning ran downstairs and started shooting at Sebastiano, who responded with gunfire of his own. Carl, seventeen, and Sam, sixteen, were in the yard and rushed inside to find their father critically wounded in the stomach and back, and their stepfather shot in the elbow. Vinciquerra called the police while Haning fled on foot. The police dug nine bullets out of the stairwell

and out of the walls of the kitchen and dining room.97 Both Vinciquerra and Sebastiano told police that Haning shot first, though it’s unclear how Vinciquerra would know since she was upstairs when the gun battle started. “I have had plenty of excuses to kill him if I had wanted to,” Sebastiano said from his hospital room. “How about the time when he broke up my home, when he came in and took my wife, with the authority of the government back of him? If I had wanted to kill him I would have done it then.”98 Sebastiano was not expected to survive his injuries, but he left the hospital three weeks later and was promptly arrested. He and Haning were brought to trial for carrying concealed weapons, and the presiding judge said he would consult immigration authorities to deport both Vinciquerra and Sebastiano.99 No evidence can be found if either ever became a U.S. citizen. Haning and Sebastiano’s trial was in January 1933, but the verdict was not reported in the newspapers.


inciquerra could not be deported, as she was about to serve as a key witness in a corruption trial that marked the beginning of the end for Omaha’s organized crime syndicate. Seven politicians and police officers had been indicted for corruption in May 1932; the trial was to begin in October. Vinciquerra was subpoenaed to testify.100 Before the corruption trial began, in August 1932 Vinciquerra began serving her ninety-day sentence from a May 1931 conviction. On October 14, 1932, she was brought back to Omaha from Fremont to testify against the crime syndicate. Haning was at her side as she walked into the courtroom, even though their divorce suit was still active. The Council Bluffs Nonpareil described her as “neatly dressed and attractive, although the jail pallor has blanched her naturally olive skin.”101 Vinciquerra testified that she had been told where she was “allowed” to buy liquor. If she paid to be part of the liquor syndicate, she was

Olympic boxer Carl Vinciquerra, left, with his mother, Louise, and brother, Sam (second from right), 1936. Adams County (Nebraska) Historical Society Photograph Collection

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The jury considered the testimony of Vinciquerra, Haning, and many other witnesses, but failed to reach a verdict. Though in declining health, Tom Dennison still had enough energy to purportedly bribe and threaten jury members. After a hung jury in December 1932, Dennison went free. All charges were dropped against him in April 1933.105 Voters succeeded where the courts could not. Omahans voted out the remaining Dennison political allies in the 1933 city election. Dennison was seriously injured in a car accident in California on January 27, 1934, and died of his injuries nineteen days later.106


Louise Vinciquerra. 1932. Reprinted with permission from The Omaha World-Herald


protected from raids, and “if I didn’t, I’d have to leave town or do something else.”102 When she stopped paying the syndicate in October 1931 “because I got tired of fooling around with them,” she was raided six times in forty days and fined every time. She also testified that when she spoke to government agents, they already knew everything about her operation. She offered six checks that she had paid to the syndicate as evidence of her involvement.103 Haning took the stand the next day and testified that Dennison had bankrolled Vinciquerra’s 1923 suit against Robert Samardick and Dan Butler for false arrest and imprisonment. Dennison had offered to help and donated two hundred dollars for attorney’s fees.104 The suit was later dropped.

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fter Dennison’s trial, Vinciquerra completed her jail sentence in Fremont, and then returned home to North 48th Street, where Haning joined her once again. He and some friends were drinking beer in Vinciquerra’s basement on the night of July 3, 1933, when three bullets pierced the window screen and hit Haning in his chest and abdomen. When police arrived, Haning told them he had seen Sebastiano Vinciquerra’s face through the screen. Sebastiano was arrested half an hour later and was brought to Haning’s hospital room so the dying Haning could identify him. “Well, you finally did it,” Haning said when Sebastiano was brought in.107 Haning died on July 4, and his death was reported in newspapers as far away as California, Washington, and Georgia with headlines such as “Shots Fatal to Ex-Dry at Beer Party” and “Gunshots Widow ‘Bootleg Queen.’”108 Sebastiano denied involvement; his alibi was that he had been driving around to find women and alcohol. His friend Allen Emmons testified that Sebastiano had been with him all night. Vinciquerra told reporters that she and Haning had never been divorced and that he had been living at her house for the past four months. “He said he just couldn’t live without me,” Vinciquerra said. “He had been living at my home since that time [when he returned from living in Norton, Kansas] trying to make up.”109 Haning was survived by a son and a daughter from his first marriage, and by his stepsons Sam and Carl. He was buried at Wyuka Cemetery in Lincoln. Sebastiano was found guilty of seconddegree murder on October 12, 1933, and sentenced to fifteen years in prison.110 “He had it coming to him,” Louise said of Sebastiano. “But it should have been first-degree murder, the chair.”111

Federal Prohibition ended two months later, in December 1933. Vinciquerra found herself with her second husband dead, her first husband imprisoned, and her bootlegging livelihood presumably at an end. Her one bright spot was her sons, who were star athletes at Omaha Tech (Carl) and Creighton Prep (Sam). Carl, who was captain of the Omaha Tech football team, was once described as “one of those old-fashioned battering ram fullbacks.”112 He was also named to the Omaha World-Herald’s “all-intercity football team” for 1933.113 The next year, the Nebraska Supreme Court threw out Sebastiano’s conviction for the murder of Haning because of circumstantial evidence, and a retrial began in October 1934. On October 26, after Sebastiano took the stand in his own defense, the jury acquitted him.114 Vinciquerra was arrested for violating Prohibition laws for one of the last times in March 1934 (Nebraska state prohibition was in effect from January 1917 to November 1934). The World-Herald commented at length on the irony that eleven years had passed since Vinciquerra had called reporters to her home, boasted of earning $45,000 in seventeen months and announced that she “was retiring from the business for the sake of her two small sons.”115 In 1935, Vinciquerra moved to Hastings, a town with a Methodist college, a squeaky-clean reputation, and a healthy dislike for strangers. And Vinciquerra was worse than a stranger; she was an infamous criminal. She opened a roadhouse, and by August 1935 was on trial on a liquor-related charge. Vinciquerra complained about city officials “popping in the papers what a bad woman I was.” She said people in Hastings raised “a stink as soon as I got there. I’m as good as any woman in Hastings. I’ve got two good boys in a university.”116 She was right. While Sam lived with Vinciquerra in Hastings, helping with his mother’s roadhouse and playing football for Hastings College, Carl was a student at Creighton University and becoming a champion boxer in Omaha.117 By May 1936 he had boxed his way onto the U.S. Olympic team. The World-Herald printed a photo showing Vinciquerra hanging on Carl’s arm, with Sam smiling next to her. She is quoted as saying that “Carl has lifted the name of Vinciquerra to a high level.”118 Before the Summer Olympics opened in Berlin on August 1, 1936, Vinciquerra announced her return to Omaha. She had tried to be part

of Hastings’s art scene, displaying some of her “especially fine Italian handiwork” in a textile exhibit at the Hastings Museum, but she couldn’t fit in.119 Saying she was “disgusted with Hastings, especially with the police department there,” she now planned to open a nightclub in Omaha. The World-Herald noted that she had never attempted to obtain a liquor or beer license while in Hastings, which was the reason for numerous arrests and court appearances.120 Vinciquerra returned to a changed Omaha. Prohibition had been over for almost three years, and the political machine that had protected her from raids was gone. Omaha’s authorities were determined to regulate liquor sales, and Vinciquerra was just as determined to spite them. Her new roadhouse, the Maple Grove Tavern at 42nd and L streets, was raided in August 1936 and again in September.121 “We’ve had just about enough of Queen Louise in the liquor business in Nebraska,” Thomas Gass of the State Liquor Commission said in the hearing. “What good does it do to warn her?”122 Vinciquerra married a man named M. J. Dunley, and they opened a bar called the Paradise Lounge. Soon after, Vinciquerra was permanently enjoined from operating the Maple Grove Tavern because “craps games had been permitted at the tavern, brawls had taken place, drunken persons frequented the spots” and “noctur[n]al orgies had been countenanced.”123 Though she capitalized on her bootlegging fame by using “Louise Vinciquerra Dunley” in newspaper ads for the Paradise Lounge, she also got tired of her notoriety.124 In 1940, she testified for a man named George “Dutch” Volker who had been accused of creating a fake check scheme. When the attorney for the prosecution asked her, “I believe you were known as ‘Queen Louise’ during Prohibition days, weren’t you?” she replied: “The newspapers used to call me that but I never called myself by that name.”125 Vinciquerra’s name appeared in the newspapers less and less. She divorced Dunley after he went to prison for selling unregistered securities. Carl married July 14, 1939. In November, Sam and his wife lost their second-born child, a boy, whom they had named Sebastian.126 Sebastian’s namesake, his grandfather Sebastiano Vinciquerra, continued his criminal enterprises for much of his life.127 His third wife divorced him after less than three weeks of marriage, asking, “Why should I let him make a dog’s life for me?” She also said she didn’t want

“We’ve had just about enough of Queen Louise in the liquor business in Nebraska. What good does it do to warn her?”

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Kylie Kinley is an academic advisor with the A.Q. Miller School of Journalism and Mass Communications at Kansas State University. She is a former Nebraska History assistant editor and is the co-author, with Vince Goeres, of Wings Over Nebraska: Historic Aviation Photos.


“another shooting.” Whether she was referring to Sebastiano shooting Haning or her own shooting of her former mother-in-law, she didn’t make clear.128 Sebastiano was then arrested and fined several more times before moving to Italy, where he lived the rest of his life. A convicted murderer who had been beaten with a pistol, shot at, shot up, and nearly killed countless times, Sebastiano lived to be seventy years old and died as a result of a fall.129


inciquerra left Omaha for Bisbee, Arizona, around 1942. She married for a fourth time in 1947 to a man with the last name of Rivera, and ran a cafe in a notorious area of Bisbee known as Brewery Gulch.130 On the evening of September 12, 1948, a twenty-one-year-old man named Tony Pacheco came to the café and asked for Vinciquerra. She was already in bed in her apartment above the café, and told employees to say she was indisposed. But something changed her mind. She dressed, came downstairs, and left with Pacheco. Witnesses at the café said the two announced they were going to purchase a car. Pacheco was supposed to drive the new car back to Bisbee for Vinciquerra.131 On a desert road between Bisbee and Tombstone, Pacheco robbed Vinciquerra and killed her with a single .45-caliber bullet.132 He left her body and her purse about twenty feet from the highway. The car was found in March 1949, near Hermosilla, Mexico, 230 miles south of Bisbee. Pacheco was considered the top suspect, and was later found in a Mexican jail, serving time for robbery and other charges. Vinciquerra’s family decided against having him extradited to the United States, trusting instead in the justice of a Mexican prison.133 In Vinciquerra’s forty-eight years, she saw the fervor and failure of Prohibition, America’s Noble Experiment, and she was part of the vibrant criminal underworld that followed its repeal. While many women of her social class brewed and sold alcohol to subsidize their incomes, Vinciquerra made bootlegging her career and created a statewide business. She proves that while women of the time period were put on pedestals as the moral saviors for a booze-drenched society, they were also successful at creating, drinking, selling, and moving hooch on a massive scale. Vinciquerra’s skeleton was discovered by a road maintenance crew out burning weeds in December 1948.134 A flaming red ocotillo bush had grown up among her blackened bones—a crimson crown for Queen Louise.

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NOTES 1 “Queen Louise Injured, Spends Sunday in Jail,” Omaha World-Herald (hereafter, OWH): Oct. 19, 1925, 5. 2 “Haning Vinciquerra Case Goes to Jury,” OWH, Mar. 25, 1926, 2. 3 “Federal Jury Convicts Haning and Vinciquerra,” OWH, Mar. 26, 1926, 7; “Vinciquerra-Haning Win,” OWH, Aug. 27, 1927, 3; “Haning Vinciquerra Case Goes to Jury,” OWH, Mar. 25, 1926, 2; “Liquor Trial Opened of Haning, Vinciquerra,” OWH, Mar. 24, 1926, 2; Circuit Court of Appeals, Eighth Circuit. Haning v. United States. 21 F.2d 508 (8th Cir. 1927). 4


Laura McKee Hickman, “Thou Shalt Not Vote: AntiSuffrage in Nebraska, 1914-1920,” Nebraska History 80 (1999): 55-65. 5

6 Ruth Bordin, Woman and Temperance: The Quest for Power and Liberty, 1873-1900 (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 1981), 57-71; Catherine Murdock, Domesticating Drink: Women, Men and Alcohol in America, 1870-1940 (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1998), 23.

“Section 1: America Had a Drinking Problem,” American Spirts: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition. National Constitution Center: The Museum of We the People, 2016. 7

8 Thomas M. Coffey, The Long Thirst: Prohibition in America: 1920-1933 (New York: W. W. Norton and Company, Inc., 1975), 295. 9 Tanya Marie Sanchez, “The Feminine Side of Bootlegging,” Louisiana History 41, No. 4 (Autumn 2000): 403-33; Fred Minnick, Whiskey Women (Lincoln: Potomac Books, 2013), 76. 10 Mary Murphy, “Bootlegging Mothers and Drinking Daughters: Gender and Prohibition in Butte, Montana,” American Quarterly 46, No. 2 (June 1994): 174-94. 11 “Montana’s Whiskey Women: Female Bootleggers During Prohibition,” Montana Women’s History Matters Blog, Montana Historical Society, Jan. 16, 2014; Ann Chandler, “The Lady and the Bootlegger,” The Beaver: Exploring Canada’s History 84, No. 3 (June/July 2004): 40-44; Coffey, Long Thirst, 295; Gertrude C. Lythgoe, The Bahama Queen (New York: Exposition Press, 1964). 12

Sanchez, “Feminine Side of Bootlegging,” 403-33.

Sam Vinciquerra, Personal correspondence to Adams County Historical Society, June 14, 1974. From files of the Adams County Historical Society, Hastings, NE; Orville D. Menard, River City Empire: Tom Dennison’s Omaha (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2013), 42 13

14 “Wisner Man Sent to Jail on Booze Charge,” OWH, Nov. 17, 1922, 21. 15 Nick Batter, “The Wayfaring Judge: Woodrough and Organized Crime in the U.S. District Court,” Nebraska History 92 (2016): 78. 16


17 “Asserts Beer Makers’ Profits $20,000 a Week,” OWH, Apr. 11, 1923, 11.

18 “Swiftest Justice Here in Prohibition Cases,” OWH, Apr. 1, 1923, 1.

in Nebraska Politics, 1898-1910,” Nebraska History 52 (1971): 267-92.

19 John Kyle Davis, “The Gray Wolf: Tom Dennison of Omaha,” Nebraska History 58 (1977): 25-52; Menard, River City Empire, 13.

43 “Bootlegger King Fined,” Evening Lincoln State Journal, Nov. 5, 1923, 1.

“Crawford Details His ‘Work’ for Dennison,” OWH, Oct. 18, 1932. 20


Menard, River City Empire, 200.


Davis, “Gray Wolf,” 31.


Editorial, “The Truth About Omaha,” OWH, May 10, 1909.

“Woman Accuses Man of Selling Students Booze,” OWH, Apr. 3, 1923, 4. 24

Batter, “Wayfaring Judge,” 73-90; Nebraska Blue Book, 1922, 137. 25

“Louise Says Glad to Quit Booze Trade for Son’s Sake,” OWH, Apr. 5, 1923, 5. 26

Kenneth D. Rose, American Women and the Repeal of Prohibition (New York: New York University Press, 1996), 27. 27

44 “Sues Louise for Money Alleged Due on Place,” OWH, Feb. 21, 1924, 1; “Uneasy Lies the Head: Bullets from Husband’s Gun ‘Frame’ Face of ‘Queen Louise’ on Her Pillow,” OWH, Mar. 6, 1926, 1. 45 “Mrs. Salerno to Face Charges of Murder,” Morning OWH, Jan. 15, 1924, 2. 46 “Mrs. T. Salerno Shoots Relative to Death in Yard,” Morning OWH, Jan. 14, 1924, 1, 3. 47 “Married Slays Man She Asserts Talked about Her,” Evening OWH, Jan. 14, 1924, 1. 48 “Louise Salerno to Face Trial for Death of Uscle [sic],” Omaha Bee, Jan. 15, 1924, 1. 49 “Married Slays Man She Asserts Talked about Her,” Evening OWH, Jan. 14, 1924, 3.


“Mrs. Salerno to Face Charges of Murder,” OWH, Jan. 15, 1924, 2.


51 “Charge of Murder in Second Degree,” OWH, Jan. 18, 1924, 4.

“Louise Says Glad to Quit Booze Trade for Son’s Sake,” OWH, Apr. 5, 1923, 5. “Louise is Jailed,” OWH, Apr. 6, 1923, 1.

“Louise Sorry of Boast About Bootleg Profits,” OWH Evening, Apr. 6, 1923, 1. 30

“Cars of Louise’s Patrons Block Traffic—Witness,” OWH, Apr. 17, 1923, 1. 31

“County Summons Louise for Quiz Upon Taxes,” OWH, Apr. 8, 1923, 1. 32

“Cars of Louise’s Patrons Block Traffic—Witness,” OWH, Apr. 17, 1923, 1. 33

“Louise Vinciquerra Again Held on Hooch Charge,” OWH, Jun. 26, 1923, 1. 34

“Crawford Details His ‘Work’ for Dennison,” OWH, Oct. 18, 1932. 35

36 “Samardick and Butler Sued for Louise Arrest,” OWH, July 5, 1923, 5.

Batter, “Wayfaring Judge,” 73-90; Philip D. Hart, “Omaha’s ‘UnTouchable’ Robert ‘Raiding Bob’ Samardick,” Serb World U.S.A. 12, No. 2 (Nov/Dec 1995): 52-59. 37

38 “Samardick and Butler Sued for Louise Arrest,” OWH, July 5, 1923, 5.

“Haning, Federal Dry Agent Held On Liquor Charge,” OWH, Sep. 6, 1923, 5. 39

“Declare Dry Agent Sent Sugar to Louise,” OWH, Oct 9, 1923, 1; “Vinciquerra Not ‘Fractured Skull’ – Suffers Only ‘Black Eye’ When Arrested with Haning by Samardick,” OWH, Oct. 11, 1923, 9; “Vinciquerra in Jail, Can’t Produce Bond,” OWH, Nov. 6, 1923, 18. 40

“Draws Fine on Liquor Charge; Car Confiscated,” Lincoln State Journal, Nov. 5, 1923, 1. 41

Patricia C. Gaster, “Signing the Pledge: George B Skinner and the Red Ribbon Club of Lincoln,” Nebraska History 91 (2010): 66-79; Robert E. Wenger, “The Anti-Saloon League 42


52 “Mrs. T. Salerno Shoots Relative to Death in Yard,” Morning OWH, Jan. 14, 1924, 1, 3. 53 “Married Slays Man She Asserts Talked about Her,” Evening OWH, Jan. 14, 1924, 1. 54 “Mrs. T. Salerno Shoots Relative to Death in Yard,” Morning OWH, Jan. 14, 1924, 3. 55 “Charge of Murder in Second Degree,” OWH. Jan. 18, 1924, 4. 56 “Slayer Leaves Court Screaming,” Omaha Bee, Jan. 18, 1924, 2.

“Would Enjoin the Bootlegger Queen,” Daily Nonpareil (Council Bluffs, IA), Mar. 25, 1924, 10; “Louise Sold Liquor, Says Carter Lake Man,” OWH, May 1, 1924, 1; “Will Return Haning on Desertion Charge,” OWH, May 2, 1924, 19. 57

58 “‘Bootleg Queen’ Weeps at Long Jail Sentence,” OWH, May 3, 1924, 4. 59 “Taste Not! Rule for Jury,” OWH, May 4, 1924, 1; “Louise Will Appeal over Jury “Sampling,” OWH, May 6, 1924, 3. 60 “State Witnesses in Sferas Murder Case Are Absent,” OWH, May 29, 1924; “Salerno Murder Jury Is Quickly Completed,” OWH, May 28, 1924, 2; “Mrs. Salerno is Freed on Murder Charge by Jury,” OWH, May 30, 1924, 3. 61 “Louise Vinciquerra Visits Elmer Thomas,” Evening OWH, July 14, 1924, 3.

“Louise Testifies in Omaha Court,” Daily Nonpareil (Council Bluffs, IA), Nov. 27, 1924, 5. 62

63 “Man Indicted Through Error Dead Four Years,” Evening OWH, Jan. 31, 1925, 2. 64 “Vinciquerra, Haning Admit Liquor Charge,” OWH, July 9, 1925, 1. 65


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66 “Haning Testifies He and Louise Had Moonshine Firm,” Morning OWH, July 10, 1925, 2.

“Haning, Federal Dry Agent Held On Liquor Charge,” OWH, Sep. 6, 1923, 5. 67

68 “Queen of Omaha Bootleggers Is State’s Witness,” Scottsbluff Herald, July 11, 1925, 1.

“Plots a Feature of Testimony in Moonshine Trial,” OWH, July 11, 1925, 8. 69


Batter, “Wayfaring Judge,” 81.



“Defense Rests in ‘Bootleg Ring’ Trial,” OWH, July 14, 1925, 2. 72



“County Deputies Raid Louise, Haning Home,” OWH, July 15, 1925, 4. 74

“Jury Finds Four Guilty in Rum Plot,” Omaha Bee, July 16, 1925, 1; “Bootleg Defendants All Are Convicted,” OWH, July 16, 1925, 16; “Four in Wholesale Liquor Ring Given Jail Terms,” OWH, Aug. 1, 1925, 1. 75

91 “Louise Vinciquerra Weds Earl C. Haning,” OWH, Oct. 30, 1928, 1. 92 “Raid Louise’s Former Home,” OWH, Sept. 8, 1929, 16; “A Complaint by Louise,” OWH, Oct. 18, 1929, 22; “Mrs. Haning Appeals,” OWH, July 30, 1931, 1. 93 “Raid Haning Home,” OWH, Aug. 15, 1931, 2; “Louise Vinciquerra Faces Third Charge,” OWH, Sept. 20, 1931, 3; “Louise Vinciquerra Again Sought in Raid,” OWH, Dec. 6, 1931, 15. 94 “Mrs. Haning Freed of Charge,” Evening OWH, Oct. 17, 1931, 1. 95 “Ex-Bootleg Queen Asking Divorce From Haning,” Evening OWH, Dec. 5, 1931, 7.

Sam Vinciquerra, Personal correspondence to Adams County Historical Society, June 14, 1974. 96

97 “Vinciquerra Shot by Earl Haning, Ex-Dry Officer,” OWH, Apr. 1, 1932, 2.


98 “Vinciquerra Says Haning Shot First in Bungalow Duel,” Evening OWH, Apr. 1, 1932, 1.


“Vinciquerra Quits Hospital; Arrested,” OWH, Apr. 27, 1932, 1; “May Act to Deport VQ, Louise,” OWH, Apr. 27, 1 932, 2.

“Former Booze Agent in Omaha Bound Over,” OWH, Sep. 10, 1925, 1. “Uneasy Lies the Head,” OWH, Mar. 6, 1926, 1.

78 “Krug Park and Coney Island Have a Rival,” OWH, July 3, 1927, 13.

“Vinciquerra Asserts Wife’s Story a Myth,” OWH, Mar. 14, 1926, 12; “Sees Family Feud in Street Warfare,” OWH, Nov. 26, 1926, 29. 79

“Federal Jury Convicts Haning and Vinciquerra,” OWH, Mar. 26, 1926, 7; “Sentencing of Louise and Haning Deferred,” OWH, Mar. 27, 1926, 2. 80


“Vinciquerra-Haning Win,” OWH, Aug. 27, 1927, 3.

“Public Pulse: Failure of Prohibition,” OWH, Mar. 29, 1926, 10. 82

Sam Vinciquerra, Personal correspondence to Adams County Historical Society, June 14, 1974. From files of the Adams County Historical Society, Hastings, NE; “Troubles Pile Up for ‘Queen Louise,’” Lincoln Star, May 29, 1926. 83

“Earl Haning on Trial on Weapons Charge,” OWH, Apr. 27, 1926, 5; “Sentencing of Louise and Haning Deferred,” OWH, Mar. 27, 1926, 2. 84

“Louise Vinciquerra, Omaha Bootleg Queen, Is Captured,” The Holdrege Citizen, Aug. 16, 1928. 85

86 “Had an Argument with Earl Haning,” Evening State Journal (Lincoln, NE), Sept. 23, 1927.

“Sentence ‘Queen Louise,’” OWH, Sept. 24, 1927, 3; “Had an Argument With Earl Haning,” Evening State Journal (Lincoln, NE), Sept. 23, 1927. 87


100 “Hutter and Volker to Grand Jury Today,” OWH, May 23, 1932, 12. 101 “Louise in for 90 days,” OWH, Aug. 23, 1932, 4; “RumMaker Tells of Receiving a Bid to Join Syndicate,” OWH, Oct. 14, 1932, 1, 2; “Judge May Reject Lapidus Testimony,” Council Bluffs Evening Nonpareil, Oct. 15, 1932, 1, 6. 102 “Witness Says He Got Offer from ‘Syndicate’,” Omaha Bee, Oct. 15, 1932, 5. 103 Judge May Reject Lapidus Testimony,” Council Bluffs Evening Nonpareil, Oct. 15, 1932, 1, 6.

“Crawford Details His ‘Work’ for Dennison,” OWH, Oct. 18, 1932. 104

105 Batter, “Wayfaring Judge,” 86; Davis, “Gray Wolf,” 47. 106

Batter, “Wayfaring Judge,” 86.

“Haning Is Shot; Alleges Again by Vinciquerra,” OWH, July 4, 1933, 1. 107

108 “Shots Fatal to Ex-Dry at Beer Party,” San Diego Evening Tribune, July 4, 1933; “Ex-Dry Agent Shot While Drinking Beer,” Bellingham (WA) Herald, July 4, 1933; “Gunshots Widow ‘Bootleg Queen,’” Macon (GA) Telegraph, July 5, 1933. 109 “Earl Haning Dead; Shooting Still Unsolved,” OWH, July 5, 1933, 4.

“Liquor Queen Broke,” Hastings Daily Tribune, July 27, 1928, 1; “Queen Louise Missing,” OWH, Aug. 1, 1928, 13.

110 “Earl Haning Dead; Shooting Still Unsolved,” OWH, July 5, 1933, 1, 4; “Blasts Solution of Fire Death in Schoolhouse,” OWH, Dec. 17, 1933, 13.

89 “Louise Vinciquerra, Omaha Bootleg Queen, Is Captured,” Holdrege Citizen, Aug. 16, 1928.

111 “Vinciquerra Guilty of Haning Murder,” Council Bluffs Daily Nonpareil, Oct. 12, 1933, 8.



90 “Partner of Queen Louise is Again in County Jail,” McCook Daily Gazette, Aug. 16, 1928, 2; “Louise, Earl Arrested,” Evening State Journal (Lincoln), Aug. 16, 1928.

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“Old-Time Maroon Team Licks Linx,” OWH, Oct. 1, 1933.

“These Boys Played Outstanding Football on Omaha and Bluffs High School Elevens This Fall,” OWH, Dec. 10, 1933. 113

114 “Vinciquerra Trial Begins,” OWH, Oct. 23, 1934, 18; “Jury Acquits Viniquerra,” OWH, Oct. 26, 1934, 1. 115 “‘Bootleg Queen’ Announced Retirement 11 Years Ago, but Trouble’s Dogged Her Since,” OWH, Mar. 29, 1934, 3. 116 “Louise Vinciquerra is Beer License Witness,” Evening OWH, Aug. 23, 1935, 17. 117

“Two Huge Steaks Helped ‘Vince,’” OWH, Feb. 15, 1936,

11. 118 “Carl Vinciquerra’s Mother Tells of Joy,” OWH, May 30, 1936, 9. 119 “Louise Vinciquerra Adds Textile Exhibit to Accomplishments,” OWH, Nov. 20, 1935, 20. 120 “Mrs. Haning to Open Omaha Night Club,” OWH, June 14, 1936, 3. 121 “Queen Louise Raided Again,” OWH, Aug. 30, 1936, 13; “Cite Liquor Dealer,” Evening State Journal (Lincoln, NE), Dec. 22, 1936, 5.

“Says Board Weary of ‘Queen Louise,’” OWH, Dec. 29, 1936, 1. 122


“Enjoins ‘Nuisance at Two Taverns,’” OWH, Nov. 4, 1939, 3.


“Paradise Lounge Advertisement,” OWH, Aug. 4, 1939, 11.

125 “Volker Freed by Jury After Early Verdict,” OWH, Feb. 15, 1940. 1. 126 “Appeal Dunley Case to U.S. High Court,” OWH, May 14, 1940, 12; “Vinciquerra Took Omaha Bride Last Year, He Reveals,” OWH, Mar. 10, 1940, B1; “Sebastian Vinciquerra,” OWH, Nov. 26, 1940, 12. 127

“Two Fined $500 in Rum Cases,” OWH, Apr. 8, 1936, 9.

“Vinciquerra Weds,” Lincoln Star, Jan. 23, 1935, np; “Mrs. Vinciquerra Sues; Fears ‘Another Shooting,’” OWH, Feb. 3, 1935, 2; “Wirephotos,” OWH, Jan. 22, 1935, 12. 128

129 “Vinciquerra Gets Fine of $1,000,” Daily Nonpareil (Council Bluffs, IA), Sept. 24, 1939, 7; Sam Vinciquerra, Personal correspondence to Adams County Historical Society, June 14, 1974.

Sam Vinciquerra, Personal correspondence to Adams County Historical Society, June 14, 1974. 130




“Ex ‘Bootleg-Queen’ Slain,” OWH, Dec. 16, 1948, 1.

133 “Louise Vinciquerra Car Found in Mexico,” OWH, Mar. 29, 1949, 1; Sam Vinciquerra, Personal correspondence to Adams County Historical Society, June 14, 1974. 134

“Ex ‘Bootleg-Queen’ Slain,” OWH, Dec. 16, 1948, 1.

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“Figuring out which white guy got to the Platte first” BY HARL AN S EYFER


n the mid-nineteenth century, scholars were in general agreement that Coronado and his expedition were the first Europeans to reach the Platte. However, that consensus gradually disappeared as new evidence arose, old evidence was discredited, and a new consensus established. This cycle repeated as other Europeans—actually groups of Europeans, no one traveled alone—were put forward as the “first” on the Platte. In some cases remnants of abandoned consensus remain today as misconceptions. The first Europeans to reach the Platte River were also the first in the future state of Nebraska. Over 15,000 years ago t he first people in North America were likely on the Platte River.1 It wasn’t until relatively recently that Europeans began arriving. FRANCISCO VÁZQUEZ DE CORONADO IN 15412 The story begins with Francisco Vázquez de Coronado’s letter to King Carlos V, dated October


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20, 1541. He wrote “…la proVinçia de quiVira essta de mexico noVeÇientas y çinCuenta leguas por donde yo Vine essta en quarenta grados …” (“The provincia of Quivira is nine hundred fifty leagues from [the Ciudad de] México by the route I traveled. It is at forty degrees [north latitude]”.) 3 This would imply—since the Nebraska-Kansas boundary lies at 40° north latitude—that Coronado reached Nebraska. This was picked up by General J. H. Simpson, who asserted in the 1869 Smithsonian Annual Report that “Coronado, with thirty-six picked men, continued his explorations northwardly to the 40° of latitude, where he reached a province which the Indians called Quivira, …”4 After discussing his evidence, Simpson concluded, ” … it [is] exceedingly probable that he reached the fortieth degree of latitude, … well on towards the Missouri River; and in this region I have terminated his explorations north on the … map.”5 Simpson tirelessly advocated his view until his death in 1883. In 1880, James W. Savage read a paper before the Nebraska State Historical Society (two years

after the Society was founded). Savage asserted, “Here, along the Platte river, they [the Coronado Expedition] found the long sought kingdom of Quivera.”6 Savage further asserted, “they had despaired of finding gold, and so, in August, Coronado, reaching as I think the Platte river, caused a cross to be erected, upon whose base was carved the inscription, ‘Francisco Vasquez de Coronado, general of an expedition reached this place.’ Thereupon he set his face southward.”7 Both Simpson and Savage cited Albert Gallatin, President of the American Ethnological Society, who, in 1848, more cautiously wrote, “Coronado appears to have proceeded as far north as near the 40th degree of latitude …” (emphasis added).8 Meanwhile converging archeological and historical trends were underway which placed Quivira in Kansas, not in Nebraska.9 By the 1890s evidence in both fields had accumulated against anywhere but central Kansas. Typical was the historian Adolph Bandelier in 1893:

It may be remarked, by the way, that Coronado speaks of this region as situated in the 40th degree of north latitude; that is, that it was five and a half degrees north of the Gila, according to the determinations of that time. The Gila River, however, runs, not in the parallel of 34° 30’, but of about 33°, while the Arkansas flows in the 38th degree, or five and a half degrees north of the Gila. Quivira should therefore be sought in the present State of Kansas, and in the central districts, about a hundred miles north of the Arkansas River.10

Coronado Sets out to the North, by Frederick Remington. Wikimedia Commons

In 1907 Kansas historian John B. Dunbar was more direct than Bandelier in disputing Savage’s thesis, stating that Savage “presents an insistent plea to the effect that Coronado found no Quivira till he had penetrated eastern Nebraska. … But a repeated personal inspection of central Kansas

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and eastern Nebraska, together with a careful study of the narratives of Coronado’s movements after crossing the Arkansas, satisfied me that he did not move further north than the Kansas river.”11 Monsignor Michael Shine in 1916 made what is perhaps the last assertion by a mainstream Nebraska historian that Coronado was in the state. In an article proposing a Nebraska location for Quivira, Shine stated that Coronado raised a cross “and an inscription, made with a chisel, was placed at the foot of it. I am inclined to believe that this inscription was cut on a stone that is located somewhere within a radius of fifty miles around St. Paul, Nebraska.” St. Paul is about twenty-two miles north of Grand Island.12 A 1931 history of the Franciscans in Nebraska cites Shine, stating cautiously, “If the Rt. Rev. Msgr. M. A. Shine has really solved the ‘Puzzle of the Quivira’, Coronado penetrated into Custer county [Nebraska] near Georgetown, thence north east to the Loup river near the northern boundary of Nance and Platte count[ies].”13 As late as 1938, the Federal Writers’ Project tour guide of Nebraska stated, “The plains of the Middle West were soon to bear the hoofprints of the first white man’s cavalcade, a company of Spanish horsemen under the gentleman adventurer, Coronado. These were, in all probability, the first Europeans to set foot in what is now Kansas and Nebraska.”14 Flickering doubts about Kansas were extinguished in 1949, when Herbert Eugene Bolton published Coronado, Knight of Pueblos and Plains.15 As Waldo Wedel later observed, “Before Bolton in 1940, no one had troubled to retrace the route of the conquistadors from Compostela [in Mexico] to Quivira on the ground” (emphasis added).16 A study undertaken by the National Park Service in 1992 summarized, “As determined through the analysis … the Coronado expedition route does not currently meet the criteria required for national historic or scenic trail designation.”17 In other words, not enough is known to definitively define the route taken by Coronado.

Left Above: From Gen. J. H. Simpson, Coronado’s March in Search of the “Seven Cities of Cibola,” and Discussion of Their Probable Location (reprint, Washington D.C., 1884) (originally in the Smithsonian Report for 1869), 1-2. Left Below: From Monsignor Michael Shine, “The Lost Province of Quivira,” Catholic Historical Review, Vol. 2, No. 1 (April 1916): 4.


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A report prepared for the NPS Coronado Trail Study noted, “[I]t should be kept in mind that even though these explorers used compasses and calculated latitude and longitude, their methods and instruments were crude by today’s standards.”18 Nonetheless, some myths persist. There are at least two websites today that refer to the Spanish in Nebraska during the sixteenth century. “[I]n the 1500s Spanish Conquistadors moved northward in search of the lost city of Quivera. The soldiers constructed a barracks in a location that was, 300 years later to become the east end of main street in Plattsmouth.” Plattsmouth, Nebraska, as its name indicates, lies near the Platte-Missouri River confluence at latitude 41° north.19 The second website states “Francisco Vásquez de Coronado was more than likely the first European to set foot on Nebraska soil.”20 PIERRE AND PAUL MALLET IN 1739 With Coronado eliminated, the next candidates to appear were Pierre and Paul Mallet. In 1892, the energetic Judge Savage wrote that the Mallet brothers on their journey came to “a wide and shallow river,” which they named the Platte. “So far as I know or can ascertain,” wrote Savage in 1892, “this was the first time that our [Nebraska’s] wandering stream had received an appellation in a Christian tongue.”21 Savage took as his source, French historian Pierre Margry,22 who discovered an abstract of the Mallet journal, the original journal having disappeared. Margry published the journal abstract in French in 1886. Quoting

Margry’s transcription of the discovery of the Platte: “Le 2 Juin, ils tombèrent sur une rivière qu’ils nommèrent la rivière Plate, et voyant qu’elle ne les écartoit point de la route qu’ils avoient en idée, ils la suivirent en la remontant à droite l’espace de 28 lieues, ….”23 The abstract of the journal would have to wait fifty-three years to be translated and published in English by Henri Folmer in 1939: “On the second of June, they found a river which they called the Platte River and seeing that it did not deviate them from the direction they had in mind, they followed it by ascending it along the left bank for a distance of 28 leagues.”24 The Mallets would have passed the mouth of the Platte while going up the Missouri River, but no mention of this is made in the abstract. In 1920 the standard school history book for Nebraska stated, “The earliest authenticated exploration by white men on Nebraska soil was that of two brothers, Pierre and Paul Mallett [sic], and six other Frenchmen in June, 1739.”25 This was perhaps the last unequivocal statement that the Mallets were the first white men in the state. Meanwhile, “storms were brewing in other men’s worlds.”26

Three possible routes of Pierre and Paul Mallet through Nebraska in 1739. Historians agree that that the Mallets traveled south to the Platte from the Missouri River. The red line represents their route as it appears in Donald J. Blakeslee, Along Ancient Trails: The Mallet Expedition of 1739 (Niwot: University Press of Colorado, 1995), 54. The blue line is their route as shown in William H. Goetzman, Exploration and Empire: The Explorer and the Scientist in the Winning of the American West, Francis Parkman Prize Edition (New York: History Book Club, 2006), 11. The green line is from Henri Folmer, “The Mallet Expedition of 1739 through Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado to Santa Fe,” Colorado Magazine XVI, No. 5 (September 1939): 164. Map by History Nebraska

PEDRO DE VILLASUR IN 1720 In reaction to rumored French incursions into the Missouri-Platte region (certainly true), Don Pedro de Villasur took arguably the best troops

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The Segesser II hide painting depicts the Villasur massacre of August 14, 1720, the earliest known illustration of a Nebraska event. The faded original appeared in the Spring 2018 issue of Nebraska History. Shown here is a detail of a replica painted by Curt Peacock of History Nebraska. Zooming in further, the detail at right shows the dying Villasur.


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in Spanish America on a reconnaissance in force from Santa Fe to the Platte River in June 1720, where they were attacked by a combined force of Pawnee and Otoe Indians. Villasur and most of his command lost their lives. Possibly—so far there is no direct evidence—the Native Americans were accompanied by French traders.27 The defeat, no surprise, discomfited the Spanish in Santa Fe.28 A Spanish investigation accompanied by a great deal of paperwork (depositions, testimonials, and administrative correspondence) was generated.29 But it was up to the French to publish accounts of their foe’s disaster: Pierre François Xavier de Charlevoix in 1744,30 Dumont de Montigny in 1753,31 Le Page du Pratz in 1758,32 and JeanBernard Bossu in 1771.33 Relying on hearsay evidence, none of these are especially accurate (but make great reading).

Adolph Bandelier noted in 1890, “The journal of the expedition, which Don Pedro Villazur certainly had caused to be kept, was lost with the rest of the property in camp, and there is therefore no detailed account of the journey.” Bandelier added in a footnote, “It would have been almost a miracle if the journal of Villazur had escaped the destruction of the camp.”34 But miracles do occasionally happen, even for historians. Baron Marc de Villiers du Terrage found and, in 1921, published a fragment of a diary written by Corporal Felipe de Tamariz, which the good Baron translated from Spanish to French (Villiers found this Spanish document in French archives).35 Tamariz himself survived the attack, but without his diary. The latter found its way, through Indian trade, to the Illinois French.36 It is apparently the last page written just before the attack.

Villiers’ 1921 article, published in Paris, caused quite a stir in Nebraska. The lead article in the first 1923 issue of Nebraska History was titled “A New Chapter in Nebraska History.”37 In this article, Addison E. Sheldon (then Secretary and Superintendent of the Nebraska State Historical Society) translated the diary fragment into English for the first time. However, the location of the battle in 1923 was still up in the air. In that same Nebraska History issue, Rev. Michael Shine published an article that supported Villiers interpretation that the battle occurred at the confluence of the Loup and Platte Rivers.38 Historian Alfred B. Thomas responded a year later maintaining the site was much farther west, where the North and South Platte Rivers converge.39 This was a stance he would maintain at least until 1935, when he published his monumental work After Coronado:

The French caption of this map translates: “Map showing the exact location of the Massacre of the Spanish expedition of Missouri.” It illustrated an influential 1921 article by Baron Marc de Villiers du Terrage; Addison Sheldon reprinted the map in Nebraska History 6, no. 1 (1923): 4. A dotted blue line has been added to show an alternate route proposed by historian Alfred B. Thomas in 1924. Thomas’s location has since been rejected.

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Rotated clockwise, this map shows the confluence of the Platte and Missouri rivers in its upper left corner, and the confluence of the Missouri and Mississippi in its lower right corner. Rivière des Panis jusqu’a l’île aux Cèdres [Missouri], by Guillaume De L’Isle, c. 1716. From Derek Hayes, Historical Atlas of the American West (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009): Map 88, p. 53. Reproduced with permission


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“The site of the battle from the documents in this study appears clearly to have been on the south side of the North Platte River near the town of North Platte, Nebraska.”40 Later in 1924, Shine countered, this time more extensively, that the proper location was the Loup-Platte confluence.41 The difference of opinion lay in the location of El Cuartelejo, which Thomas placed in Colorado,42 while Shine and most historians since have placed in western Kansas.43 However, as late as 2014, one standard history of Nebraska stated, “The Villasur expedition was the furthest north the Spanish reached on the central plains and the first European incursion into what would become Nebraska” (emphasis added).44 ETIENNE VÉNIARD, SIEUR DE BOURGMONT IN 171445 During the summer and fall of 1724, Etienne Véniard, Sieur de Bourgmont led an expedition including Missouri, Oto, Kansa, and Osage Indians across present-day Kansas to arrange peace between those tribes and the Padoucahs (Apaches).46 The first known account of this expedition was published by Le Page du Pratz in Paris in 1758.47 It was not until 1879 that a transcription of Bourgmont’s expedition journal was published by Pierre Margry in Paris.48 Frank Norall provides a translation in his 1988 biography of Bourgmont.49 It wasn’t long after the 1923-1924 Villasur Nebraska History discussion that Villiers made public another discovery, this time regarding Bourgmont on the Platte River. In 1925 Villiers published La découverte du Missouri et l’histoire du Fort d’Orléans (1673-1728) containing Bourgmont’s La Routte qu’il faut tenir pour monter la rivière Missoury (The Route to be Taken to Ascend the Missouri River).50 The last entry of which (to use Norall’s translation—bracketed comments are Norall’s) reads:

Saturday 16 [June, 1714]. North one league; at the start an island of half a league [Tobacco Island]; to the west a prairie of one league, at the end of which the river [Platte] of the Pani [Pawnee] is found. Its mouth is wider than the Missouri at that point. About 30 leagues up this river are ten villages of the Indians called the Panis [Pawnees].51

Bourgmont certainly had knowledge of the Otoe Indians and the Platte River before he decided to visit both. In 1712 Bourgmont married into the Missouria tribe.52 There he learned from his in-laws that the Missouria and Otoe Indians had separated some forty years earlier in the 1670s.53 The Missouri settled near the confluence of the Grand and Missouri Rivers in today’s central Missouri. The Otoe settled near the Platte-Missouri confluence in today’s eastern Nebraska.54 Also Bourgmont may have earlier learned of the Otoe and the river they lived on. Historian R. David Edmunds observed, “From the Iowas and Missourias, the Otoes learned of the French occupation of Illinois and by 1700 small parties of Otoe warriors regularly were crossing the Mississippi, bartering beaver pelts for knives and other metal utensils.”55 Bourgmont was not traveling into totally unknown territory. European archives are still yielding information. In 1979 Waldo and Mildred Wedel were searching the French archives in Vincennes, a suburb of Paris, for early European contact with Native Americans. They came across an oddshaped map measuring about 24 by 14 inches showing the Missouri River from its mouth to the Platte River. Examining the map, they recognized its relevance to Bourgmont’s 1714 journey and notified Elizabeth R. P. Henning, who further confirmed that it was based upon his Route document and another report written by him. These along with other documents were sent to France soon after Bourgmont’s expedition and made their way to Guillaume Delisle, then France’s leading cartographer. The map was deposited is the archives sometime after Delisle’s death in 1726.56 This—as of today at least—is the earliest known, verified report of Europeans on the Platte River. OBSERVATIONS This article has noted successive assumptions of the first Europeans at the Platte River, when those assumptions were the prevalent consensus, and when and how each assumptive consensus was replaced by another consensus. The table on p. 110 summarizes these findings. The thread of history sometimes runs fine: Villiers translated the Tamariz diary fragment from Spanish to French. Sheldon then translated it from French to English. Thomas again translated Villiers French version of the diary into English in 1935.57 As late as 2012, it appears the diary has not

Colonial-era French soldier in North America. Michel Pétard (Parks Canada)

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Date Reached Platte

Summer 1541 (alleged)

2 June 1739 (passed mouth earlier)

6 August 1720

16 June 1714

Participant Records

Coronado’s letter to Carlos V, dated 20 October 1541; Juan Jaramillo’s Narrative, 1560s

original records lost; abstract of journal

original records lost; Tamariz diary fragment of last days leading up to battle

The “Route to be Taken to Ascend the Missouri River”

Contemporary published account(s)

None known (considered Spanish state secret?)

original records lost;abstract of journal exists

Pierre François Xavier de Charlevoix in 1744, Dumont de Montigny in 1753, Le Page du Pratz in 1758

Le Page du Pratz in 1758

Participant records shipped to Europe

ca. 1540s to Spain; Jaramillo’s account to Spain in 1560s

ca. 1740s sent to France

ca. 1721, material given to Illinois French by Indians sent to France

ca. 1715, “Route” document (and others) sent to France

European historian who uncovered significant record(s)

None, refer below

Pierre Margry in 1886: journal abstract, 147 years after the event

Baron Marc de Villiers in 1921: Tamariz diary fragment, 201 years after the event

Baron Marc de Villiers in 1925: “Route” document, 211 years later

Earliest known American historian responding to European historian

None: Simpson, Savage, and Gallatin based their accounts on documents available in the US

Henri Folmer in 1939, 200 years after the event

Sheldon, Thomas, & Shine in 1923, 203 years after the event

Frank Norall in 1988, 274 years after the event

Archeological evidence found so far

Several possible sites in central Kansas

none on Platte

none of battle site; El Cuartelejo in Kansas, but not in Colorado

none on Platte

Consensus reached as to first on Platte

pre-1848, less than 307 years after the event

after 1890s, about 155 years after the event

1920s, about 205 years after the event

beginning in 1950s, nearly full consensus with publication of Norall’s biography

Consensus abandoned

in 1890s, about 350 years after the event

mid-1920s, about 185 years after the event

1950s, about 230 years after the event

Current consensus

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been translated directly from the original Spanish into English.58 This article has identified three types of dated documents: 1) earliest known mention by contemporaries, 2) earliest known mention by a European historian, and 3) earliest known recognition by American historians. Earliest known mention by contemporaries can be elusive. The Villasur battle is a good example: the Spanish investigation was kept quiet until historians began searching European archives.59 Meanwhile the French were quick to announce the disaster of their North-American competitor. The Spanish-language diary fragment of the Villasur expedition improbably wound up in French archives. Bourgmont’s reports were sent back to France, where they apparently remained beyond the reach of American historians, until Villiers brought them to light in the 1920s. The earliest known mention by a European historian wasn’t always quickly recognized by their American colleagues. Villiers’ publication in French of Bourgmont’s “Route” document in 1925 was not widely known by historians on this side of the Atlantic until it was published in English by Giraud and Myers in 1958.60 Folmer’s 1939 translation of Bourgmont’s “Route” languished in MA-thesis obscurity at the Denver University archives for years.61 It should be noted that Villiers’ La découverte du Missouri et l’histoire du Fort d’Orléans was limited to fewer than 350 copies,62 some of which were reportedly destroyed during World War Two.63

The earliest known recognition by American historians is problematic. When is consensus reached and how is concurrence defined and documented? This article has tried, sometimes arbitrarily, to indicate when the shift from one consensus to another occurred. Will another contender before Bourgmont appear? In July 1700, after Father Marest, in Upper Louisiana, learned from Le Sueur that Pierre le Moyne, Sieur d’Iberville had established a settlement on Ile Dauphine (in today’s Mobile Bay), he wrote d’Iberville about the Missouri River:

{The river’s} real name is Pekitanoui, the French call it Missouri because these are the first people whom they found there. Next comes the Arkansas [Kansas] who are on a little river called by their name. Following them the Pana, Paniasse or Panis {Pawnee}. … After those rivers, which are to the left of the Missouri or Pekitanoui [going up river], there is the river of the Autantas [Otos]. To the right, I know only one river where there are Paoute and Aiouais {Ioway64 }, a numerous people who are allied with the Sioux, to whom they are neighbors. This Monsieur, is all that I know of these two rivers, but I have not yet been there, nor has any Frenchman. I have only learned this from the Indians who do not know the

Artist Hildreth Meière worked closely with Hartley Burr Alexander, the Nebraska State Capitol’s “iconographer,” in designing the 250-foot gold-leaf frieze that runs along the walnut beams below the ceiling in what was then the House of Representatives. While the Senate chamber emphasized Native American themes, the House chamber portrayed Euro-American exploration and settlement. Completed in 1932, “Coronado Discovers the Prairies 1541” and “Sievr de Bourgmond [sic] at the Platte 1714” incorporate current knowledge of Bourgmont’s journey, and avoid repeating the discredited claim that Coronado reached Nebraska. Photographs by Hildreth Meière Dunn

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A retired aerospace engineer, Harlan Seyfer has been the historian for the Plattsmouth Main Street Association since 2010. He has delivered papers at several conferences on the history of the Mouth of the Platte region and is an instructor at Nebraska Southeast Community College.

heights and would not know how to correctly tell the distance of each village65 [bracketed terms are the translator’s, terms within braces are the present author’s; Emphasis added].

The good padre was with the Kaskaskia Indians on the Illinois River66 at the time and one of the few Europeans near the Mississippi-Missouri Confluence, the two rivers he mentions.67 Whether or not his assessment stands may well depend on what remains hidden in European archives.

NOTES 1 See for example: William Brandon, The Rise and Fall of North American Indians; from Prehistory through Geronimo (Lanham, MA: Roberts Rinehart, 2003 [2013 paperback edition]), 3-4; David J. Wishart, Great Plains Indians (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2016), 1; David J. Meltzer, First Peoples in a New World: Colonizing Ice Age America (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2009), 12; Michael R. Waters, et al, “Buttermilk Creek Complex and the Origins of Clovis at the Debra L. Friedkin Site, Texas,” Science 331, Issue 6024 (March 25, 2011): 1599-1603; Heather Pringle, “The 1st Americans,” Scientific American (November 2011): 38; Ariane Oberling Pinson, “Buttermilk Creek; Part I: A Pre-Clovis Occupation along the Margin of the Southern High Plains,” Mammoth Trumpet 27, No. 2 (April 2012): http:// (last accessed Feb. 7, 2018). 2 Similar Nebraska claims have been made for Juan de Padilla, Coronado’s chaplain, who accompanied the Coronado expedition and later returned to Quivera, where he was killed ca. 1542. [See Eugene Hagedorn, The Franciscans in Nebraska (Humphrey, NE: The Humphrey Democrat and Norfolk, NE: The Norfolk Daily News, July 1931), 189-90; Conde B. Pallen and John J. Wynne (eds.), “Padilla,” The New Catholic Dictionary (New York: Universal Knowledge Foundation, 1929), 719.] Due to his close association with Coronado and Quivera, the Coronado discussion given here applies, and Padilla is not pursued on his own. 3 Richard Flint and Shirley Cushing Flint (eds.), Documents of the Coronado Expedition, 1539-1542: “They Were Not Familiar with His Majesty, nor Did They Wish to Be His Subjects” (Dallas: Southern Methodist University Press, 2005, and Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 2012), Spanish transcription p. 324, English translation p. 321 (the transcription by the Flints is about as literal as one can get, including strange—to modern eyes at least— capitalizations). Pacheco and Cárdenas’ 1865 transcription of the original document in the Spanish Royal Archives of the Indies reads, “La próvincia de Quivira está de México novecientas y cincuenta leguas; por donde yo vine está en cuarenta grados.” [Joaquín F. Pacheco and D. Francisco de Cárdenas, “Carta de Francisco Vázquez Coronado al Emperador, dándole cuenta de la espedicion á la provincia de Quivira, y de la inexactitud de lo referido á Fr. Márcos de Niza, acerca de aquel país,” Coleccion de Documentos Ineditos Relativos al Descubrimiento, Conquista y Colonizacion de las Posesiones Españolas


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en América y Occeanía, Sacados, en su Mayor Parte, del Real Archivo de Indias (Madrid: Imprenta de Manuel B. de Quirós, 1865), 363-69, specifically 367.] The Flint transcription of Coronado’s letter to Carlos V appears to be more rigorous. George Parker Winship’s 1896 translation places more emphasis on Coronado reaching forty degrees north: “The province of Quivira is 950 leagues from Mexico. Where I reached it, it is in the fortieth degree.” [George Parker Winship, “Translation of a Letter from Coronado to the King, October 20, 1541,” in Fourteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of Ethnology to the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, 1892-93, Part 1 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1896), 580-83, specifically 582.] The translation attributed to Winship in Hammond and Rey differs from that in the Ethnology Report [“Letter of Coronado to King” (George Parker Winship, trans.), in George P. Hammond and Agapito Rey, Narratives of the Coronado Expedition, 1540-1542 (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1940), 185-90, specifically 189]: “The province of Quivira is 950 leagues from Mexico by the way I came. It is at a latitude of forty degrees.” The Flints trace the provenance of the Coronado letter in their introduction to their translation [“Introduction: Document 26: Vázquez de Coronado’s Letter to the King, October 20, 1541,” Flint and Flint, Documents of the Coronado Expedition, 318]. It should be noted that the Relación del Suceso also states “Quivira is in the fortieth degree …” [Winship, “The Coronado Expedition, 1540-1542,” Fourteenth Annual Report, 578.] Although the Relación is an anonymous work, the Flints theorize that it was written in 1541 by Hernando de Alvarado [Richard Flint and Shirley Cushing Flint (eds.), The Coronado Expedition to Tierra Nueva; The 1540-1542 Route Across the Southwest (Niwot, CO: University Press of Colorado, 1997), 269]. George Hammond and Agapito Rey translated the Relación [Hammond and Ray, Narratives, 284-94]. 4 J. H. Simpson [Brevet Brigadier General J. H. Simpson, Colonel of Engineers, U.S.A.], “Coronado’s March in Search of the ‘Seven Cities of Cibola’ and Discussion of Their Probable Location,” Annual Report of the Board of Regents of the Smithsonian Institution Showing the Operations, Expenditures, and Condition of the Institution for the Year 1869 (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1872), 30940, specifically 337. Simpson had his article reprinted: J. H. Simpson, Coronado’s March in Search of the “Seven Cities of Cibola,” and Discussion of Their Probable Location (reprint, Washington D.C., 1884 [originally in the Smithsonian Report for 1869]), 31. He also gave his presentation before several national organizations, e.g. The American Geographical Society of New York, December 23, 1873. 5

Simpson, “Coronado’s March,” Annual Report, 339.

6 James W. Savage, “The Discovery of Nebraska,” Transactions and Reports of the Nebraska State Historical Society, Vol. 1, Robert W. Furnas (ed.) (Lincoln: State Journal Co., 1885), 194. (Paper read before the Nebraska Historical Society on April 16, 1880.) 7 Savage, “Discovery of Nebraska,” 200. Savage does not provide the source for his information on Coronado’s cross. It most likely came from Juan de Jaramillo’s journal of the Coronado Expedition (on p. 197 of his article, Savage quotes Jaramillo in English). The passage, as translated by the Flints, is: “At this campsite the general raised a cross, at the foot of which some letters were carved with a chisel. They said that Francisco Vázquez de Coronado, general of that armed force, had reached there” [Flint and Flint (eds. & trans.),

“Document 30: Juan Jaramillo’s Narrative, 1560s,” Documents of the Coronado Expedition, 508-24, specifically 516]. Jaramillo’s narrative was published in Spanish in 1857 [Buckingham Smith, “Cibola y Quivira 1542,” Coleccion de Varios Documentos para la Historia de la Florida y Tierras Adyacentes, Tomo 1 (London: Trübner, 1857), 15463]. And, again according to the Flints (p. 511) in Spanish in 1870 [Pacheco, et al, Colección de documentos, Series 1, specifically vol. 14, pp. 304-17]. An English translation of Jaramillo’s narrative prior to Savage has not yet been identified. Hence, Savage may have been working from a transcription. 8 Albert Gallatin, “Ancient Semi-Civilization of New Mexico, Rio Gila and Vicinity” in “Introduction” to “Hale’s Indians of North-West America, and Vocabularies of North America,” Transactions of the American Ethnological Society, Vol. II (New York: Bartlett & Welford, 1848), livxcviii, specifically lxiv. For sources prior to 1848, refer to George Parker Winship, A List of Works Useful to the Student of the Coronado Expedition (Reprinted in advance from the fourteenth annual report of the Bureau of Ethnology) (Washington: Government Printing Office, 1896).

Wedel, Waldo R., “Coronado, Quivira, and Kansas: An Archeologist’s View,” Great Plains Quarterly, 10 (Summer 1990): 139·51, (Paper 501) http://digitalcommons.unl. edu/greatplainsquarterly/501 (last accessed Feb. 7, 2018); Joseph P. Sánchez, “A Historiography of the Route of the Expedition of Francisco Vázquez de Coronado: Río de Cicúye to Quivira,” Flint and Flint, Coronado Expedition to Tierra Nueva, 280-301. Wedel wrote, “The better informed and more competent scholars of the late nineteenth century, such as H. H. Bancroft (1893), A. F. Bandelier (1893), George P. Winship (1895), and Frederick Webb Hodge (1899) had settled on a Kansas location as the most likely.” [Wedel, “Coronado, Quivira,” 140.] 9

10 Adolph F. Bandelier, “Quivira,” The Gilded Man (El Dorado) and Other Pictures of the Spanish Occupancy of America (New York: D. Appleton and Company, 1893), 235. 11 John B. Dunbar, “The White Man’s Foot in Kansas; Coronado’s March to Quivira,” in George W. Martin (ed.) Transactions of the Kansas State Historical Society, 1907-1908 (Topeka: State Printing Office, 1908): 68-69n13. 12 Michael A. Shine, “The Lost Province of Quivira,” Catholic Historical Review 2, No. 1 (April 1916): 3-18, specifically 17. 13 Hagedorn, Eugene, (O.F.M.), The Franciscans in Nebraska (Humphrey, NE: The Humphrey Democrat and Norfolk, NE: The Norfolk Daily News, July 1931), 185. 14 Federal Writers Project, Nebraska, A Guide to the Cornhusker State (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2005 reprint), 44.

Herbert Eugene Bolton, Coronado, Knight of Pueblos and Plains (Albuquerque: University of New Mexico Press, 1949). 15


Wedel, “Coronado, Quivira,” 140.

National Park Service, Coronado Expedition National Trail Study and Environmental Assessment (March 1992), iii. 17

18 James E. Ivey, Diane Lee Rhodes, and Joseph P. Sanchez, The Coronado Expedition of 1540-1542, A Special History Report Prepared for the Coronado Trail Study (U.S.

Department of the Interior / National Park Service, 1991), 91. coronado_expedition.pdf (last accessed Feb.7, 2018). 19 Cass County Bank, “Building Dreams for You Since 1966,” History of Cass County Bank, us/history-cass-county-bank/ (last accessed Feb. 7, 2018). 20 Enter Nebraska, “Franciso Vásquez de Coronado,” Nebraska Explorers, nebraska-explorers.html (last accessed Feb. 7, 2018). 21 James W. Savage, “The Christening of the Platte,” Transactions and Reports of the Nebraska State Historical Society Vol. 3 (1892), 67-73, specifically 70. (Read before a meeting of the Nebraska State Historical Society on Jan. 11, 1890.); Savage repeats his assertion that the Mallets were the first Europeans to sight the Platte in James W. Savage, John T. Bell, and Consul W. Butterfield, History of the City of Omaha Nebraska and South Omaha (New York: Munsell & Co., 1894), 10-11. 22

Savage, “Christening,” 67.

Pierre Margry, Découvertes et établissements des Français dans l’ouest et dans le sud de l’Amérique Septentrionale, Sixième Parte, Exploration des affluents du Mississipi et découverte des Montagnes Rocheuses (16791754) (Paris: Imprimerie de D. Jouaust, 1886), 456. In English: Discoveries and Settlements of the French in the West and in the South of Northern America, Sixth Part, Exploration of the tributaries of the Mississippi River, and discovery of the Rocky Mountains (1679-1754). 23

24 Henri Folmer, “French Expansion toward New Mexico in the Eighteenth Century,” (M.A. thesis, University of Denver, 1939), 230-31; Henri Folmer, “The Mallet Expedition of 1739 through Nebraska, Kansas and Colorado to Santa Fe,” Colorado Magazine XVI, No. 5 (September 1939): 161-73, specifically 155; Donald J. Blakeslee, Along Ancient Trails; The Mallet Expedition of 1739 (Niwot, CO: University Press of Colorado, 1995), 45-52. The abstract states that Mallets & Co. went up the right bank of the Platte. This may cause some confusion. If the party were on the right side of the river as they went upstream, that would be the north bank. If, on the other hand, they used the customary meaning of “right bank,” that would be as one was facing downstream, i.e. the south bank. Blakeslee assumes the latter. [Blakeslee, Ancient Trails, 70; Donald J. Blakeslee, “The Mallet Expedition of 1739, Part I,” Wagon Tracks (Santa Fe Trail Association Quarterly) 5, No. 2 (February 1991): 16, https://ejournals. (last accessed Feb. 7, 2018)]. 25 J. Sterling Morton and Albert Watkins (James A. Beattie, ed.), School History of Nebraska, Based on the History of Nebraska by J. Sterling Morton and Albert Watkins (Lincoln: Western Publishing and Engraving, 1920), 30. 26 Elizabeth A. H. John, Storms Brewed in Other Men’s Worlds: The Confrontation of Indians, Spanish, and French in the Southwest, 1540-1795 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1981, originally published College Station: Texas A&M University Press, 1975). 27 James Hanson suspects strongly that Frenchmen were present [James A. Hanson, “Spain on the Plains,” Nebraska History 74, No. 1 (Spring 1993), 20n26. 28 Alfred B. Thomas (trans. & ed.), After Coronado: Spanish Exploration Northeast of New Mexico, 1696-1727; Documents

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from the Archives of Spain Mexico and New Mexico (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1935); Thomas D. Phillips, “Villasur’s Expedition,” Battlefields of Nebraska (Caldwell, Idaho: Caxton Press, 2009), 2-13. 29

Thomas, After Coronado.

Pierre-François-Xavier de Charlevoix, Journal d’un voyage fait par ordre du roi dans l’Amérique Septentrionale: adresse à Madame la Duchesse de Lesdiguières (Paris: Rollin Fils, Libraire, 1744), III, 293-94. Charlevoix at Michillimakinac may also have written a letter describing the Villasur battle dated July 21, 1721 [Addison Sheldon, “New Chapter in Nebraska History,” Nebraska History 6, No. 1 (1923), 5n4. 30

Dumont de Montigny, Mémoires historiques sur la Louisiane, contenant ce qui y est arrivé de plus mémorable depuis l’année 1687. jusqu’à présent; avec l’établissement de la colonie francoise dans cette province de l’Amérique Septentrionale sous la direction de la Compagnie des Indes; le climat, la natur & les productions de ce pays; l’origine & la religion des sauvages qui l’habitent; leurs murs & leurs coutumes, &c (Paris: C. J. B. Bauche, 1753), II, 287. 31

1970), 186-90 (republished in 1991 by The Museum of New Mexico Press [Santa Fe] as Segesser Hide Paintings, Master pieces Depicting Spanish Colonial New Mexico); Sheldon, “New Chapter in Nebraska History,” 1-31, specifically 13-19; Thomas, After Coronado, 133-37. 36 Gottfried Holtz, Indian Skin Paintings from the American Southwest; Two Representatives of Border Conflicts Between Mexico and the Missouri in the Early Eighteenth Century (Johannes Malthaner, trans.), Vol. 94, Civilization of the American Indian Series (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1970), 186, 202, 203 (relevant pages). 37

Sheldon, “New Chapter in Nebraska History,” 1-31.

M. A. Shine, “The Massacre of the Spanish Expedition,” Nebraska History 6, No. 1 (1923): 32. 38

Alfred B. Thomas, “The Massacre of the Villasur Expedition at the Forks of the Platte River, August 12, 1720,” Nebraska History 7, No. 1 (1924): 68-81. 39


Thomas, After Coronado, 278n152.

Right Reverend Monsignor M. A. Shine, “In Favor of Loup Site,” Nebraska History 7, No. 3 (1924): 82-87. 41

M. Le Page du Pratz, Histoire de la Louisiane, Contenant la Decécouverte de ce vaste Pays; sa Description géographique; un Voyage dans les Terres; l’Histoire Naturelle; les Mœurs, Coûturnes & Religion des Naturels, avec leurs Origines; deux Voyagtes dans le Nord du nouveau Mixique, don’t un jusqu’à la Mer du Sud; ornée de deux Cartes & de 40 Planches en Taille douche, Tome Second (Paris: De Bure, l’aine, 1758), 245-51. 32

33 Jean Bernard Bossu, Nouveaux Voyages aux Indes Occidentales; Contenant une Relation des différent Peuples qui habitent les environs du grand Fleuve Saint-Louis, appellé vulgairement le Mississippi; leur religion; leur gouvernement; leurs moeurs; leurs guerres et leur commerce (Paris: Le Jay, Libraire, 1768). The present writer has relied upon Bossu, Jean-Bernard, “Letter VII to the [Marquis de I’Estrade], Description of the War of the Nations of Foxes against the Illinois, of which the Author [Bossu] has been an Eye-witness. Account how the French Settled among these People,” Travels Through that Part of North America Formerly Called Louisiana, John Reinhold Forster, trans. (London: Printed for T. Davies in Russel-Street, 1771), 126-55, specifically 150-55. 34 A. F. Bandelier, “The Expedition of Pedro de Villazur, from Santa Fe, New Mexico, to the Banks of the Platte River, in Search of the French and the Pawnees, in the Year 1720,” Papers of the Archaeological Institute of America, American Series, Volume V, Hemenway Southwestern Archaeological Expedition, Contributions to the History of the Southwestern Portion of the United States (Cambridge: John Wilson and Son, University Press, 1890), 179-206, specifically 195 and 195n4.

Marc de Villiers, “Le massacre de l’expédition espagnole du Missouri (11 août 1720),” Journal de la Société des Américanistes 13, No. 13-2 (1921): 239-55, diary translation 246-49, article/jsa_0037-9174_1921_num_13_2_2920 (last accessed Feb. 7, 2018); Thomas, After Coronado, 272n89. 35

There are several English translations available: Gottfried Holtz, Indian Skin Paintings from the American Southwest; Two Representatives of Border Conflicts Between Mexico and the Missouri in the Early Eighteenth Century (Johannes Malthaner, trans.), Vol. 94, Civilization of the American Indian Series (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press,


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Thomas, After Coronado, map facing 260.

Right Reverend Monsignor M.A. Shine, “Map of Route by Father Shine,” Nebraska History 7, No. 3 (1924): 82; Hanson, “Spain on the Plains,” 20n26; Phillips, Battlefields of Nebraska, 2, 4; Ronald C. Naugle, John J. Montage, and James C. Olson, History of Nebraska, Fourth Edition (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2014), 18; Benjamin J., Bilgri, “Ambushed at Dawn: An Archeological Analysis of the Catastrophic Defeat of the 1720 Villasur Expedition” (MA Thesis, University of Nebraska at Lincoln, Anthropology Department, 2012), Paper 21, http://digitalcommons.unl. edu/anthrotheses/21 (last accessed Feb. 7, 2018), 66ff. 43

44 Naugle, et al, History of Nebraska, Fourth Edition, 18. It is instructive to trace the evolution of that statement through the preceding editions: James C. Olson, History of Nebraska (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1955), 31; James C. Olson, History of Nebraska, Second Edition (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1966), 30; James C. Olson and Ronald C. Naugle, History of Nebraska, Third Edition (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997), 30. 45 The standard reference on Bourgmont is Frank Norall, Bourgmont: Explorer of the Missouri, 1698-1725 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988). Bourgmont is often spelled with a final “d” (Bourgmond), but whether “d” or “t” is used, the final consonant is silent, as is the “d” in his family name (Véniard). 46 Norall, Bourgmont, 59-80. Norall translates the expedition journal on pp. 125-61. As to the identity of the Padoucahs (AKA Padokas, Padoucas) as Apaches or Comanches or something else, that is subject to debate. Blakeslee provides an excellent discussion of the problem [Donald J. Blakeslee, Along Ancient Trails; The Mallet Expedition of 1739 (Niwot, CO: University Press of Colorado, 1995), 34-42]. Norall refers to them as Apaches, and so the present author does the same. 47 Le Page du Pratz, Histoire de la Louisiane, contenant la découverte de ce vaste pays,sa description géographique, deux voyages dans le nord du nouveau Méxique, etc., Vol. 3, chapters 9-11 (citation from Norall, Bourgmont, 92).

Norall provides a substantial historiographic summary of Bourgmont documentation in “Historiographical Note,” 91-96.

61 Henry Folmer, Franco-Spanish Rivalry in North America, 1524-1763 (Glendale, Calif.: A. H. Clark, 1953).

48 Pierre Margry, “Relation du Voyage du Sieur de Bourgmont,” Découvertes et établissements des Français dans l’ouest et dans le sud de l’Amérique Septentrionale, Volume 6, 1679-1754 (Paris: Imprimerie de d. Jouaust, 1886), pp. 398-449.

62 Baron Marc de Villiers de Terrage, La découverte du Missouri et l’histoire du Fort d’Orléans (1673-1728) (Paris: Honoré Champion, 1925), facing p. 1.

49 Norall, “Journal of the Voyage of Monsieur de Bourgmont, Knight of the Military Order of Saint Louis, Commandant of the Missouri River above That of the Arkansas, and of the Missouri, to the Padoucas,” Bourgmont, 125-61.

Baron Marc de Villiers de Terrage, La découverte du Missouri et l’histoire du Fort d’Orléans (1673-1728) (Paris: Honoré Champion, 1925). 50

51 Norall, “The Route to Be Taken to Ascend the Missouri River,” Bourgmont, 113-23. Villiers’ transcription of the same passage reads, “Samedi 16. Au Nord, une lieue ; au commencemnt, une île d’une demi-lieue [Tobacco I.] – A l’Ouest, une prairie d’une lieue au bout de laquelle la rivière des Panis se trouve. Son entrée est plus large que le Missouri n’est en cet endroit-là. Environ trente lieues dans cette rivière, l’on trouve dix villages de Sauvages qu’on appelle Panis.” [Villiers, La découverte du Missouri, 59.] 52 Norall, Bourgmont: Explorer of the Missouri, 1698-1725 (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988): 17. 53 Chapman, Berlin Basil, The Otoes and Missourias (np.: Times Journal Publishing Company, 1965): x-xi; Lowie, Robert H., Indians of the Plains (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1982): 1-3. 54

Lowie, Indians of Plains: 2.

Edmunds, R. David, The Otoe-Missouri People (Phoenix: Indian Tribal Series, 1976): 22. 55

56 R. V. Tooley, Maps and Map-Makers, 6th Ed. (New York: Crown, 1978), 42; Elizabeth R. P. Henning, “From the Missouris to the Middle Missouri in 1714: Travels with Etienne,” paper presented at the Plains Anthropological Conference, Kansas City, Mo., Nov. 1979; Elizabeth R. P. Henning, “Plate 1, Guillaume Delisle, c. 1714,” in W. Raymond Wood, An Atlas of Early Maps of the American Midwest [Part I], Illinois State Museum Scientific Papers, Vol. XVIII (Springfield: Illinois State Museum, 1983), 1, pl. 1; Norall, Bourgmont, 22-23, 25; Derek Hayes, Historical Atlas of the United States, With Original Maps (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007), 48-49. 57

63 Marc Sainte-Marie Libraire (Paris rare book dealer), email message to author, Feb. 4, 2015. 64 Alternative spelling for Ioway [Martha Royce Blaine, The Ioway Indians (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 1995), 349]. 65 Marc de Villiers du Terrage, The Discovery of the Missouri and the History of Fort Orleans, 1673-1728 ( Harriet Hopkins, from a manuscript in the archives of Robert T. Bray, University of Missouri: copy in the library of Missouri State Historical Society, Columbia), 14.

August Reyling has identified six locations for the village of the Kaskaskia (Historical Kaskaskia (St. Louis: August Reyling, 1963), 13 [booklet in possession of University of Illinois-Urbana library]). In September 1700, the Kaskaskia Indians, along with Father Marest, changed locations from the second Kaskaskia to the third. The former was located on the Illinois River; the latter, about where today’s southern suburbs of St. Louis are located. 66

67 Villiers identified Father Marest by family name only. There were in fact two Jesuit missionaries of this name in North America around 1700: Pierre-Gabriel and JosephJacques. They were brothers. It was Pierre-Gabriel who lived in the Illinois country. [Reuben Gold Thwaits, The Jesuit Relations and Allied Documents, Vol. LXXI, Travels and Explorations of the Jesuit Missionaries in New France, 1610-1791 (Cleveland: The Burrows Brothers Company, 1901), 264-265n12; Dan L. Thrapp, “Marest, Pierre Gabriel,” Encyclopedia of Frontier Biography (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1988), Vol. 2, 941-42; Dictionary of Canadian Biography, “Marest, Pierre-Gabriel,” http://www.biographi. ca/en/bio/marest_pierre_gabriel_2E.html (last accessed Feb. 7, 2018).

Thomas, After Coronado, 133-37.

Bilgri, “Ambushed at Dawn,” 57. Bilgri brings up the possibility that Villiers may have been working from a document previously translated into French. 58


Thomas, After Coronado.

60 Marcel Giraud, (ed.) and Mrs. Max W. Myers (trans.), “Etienne Veniard de Bourgmont’s ‘Exact Description of Louisiana’,” The Bulletin [of the Missouri Historical Society] 15 (October 1958): 3-19, American Journeys, Document Number AJ-093, (last accessed Feb. 7, 2018). Walter Wedel did reference Villiers publication in 1936, but in another context [A. T. Hill and Waldo R. Wedel, “Archeological Explorations of 1935,” Nebraska History 17, No. 1 (1936): 2-73, specifically 66].

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Benton Aldrich and the Clifton Library Association BY JOHN IRWIN


he subscription library association created by Benton Aldrich on his Nemaha County farm in 1876 was one of the most unusual rural circulating libraries in nineteenth century America. It was the unlikely conjunction of an eccentric nonconformist, his obsession for books and learning, a conflict with neighbors, and an idealistic desire to share knowledge with others to raise “moral” standards. Historians have often noted the considerable hurdles on the frontier to cultural ventures that did not serve the most immediate practical ends. “Almost overwhelming obstacles thus stood in the way of the growth… of intellectual life in the early West; the inadequate communications, the sparseness of population, the lack of homogeneous background on the part of settlers in a given community, the great number of illiterate or semiliterate people that sought the new country, the anti-intellectualism of great number of plain folk and some preachers.”1 Nebraska historian Everett Dick further commented: “On the Prairie in the sixties and seventies as a rule brawn and nerve were more respected than brains and culture. Often men felt themselves sufficiently educated if they could read some, write a crude hand, and ‘figger.’ …On the edge of the prairie frontier a person with a meager college experience had at times to be tactful about it to avoid being dubbed ‘stuckup’ or a ‘smart Aleck.’”2 Yet in spite of such daunting challenges, a desire for education and culture flourished in some frontier localities. Nemaha County, adjacent to the Missouri River in southeastern Nebraska, was among the first Anglo-settled areas in the mid-1850s. Even from its beginning, the small population that by 1860 was only barely more than 3,000, supported a surprising number of cultural initiatives. In Brownville, a public school opened in 1856, followed by the short-lived Brownville College with its medical school in 1857, while a high school commenced in 1859.3 In 1857 the Territorial Legislature incorporated the Brownville Lyceum, Library and Literary Association, in spite of the national economic panic of that year. Its first debate addressed a burning contemporary topic: “…as to whether the Indian had a greater right to complain of whites than the Negro.”4 The association underwent ups and downs common to a private library organization. In 1864 it suspended operation for a time after a fire, but interest revived and it flourished in the 1870s. Ten miles north of Brownville at Peru, a library and reading room were part of the Methodist-sponsored Mount

Vernon College that opened in 1866. The following year this became the state’s first tax-supported normal school and later Peru State College, the oldest academic institution in the state.5 There were libraries elsewhere in Nemaha County. The 1860 federal census recorded ten private libraries with a combined total of 1,005 volumes just six years after initial settlement. Ten years later in 1870, the census still listed ten libraries, but the number of volumes had tripled with three Sabbath school libraries, and seven private libraries containing 3,000 volumes.6 Some of these libraries may have stemmed from the extensive local interest in improving agriculture and stock breeding. As early as 1857 the Territorial Legislature passed an act incorporating the Nemaha County Agricultural Society, and precinct farmers’ clubs also organized. In the 1860s and 1870s there were numerous articles in such publications as the American Agriculturist exhorting farmers’ clubs to create libraries, because in the practical application of agriculture the proper method was “to go to the bottom of every subject, to understand its theory, its history, and the conclusions to which science and wide experience lead. These things can best be got by books.”7 In 1866 the editor of the Brownville Advertiser collected $70 from Brownville merchants for a competitive distribution of agriculture books to local farmers’ clubs. Likewise, in 1860 the clerk of the Board of Education promoted the establishment of school libraries.8 While there was indeed an early interest in education and libraries in Nemaha County, Benton Aldrich’s creation of the Clifton Library Association twenty years after its first settlement marked the most curious and extensive development of the rural library movement in Nebraska.

Left: Along with other Aldrich family materials, some of the books from the Clifton Library are now in the collections of History Nebraska.


enton Aldrich’s ancestors, early Puritan immigrants from England to Massachusetts in 1631, were pioneer settlers at Westmoreland in western New Hampshire in 1741. It was at this homestead ninety years later that Benton Aldrich was born on May 3, 1831, to Alfred and Mary Farrar Aldrich.9 His New Hampshire ancestors were prominent in local affairs, and were a close-knit, individualistic, and self-conscious family that snobbishly prided themselves on their early New England ancestry. This emphasis on family and lineage exerted a profound influence on Aldrich’s later life in Nebraska. As a child Aldrich’s meager formal education was at a common school for eleven weeks each year. However, his reading habit and

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Alfred and Mary Farrar Aldrich, parents of Benton Aldrich. RG2411


thirst for books formed at an early age with the encouragement of his high-minded parents, who could recite long poems from memory. In his youth, Aldrich would have known of libraries and their value. There were six libraries alone in nearby Keene, New Hampshire, and perhaps he used one or more of them.10 Similarly, twenty miles east of Westmoreland is Peterborough, which—already supporting several private subscription libraries—in 1833 became the location of the first tax-supported free public library in the modern world.11 When he was “about eighteen” Aldrich studied for a full term at the academy high school at Saxtons River, Vermont, and excelled in advanced mathematics that he studied for pleasure. He also learned the art of surveying on his own with only the aid of a book and a surveyor’s compass and chain his father purchased for him. In 1851 at the age of twenty, Aldrich was offered a lowly bank position, but like many of his generation of young New Englanders, he left instead for the alluring West with the enticement of better opportunity and adventure.12 First he journeyed to Hudson, St. Croix

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County, Wisconsin, where for several years he was a hired farm laborer, and where in 1854 he wed Martha Jane Harshman, a native of Washington, Pennsylvania, one of fourteen children of John and Hannah (Smalley) Harshman.13 They moved further west to Winona County, Minnesota, and settled on sixty acres of land, where Aldrich operated a post office in his log cabin for the rural settlement of Wiscoy.14 Seven years later in 1862, Aldrich sold his land and the family moved east to Dunn County, Wisconsin.15 Dissatisfied with their prospects, in the autumn of 1864 Benton Aldrich was again exploring new lands while Martha Aldrich single-handedly plowed their Wisconsin farm with yoke and oxen. Walking across Iowa, he crossed the Missouri River on a ferry below the mouth of the Platte River. He passed through Nemaha County on his way to Doniphan, Kansas, where he had intended to settle. Disenchanted, however, in discovering most men carried revolvers in this Civil War border country, he returned to Nemaha County and stayed the first night in the home of William Hawley, one of the first settlers in the area. After

scouting prospective homesteads for two days, Aldrich selected forty acres in Washington Precinct, one mile south of Hawley and three miles southeast of the village of Howard, later renamed Brock. The county had been inhabited for ten years, but this less desirable land was not taken because of the scarcity of timber.16 Even for the time it was an unusually small farm to support a family. Choosing not to lie about his already filed homestead in Minnesota, Aldrich thus needed $50 for the full price that he did not have with him. After returning to Wisconsin, he sent the money to William Hawley with the unusual instruction to file the title at the US Land Office in Brownville in Martha Aldrich’s name. From the beginning, this unpopular act set the family apart from their neighbors. “I was known far and wide as ‘the man with only forty acres of land, and his wife owns that.’ And she was a land owner and had children of school age, she could vote in school meetings. This condition was abbreviated into ‘Two on a forty.’”17 After a six-week journey by wagon and oxen, the Aldriches arrived at their land on April 11, 1865, their home for the remainder of their lives.18 That spring the family dug limestone and constructed a half-underground dugout-grotto dwelling. The stones were stacked, chinked with smaller stones, and banked with dirt on the north. The dugout, 11 ½ feet by 16 ½ feet with a dirt floor and wood-shingled roof, was divided into two rooms: the east a kitchen, and the west for “study, relaxation and sleeping.”19 Aldrich purchased a cookstove and lumber in Brownville and from this fashioned the meager household furnishings. Some years later the Aldrich’s added a two-story addition to the southeast corner of the dugout, but his grandson Hugh Stoddard recalled that this section was seldom used by 1900. This original crude structure was the center of Aldrich family activities until 1911.20 As in Minnesota, Aldrich took the initiative and in May 1868 became the postmaster for the rural vicinity named Clifton because of its uneven, rocky geography.21 To remedy the lack of local timber, in 1866 Aldrich embarked on a manic lifelong career of tree and shrub planting, which would make him one of the most zealous horticulturists in Nebraska. Even though his efforts are now largely forgotten, he did as much to make Nebraska the “Tree Planter State” as some of his more famous contemporaries, such as J. Sterling Morton in nearby Nebraska City (his exact opposite in attitude and lifestyle),

Robert Furnas, and his friend Charles Bessey of the University of Nebraska. Aldrich solved the fencing problem before the wide-scale use of barbed wire by planting a vast number of osage orange plants close together. In 1870 alone, he and his family planted 100,000 seedlings.22 He also began a nursery that became the largest in Nemaha County. Between 1869 to 1871 he planted 3,700 apple trees, as well as many cherry trees and extensive patches of raspberries and gooseberries. Eventually he planted a total of 6,000 apple trees. His home was described as “…one of the prettiest sites to be found anywhere… surrounded with groves of ornamental and fruit trees, retired from the dusty road and reached though an embowered driveway between a colonnade of maples….” This brought him a great amount of “company” from throughout southeastern Nebraska to purchase his plants, produce, and fence posts. In one season alone he sold almost sixteen train carloads of apples.23


t would be misleading to think that Benton Aldrich led a complacent, isolated life in frontier Nebraska. Along with American and European Head of a manure fork, made in Vermont in 1820, brought by Benton and Martha Jane Aldrich to Nebraska and used on their Nemaha County farm. It was donated to History Nebraska by their son, Alfred. History Nebraska 3265

Handwoven, double weave coverlet, made by Hannah Smally Harshman of Washington County, Pennsylvania, circa 181025. Hannah’s daughter Martha Jane Aldrich brought it to Nebraska in 1865. History Nebraska 5137

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Top: Benton Aldrich. RG2411 Bottom: Martha Jane Aldrich with unidentified child. RG2304-10-33


intellectuals, and society as a whole, he was caught up in one of the most significant issues of the Victorian era, the fiery controversy of Darwinism. The idea of natural selection, adaptation, and survival of species, conflicted with a traditional belief that humans were created by God in his image by single act of creation. For many, this new theory of evolution threatened their conception of an ordered world, in the same manner that Galileo and the Copernican cosmology had unsettled European society two centuries earlier. For Benton Aldrich, however, these were liberating ideas, and he was a vehement lifelong disciple in promoting them. “The old beliefs are gone, being driven away by science which has become so irresistible in the last half of century. I have no fellow feeling of this suffering. I had in my younger days no hope of Heaven or fear of Hell, no belief of there being any such places. I have up to date no desires as to whether I live another life or not. I do not expect to live another life. I see no possibility of it.”24 He rejected the idea of an anthropomorphic godhead. “As man rose from savagery, through barbarism, to civilization, the gods became less in number continually, until now the older idea of a personality is dropped.”25 Aldrich however subscribed to a deistic belief in the “Universal Power” that he sometimes referred to as “The Planter of Trees,” as it related to evolution, which he saw as the primary law of the universe. For him the scientific method revealed and supported this law, and he believed it was foolish to have “beliefs without knowledge.” At the age of eighty-two he summed up his lifelong creed: “…all our knowledge is to be based on science, not in a belief invented by men who have axes to grind … [I have] obeyed the laws of Nature as far as I was informed, and always with benefit and happiness.”26 As a corollary, Aldrich, along with many others who would later be derogatorily called Social Darwinists, was convinced that the human species was grouped according to family origin. The method by which human society rose from barbarity, the “survival of the fittest,” was for him the survival of the “moral” fittest. As his parents had believed, he was convinced that his own family was located on a high position on this evolutionary scale. “All that came to America were the morally elite of Europe at that time, and our folks the front rank of these—have been so since, and are so now….”27 For him it was the family unit that provided the identity and creative potential of the individual with each new generation. “ Each

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of us is the sum total of his lineage. Each one can in a slight degree vary his inheritance received so that transmitted will be for better or worse. This is the great aim and object in life.”28 With a mystical attachment to the land, Aldrich embraced the idea

that his family’s evolutionary destiny was bound up in its wise stewardship through cultivation. He also believed his family was endangered on one side by values of the “lower classes.” Conversely, with an arch anti-aristocratic snobbishness, he was convinced an even greater hazard to his family was its vulnerability to corrupting materialism and the degeneracy of the wealthy thorough idleness, frivolity, and luxury. For Aldrich these were not abstract doctrines, but ever-present threats. He fervently believed living an otherworldly life of hardship and austerity was character building, and a necessary moral virtue he imposed on his family as a role model for others. The best example of the application of his resolute principles is in his family’s home. Beginning in 1865 with a small acreage and little money, by 1893 he, his wife, and son Karl through hard work and frugality were worth $12,000 beyond

their indebtedness, and five years later they owned 450 acres of land. However, even though they could have afforded a more substantial dwelling, by voluntary self-denial Benton Aldrich’s primary residence for almost fifty years was the original two-room crude dwelling, described in 1904 as “a composite of grotto and dugout…curious in appearance.” This was decades after his neighbors vacated their first primitive dwellings as soon as they had the means for larger, more comfortable homes. As a contrarian, throughout his life Aldrich virtuously bragged that he lived “in the cheapest house of any couple in Nemaha County.”29 His unconventional, iconoclastic ideas set Aldrich apart from his neighbors in many areas. He had been an outspoken abolitionist, but as a pacifist chose not to participate in the Civil War. A 2001 Nebraska History article describes his hiring black farm workers in 1880 who were former

Benton and Martha Jane Aldrich and their children and grandchildren at their dugout home, 1903. RG2304-10-06

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One of Benton Aldrich’s memorandum books. With an apparent view to history, he writes on the first page, shown here: “Auburn Nebr Nov 26. 1912. I often wish to refer to what I have read to refresh my mind, or to quote in the language of the author. I find that the book index does not answer my need, hence this index. The Foundations of Sociology by A. E. Ross, PhD.” The following pages contain page-by-page notes on Ross’s book. RG3264.AM S3.F3

slaves from Tennessee. Almeda Greene, a widow, worked and lived in the Aldrich home, and became a lifelong family friend after she moved to Brownville.30 In a period of overt racism, this unusual action may have made him unpopular with his neighbors. However, with a patronizing bigotry and convoluted logic, he wrote, “They [blacks] are of an inferior race and must have friends among the more able of the whites or the low whites will run over them.”31 He also had a low opinion of Native Americans, and rationalized his ancestors’ taking aboriginal lands in New Hampshire. “Our folks showed them to live better by habitual work than by their way. But the Indian chose to disregard this enlightened path, and thus were rightfully destroyed.”32 Benton Aldrich typified a brand of stern, autocratic family patriarchs in nineteenth century Nebraska. Resembling Mari Sandoz’s irascible father immortalized in Old Jules, Aldrich’s public spiritedness was contradicted by his acerbic personality. Similar to the intolerance of his Puritan ancestors, Aldrich was as Pharisaical


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in his moralistic secular piety as some of the church clergy who opposed him. His grandson recalled him as forceful, domineering, and having temper tantrums. He “had few friends and little influence,” because “his ideas on many subjects ran contrary to most peoples, and he was outspoken on what he believed, and spoke of other’s ways in very derogatory terms. His idea of an effective organization was to keep authority and responsibility in the hands of a few selected persons.”33 Aldrich’s overarching concern was exerting his influence over his family and in furthering his ancestral dynasty. However, his grandson Hugh Stoddard stated that “family relationships would have been better had they not been kept together.”34 Another granddaughter noted fifty years after his death that even though “his influence in tree planting and library service cannot be overlooked,” she remembered him as pompous, narrow-minded, and bigoted.35 Characteristically, Aldrich also had strong opinions about public education. Although he helped build schools in Minnesota and Nebraska,

and took his turn boarding teachers in his home, Aldrich was not impressed with the qualifications of teachers who at that time often had only an eighth grade education.36 In general he was opposed to schools because they were a “tyranny of the individual to conform,” and his five children were mostly home-schooled. He reported that at age two his eldest son Karl learned to use a world globe, could spell at age four, and by age seven had a greater vocabulary than the local teacher and was reading the newspaper to the surprise of many.37 The Aldrichs also provided musical books for their children to study harmony, and arranged for private music lessons. This intense focus on home instruction continued with his grandchildren. Hugh Stoddard reported he was using the unabridged dictionary before starting to school, and was acquainted with Mendel’s law of heredity before high school.38 Like Darwinism, the idea of self-culture took the United States by storm in the nineteenth century. In the tradition of self-improvement advocated by Benjamin Franklin, the rise of popular democracy and the country’s expansion reinforced the idea that an individual of any social standing or situation had a natural right to knowledge and its social and economic advantages.39 Nowhere was this belief stronger than in New England during Aldrich’s childhood, and he devoted his adult life to its idealistic pursuit. Aldrich believed that all should aspire to “… something manifestly higher, better, more lasting, introducing them to a more elevated position in science, literature, art, taste.”40 He likewise venerated the tools and method— books and reading—by which knowledge could be acquired. For their survival, in Darwinian terms, he believed families and individuals must continually adapt to new situations through learning and acquiring knowledge. This was a moral imperative that he approached earnestly. In a characteristic statement, he wrote to his sister about his family’s 1893 journey to the Chicago World’s Columbian Exposition: “We shall go to see and learn, and not to display fine cloth nor to eat fine food.”41 As a young man in frontier Wisconsin and Minnesota, Aldrich continued his manic reading habit developed in childhood. He purchased such magazines as The Phrenological Journal, Life Illustrated, and Harper’s Magazine, and books such as Thomas Paine’s Political Works, Dr. Shaw’s Management of Children, and a hydropathic cookbook, often at a personal sacrifice of extreme economy for his family. He wrote justifying his book purchases, “You think that it is too much for

poor folks. We live entirely on vegetables food, buy but one article of food at the store, and but 2 or three anywhere else. I think $1.00 per week well pays the board for the three of us….”42 By 1856 he had collected forty volumes, including a Webster’s Unabridged Dictionary, and created a homemade index to his many magazine and newspaper subscriptions.43 Nine years later, probably to the dismay of his wife Martha, the only article of furniture in their wagon bound for Nebraska was the bookcase. Only three months after his arrival at Clifton and even before he broke the sod, he purchased a book on botany for his children, and wrote, “I am as interested in the study as a man working 12 to 14 hours a day can be.”44 In spite of grasshopper plagues, drought, and impoverishment, the Aldrich book collection of practical and literary subjects dramatically expanded over the next ten years. In 1876, however, unusual circumstances compelled the family to publicly share their private library with their neighbors.


ldrich’s free-thinking agnosticism and belief in his own moral superiority eventually led to conflict with his neighbors. He wrote that David Berkeley Coryell, elder and preacher of the local Christian (Campbellite) Church, approached the family one day as they were hoeing their osage seedlings. “… [Coryell] told us we must join his church, or they would have you out of the neighborhood. This he said was a friendly act of his to avoid having to begin again on a new farmer. I told him that there wasn’t the least probability of our joining his church, and I doubted the church’s ability to drive me away.”45 Fifty years later his granddaughter remembered his frequent quip: “Grandfather said, ‘Mr. Coryell prayed for him all winter and preyed on him all summer.’”46 Aldrich’s first Clifton friend, William Hawley (also a church member), urged him to stay. For a time Aldrich became an outcast and he lamented that many of his neighbors would not even buy a stamp from him. He advertised to sell his land, but could find no buyers wanting to move into the neighborhood because the dispute was well-known throughout the county. Eventually, public opinion turned in his favor. He reminisced that the hostile neighbors became outcasts themselves and desired to leave, but they too were unsuccessful in selling their land for the same reason.47 Aldrich admitted that “I was astonished at the turn of affairs and terribly depressed too. Whatever I might have to put up with, I resolved that the next generation should

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be a little better for my having lived here, that my children should find better surroundings than I had. I failed in more than one attempt at improvement; finally I started the circulating library.”48 Along with his stated altruism, Aldrich opened his library to unite his neighbors and thwart his enemies. Realizing the delicate situation, he approached some people whom he thought would be interested with the stipulation that any member could blackball any potential new member. From a list of twenty people in five school districts, the original library association had thirteen members. In 1876 the rules of the association were passed at the organization meeting, and Aldrich was elected librarian, secretary, and treasurer.49 Through a yearly membership fee, a member could “choose such books as 80% of his money will buy, the other 20% goes into a ‘common fund’ which is likewise all applied to buying books or magazines for the library and are owned in common.”50 Aldrich scrupulously maintained a ledger of fees paid and materials owned by each member. A member could withdraw his books at any time from the organization but would not lose the 20 percent paid into the common fund. This amount was the savings between the retail and discount price through purchasing materials in bulk.51 Recognizing the yearly growth of books was more desirable, Aldrich opposed paying a large initial sum for membership. Too, he was loath to allow life membership status because he feared the possibility of creating “an aristocratic deadheaded society.” From its inception the library association was a success in spite of, according to Aldrich, it being an “Infidel Concern and denounced not by name but in unmistakable terms from the pulpit occasionally.”52 The income for the first year was $40, with a circulation of 250 books among twenty-four borrowers. Six years later in 1882, Aldrich issued a printed library catalog to provide better access to the growing number of borrowers throughout the county. That year his daughter Mary presented a paper describing the association at the first farmer’s institute in Nebraska, where Professor Thompson of the University of Nebraska believed the Clifton Library was the only one of its kind in Nebraska.53 The circulation rose to 900 volumes per year, and the income doubled to $85. The members paid $55, and the remaining amount came from non-members who were allowed to check out books at 10 cents for one month, 35 cents for three months, or $1.00 per year. This dual system had great appeal, and gained many additional readers.


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In all, more than sixty families regularly borrowed books.54 A subscriber paid less than half the cost of purchasing a book compared to an association member. To compensate for this cost, Aldrich paid the difference himself, which in 1879 was $40.55 The library’s popularity grew, and by the mid1880s volunteers hosted four branches in villages as far away as twenty-two miles. It was in effect a private county-wide library system.56 Aldrich was particularly pleased that towns were served from a farmers’ association, and that it was conducted on ‘business principles,” not financed by “…oyster suppers or begging. We have never asked nor received any aid from publishers nor booksellers.”57 The operation of the library was simple. The majority of the materials were housed in the Aldrich home, and when a person had finished with one item, it was returned for another. Identification of the books was noted by a small oval rubber stamp on the title page with the phrase, “Clifton Library Association, Clifton, Nebraska.” There were no rules regarding how long a book could be checked out. Aldrich reported: “We find it better to depend on the want of a fresh book to return the old one. If one should be kept out entirely too long a postal card will generally insure its return. Many times it takes a busy man three months to well-read a solid book, and I do not see the propriety of asking him to hurry through it or return it half read. It does not cost any more to furnish one book fifty-two weeks than it does fifty-two books one week.”58Aldrich bought some books from a local bookseller, probably in Brownville, but through correspondence he also extensively patronized second-hand book stores in New York City where he purchased older editions at half price. He was a stickler for specifying books of good paper and binding and larger print.59 In addition to purchasing book requests from Association members, he reported on his own selection criteria: “The way I do is to buy a book that I think has real fame—that is recommended by those in which I have confidence—and if I can read it to advantage, that is being uplifted by it all right, if not, I pass it to some who I hope can. It is a good book for someone.”60 Aldrich was careful not to order books of a controversial theological character. Personally he disdained the “wasteful extravagancies” of reading merely for pleasure and entertainment instead of “…learning anything or of improving his or her condition of mind.”61 However, he was realistic and practical enough to recognize other readers’ needs and desires. “How to buy

books which are interesting and still free from sensationalism is one of the most important points in library management. It will not do to buy many books which people ought to read but will not; a live library cannot be sustained with dead books.”62 Aldrich stressed that one of the strongest points of the library should be a large collection of juvenile books, and he urged parents to understand that children want to read fiction more than anything else. He wrote, that “… generally if the parent insists upon his child reading dry books the child will rebel and either not read anything or the first sensational trash that falls in his way.”63 He was proud that the majority of readers were under the age of twenty-five, and that his “high ideals” had a direct influence upon the local youth.64 A major reason for the library’s success was the appeal of its diverse collection, a combination of both popular literature and the extensive literary and scientific volumes in Aldrich’s personal library. The 1882 printed catalog divided the book collection of 678 titles into fifteen categories: Science—Moral, Political, etc.; Physical Science; Essays; History; Biography; Travels; Fiction-American; FictionForeign; Juveniles; Magazines; Poetry; Agriculture; Health; Reference; and Miscellaneous.65

Fiction composed the largest group with 229 volumes. The library held many of the bestsellers of the day, by such authors as Edward P. Roe, Mary J. Holmes, Louisa M. Alcott, Lew Wallace, and Harriet Beecher Stowe, no doubt reflecting the interests of various Association members.66 Balanced with the popular was an impressive collection of American literary authors of the nineteenth century, as Herman Melville, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Washington Irving, Henry James, and Mark Twain. The list of European writers on the shelves was equally distinguished, with both notable writers of the day as well as classics: John Stuart Mill, Walter Scott, Charles Dickens, William Thackeray, George Eliot, Jules Verne, John Ruskin, Anthony Trollope, The Clifton Library stamp appears on the title page of all the books formerly in the library’s collection.

Title page and sample interior page of the Catalogue of Clifton Library. Herbert Spencer, well represented in the Clifton collection, was a popular and influential Victorian-era English philosopher known for his ideas about the social implications of evolution. RG3264.AM

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Leo Tolstoy, Miguel Cervantes, Thomas Hardy, Thomas Carlyle, George Sand, Oliver Goldsmith, and Johann Goethe. Poets included Shakespeare, Pope, Byron, Longfellow, Tennyson, and Dante. Biography represented a wide range of subjects from Frederick the Great and Garibaldi to William Penn, Pontiac, and Aaron Burr, while worldwide travel books ranged from Venice and Turkey to Nepal, Ceylon, and Abyssinia. The travels of Cook, Livingston, Darwin, and Marco Polo jostled for space on the crowded shelves. The second largest section was the “Juveniles” with ninety-eight books, including many titles by famous nineteenth century children’s authors such as Louisa May Alcott, Elizah Kellogg, and Mayne Reed. It was, however, the profusion of scientific, technical, and reference literature that made this collection unique. There were an abundance of books on mathematics, physics, astronomy, geology, geography, botany, and zoology, books on volcanoes, earthquakes, electricity, and planets, and an unusual number of chemistry volumes. Humboldt’s five volume Cosmos were on the shelves alongside numerous volumes by Charles Darwin, Aldrich’s favorite writer, as well as Thomas Henry Huxley, and John Tyndal, the celebrated British physicist. Similarly, the collection contained an impressive set of nine volumes by Herbert Spencer, the most famous Victorian intellectual theorist and one of the founders of the emerging new discipline of sociology. There was also an extensive assortment of current books about social, moral, and political theories by such Social Darwinist writers as John Draper, and William Sumner, the highly respected Yale professor.67 There were books on linguistics, writing, teaching, and psychology. The agriculture section included volumes on swine and poultry husbandry, veterinary science, tree, fruit, and flower cultivation. Martha Aldrich served as a nurse/doctor in the Clifton vicinity. In the health section were such titles as Elements of Physiology, Cerebral Hyperemia, Health for Women, Healthy Houses, Diseases of Modern Life, and surprising for the Victorian era, Sex in Education, a largely forbidden topic that Aldrich strongly advocated all parents to discuss with their children. The reference section included fifteen volumes of the Library of Universal Knowledge, the Young Folks Cyclopedia of Common Things, Annotated Statutes of Nebraska, the Nebraska Legislative Manual, eleven volumes of the Nebraska Supreme Court Reports, ten volumes of the U. S. Department of


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Agriculture Reports, the Smithsonian Institution Reports, and the Official Gazette of the U. S. Patent Office. Perhaps the most intriguing volume was titled What To Do and Why. The magazine section featured runs of the North American Review, Scribner’s, Popular Science, St Nicholas magazine for children, four agriculture journals including The American Agriculturalist, and the Reports and Transactions volumes of the Nebraska State Historical Society, of which Aldrich was a charter member. He also subscribed to many local and national newspapers, including the New York Tribune. In short, this collection represented the library of an educated—indeed an erudite— Victorian gentleman. It could have been a college library of the time, and probably contained volumes the not-much-larger fledgling Nebraska academic libraries would have liked to have in their collections. Instead of gracing a mansion of an elite city dweller, the Clifton Library was found on a small Nebraska farm in the humble dugout home of a mostly unschooled, but highly educated family. The Clifton Library was remarkable not only for its farm origin, innovation of village branches, and unusual scope and depth of intellectual content, but also for its size in comparison with other libraries in Nebraska at the time. In 1876, the year of the library’s founding, a major federal study of American libraries revealed the paucity and meager size of Nebraska’s libraries. Of the fourteen listed, the University of Nebraska Library contained only 1,400 volumes, while the Lincoln Public Library Association had but 500 volumes, roughly the size of the Clifton Library at this time.68 Nine years later in 1885, the Clifton Library was listed among the forty-eight libraries of all types in Nebraska. With 800 volumes, its collection was one the largest libraries available for public use in the state, the same size as the Hastings Public Library and the Beatrice W.C.T.U. Library and Reading Room, and larger than the Fremont, Grand Island, and Kearney libraries. In comparison, the nearby Brownville Public Library Association and the Nebraska City Ladies Library had had only slightly larger collections at 1,056 and 1,743 volumes. The Peru State Normal School had but 2,250 volumes. The Nebraska State Library at the State Capitol in Lincoln was the largest in the state with 24,000 volumes, but this collection held only law books and federal government publications, not books of interest for general public use.69


he Association probably continued for at least a decade, possibly into the 1890s. It may have faded gradually, or perhaps disbanded on a specific date. A 1902 Nemaha County history stated that the Clifton Library “continued for many years.”70 The discontinuance of the Clifton post office in the Aldrich home in 1883 may have made the use of the library less convenient for his neighbors. Aldrich’s grandson, Hugh Stoddard, suggested that after a period of years families had money to purchase their own reading material, magazines replaced book reading, and rural schools began to have their own book collections. He believed that, as stipulated by the organization’s rules, members reclaimed their own books when the Association disbanded.71 Benton Aldrich’s prickly personality may also have been a contributing factor. In spite of the library’s obvious benefits, his irritating selfrighteous air of superiority and will to dominate others may eventually have been more than members and borrowers could tolerate. The Association may have hastened to its end in Aldrich’s conflict with neighbors over the joint management of the Clifton Cemetery Association in 1888, which led him to participate in organizing the rival Johnson Cemetery that was firmly under his control.72 Among his many writings in his later life, Aldrich only briefly referred to the library in an essay commenting on E. A. Ross’ book Social Control. “It goes to show me how I have failed in my efforts as I did in the Clifton Library, and also how we had success for a time.”73 Although

Nebraska enacted a law in 1877 by which towns and cities could establish tax-supported public libraries,74 library development lagged, and many Nebraskans, especially in rural areas, had limited or no access to libraries of even the smallest size. It was not until the first two decades of the twentieth century that efforts of the newly created Nebraska Public Library Commission and Andrew Carnegie’s gifts for library construction jumpstarted the modern development of tax-supported public libraries in Nebraska.75 Aldrich focused on community betterment in other areas. One significant development was when he and a group of other farmers in Lafayette and Washington Precincts organized the first farmers institute in Nebraska at the Union schoolhouse west of Brock on February 7, 1882.76 This became a yearly meeting in which professors from the University of Nebraska were invited to speak, often at their own expense, on various topics of interest to farmers. From its beginning in Nemaha County, the institutes became a popular method for disseminating current scientific agricultural information directly to farmers throughout Nebraska. Their appeal grew so that in 1896 the University of Nebraska appointed a Superintendent of Farmers Institutes, which led eventually to the creation of the state agricultural extension program in 1915.77 Men, women, and children all participated, and the meeting often lasted several days. At the first institute Aldrich presented a paper on apple cultivation, while his daughter Mary presented two on the Clifton Library and Aldrich lot in Johnson Cemetery, Nemaha County. Benton Aldrich helped organize the cemetery after his 1888 dispute with neighbors over the management of the Clifton Cemetery Association. RG2304-5-5

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Photo of a neighbor’s orchard from the Benton Aldrich collection. Aldrich took an interest in fruit trees, even presenting a paper on apple cultivation at a farmers’ institute he helped organize. RG2304-4-4


home education. However, Aldrich objected to the side entertainment of “select readings” and choral and band music because of the precious time it took from the discussions with the professors and because the quality “. . . was low morally and intellectually vulgar. Does it pay a sensible farmer to leave home on expense to listen to such poor stuff?”78 Aldrich was in his element at these yearly events, and over the years was proud to have professors as well as several university chancellors visit his home. He especially enjoyed interacting with Dr. Charles Bessey, the University’s famed botanist. These meetings were not one-sided. His grandson recalled an incident that Aldrich bragged about for the remainder of his life. “He told of showing a professor the paper he had prepared to

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give at the Institute. The professor was surprised at some information it contained about experiments conducted in Germany because they had not been published in America. He explained that 2 men… had gone from England to learn of these, and had reported in an English publication he had read.”79 The Clifton Library was directly connected to Aldrich’s participation at these institutes. From it he prepared numerous talks and essays for this and other groups. To his sister he wrote, “It is one of the pleasures of my life to study on some subject of importance, learning as much as possible, making notes fully as to my authorities in what volumes. I took up study in no subject not useful to my family. I have some fifty envelopes containing papers of this kind, some of them

never delivered in public. Hence, my reputation of being able to talk off hand at any time without previous preparation.”80 Over the years Aldrich wrote voluminously, not only of farm topics, but also of social and political subjects that interested him. Many centered on his ideas of heredity and morality, with such titles as “Morals of Americans versus Europeans,” “Good Soil and Good Character,” “On Excesses,” and “Thoughts on the Snobbish Rich and the Envious Poor.” Aldrich once stated: “People say I read a lot. I do not read, I study.”81 Aldrich continued to add to his library after the library association ended. Books may have been lent out to those interested, and the Clifton Women’s Club used it to prepare reports and papers.82 It must have occupied an enormous space in the small Aldrich dwelling; just the indexed magazines and newspapers alone would have been voluminous. One room became the library when Aldrich finally tore down the dugout and built a new frame house nearby in 1911. After Martha Aldrich’s death in 1913, his son Karl moved into the house and the library became Aldrich’s bedroom, with a new book case in the living room housing the library. Stoddard believed that “doubtless older books and magazines were destroyed at this time.” In his later years, Benton Aldrich continued as a gadfly and bombastic critic of the local status quo. In 1907 he attacked Auburn, the Nemaha county seat, because it had voted against a public library. He declared that unlike Chautauqua, carnivals, saloons, and churches, a library would not be “good for trade.” “Last year Auburn put $70,000 into churches, and this spring voted against a public library… The Churches are good for trade because they encouraged a weekly display of dress goods and millinery.83 Near the end of his life, Aldrich wrote an essay to justify that “we are not guilty of egoism.” While the lack of egoism may be disputed, his statement summarized his lifelong obsession with books and learning. “Does any reader know of a farm family that has paid more money for printer’s ink of the ablest kind than our family has? or put more time thereto, or have shown in many ways greater respect for the highly educated women and men than our family? …I believe my family has paid $1,000 for books and magazines; if we had been so disposed to not have paid this for the printer’s ink of the highest quality, we might now perhaps have an automobile.”84 After Aldrich’s death at the age of eighty-six on March 14, 1918,85 the bulk of the library remained together until the death of

his daughter-in-law, Cremora (Mrs. Alfred) Aldrich in 1955. At that time her daughter, Mary Neff of Lexington, Nebraska, dispersed it among family. In June 1956 she donated a portion of Benton’s Aldrich’s correspondence and writings, and several shelves of books from the original Clifton Library to the Nebraska State Historical Society. In 1907 Aldrich epitomized his worldview by fusing his zeal for sowing with his passion for knowledge: “It is worthwhile to plant for that though the fruit is not gathered in the life time of those now doing the work. People to do such work are not made to order, but if one has it in his heart and has courage, moral courage, to withstand the social poison in the air, then he or she should be helped, helped to intellectual information for his noble impulses. It seems to me this information, knowledge, training, is to such a one what a pool of water is to a young duck; — poor thing at first it doesn’t know what the water is, nor how to use it, but supply the water and its instincts stored up by thousands of generations of swimming ancestors will be put to instant, graceful, and beautiful work.”86

John Irwin is a retired Arizona archivist and librarian. Fifty years ago he was an NSHS employee, and this article is dedicated to the memory of Jim Potter (1945-2016), his esteemed NSHS mentor.

NOTES 1 Merle Curti, The Growth of American Thought (New York: Harper, 1943), 268. See also Louis B. Wright, Culture on the Moving Frontier (New York: Harper and Sons, 1961). 2 Everett Dick, The Sod House Frontier, 1854-1890: A Social History of the Northern Plains from the Creation of Kansas & Nebraska to the Admission of the Dakotas (Lincoln: Johnson Publishing Company, 1954), 316. 3 A. T. Andreas, ed., History of the State of Nebraska (Chicago: Western Publishing Company, 1882), 1142. The Omaha Library Association was also incorporated in 1857. See Philip A. Kalisch, “High Culture on the Frontier: The Omaha Library Association,” Nebraska History, 52 (1971): 410-17. 4

Ibid., 1143.

John H. Dundas, History of Nemaha County (Auburn: John H. Dundas & Son, Publisher, 1902), 62; Ann L Wilhite, “Cities and Colleges in the Promised Land: Territorial Nebraska, 1854-1867,” Nebraska History 67 (1986): 350-51, 363; Douglas S. Pitchford, “Nebraska Methodist Education Prior To 1890” (Master’s thesis, Creighton University, 1976). (accessed Sept. 16, 2016). 5

6 US Census Office, United States Census of Population, 1860, 1870, Supplemental Schedules No. 5 (microfilm reel three). 7 “Farmers Libraries,” American Agriculturalist XX (1861): 335. 8

Andreas, 1133, 1142-1143.

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9 “Benton Aldrich,” Biographical and Genealogical History of Southeastern Nebraska, (Chicago: Lewis Publishing Company, 1904), 354-55.

D. Hamilton Hurd, History of Cheshire and Sullivan Counties, New Hampshire (Philadelphia: J. Lewis & Company, 1886), 96. The six libraries were the Athenaeum, the Theological Institute Library, the Book Society, the Circulating Library, the School Library, and the Juvenile Library. 10

11 George Abbot Morison, History of Peterborough, New Hampshire: Book One (Ringe, New Hampshire: Richard R. Smith, Publisher, 1957), 257. For an overview of libraries in Aldrich’s New Hampshire childhood see Jesse Shera, Foundations of the Public Library: The Origins of the Public Library Movement in New England, 1629-1855 (Hamden, Conn.: Shoe String Press, 1965, orig. pub. University of Chicago, 1949). 12 Hugh Stoddard opined, “A prominent factor in his leaving home was the intense friction between a domineering father and a self-asserting son regarding what he should do.” Stoddard to Irwin, July 18, 1972. [In 1971-1972 Hugh Stoddard, Benton Aldrich’s grandson, corresponded with the author and transcribed documents in his possession written by his grandfather. These letters were deposited in the Benton Aldrich manuscript collection, RG3264.AM, Nebraska State Historical Society (NSHS), hereafter, “Benton Aldrich Collection.”].

Andreas, 1174; Mrs. Hugh P. Stoddard, “Martha Jane Harshman Aldrich: Native Sons and Daughters of Nebraska Prize Essay,” Nebraska History 16, No.1 (1935): 2-35. Reprinted in “Builder of Nebraska,” Nemaha County Herald (Auburn), Feb. 13, 1936. 13

History of Winona and Olmsted Counties…. (Chicago: H. H. Hill and Company Publishers, 1883), 586; Stoddard to Irwin, Oct. 31, 1971. 14

Biographical and Genealogical History of Southeastern Nebraska, 356. 15


Dundas, 21; Stoddard to Irwin, Oct. 18, 1971.

Benton Aldrich, untitled manuscript, January 1915, Benton Aldrich Collection, series 2. Hugh Stoddard believed this act was “officious” since their children did not attend the local school. Stoddard to Irwin, Oct. 31, 1971.


Benton Aldrich to Mary E. Chickering, Jan 8, 30, 1898 [all correspondence to and from Benton Aldrich is located in series 1 of the Benton Aldrich Collection]; Benton Aldrich, untitled manuscript, Jan.15, 1915. Hugh Stoddard remembered his grandmother Martha Aldrich received $500 from her family that could have built a new house, but “he [Benton Aldrich] thought it best to use where needed in the farm business.” Stoddard to Irwin, Oct. 13, 1971. 30 Patrick Kennedy, “Nemaha County’s African American Community,” Nebraska History 82 (2001): 11-21. For an analysis of an archaeological excavation of the Aldrich homestead see “The Greene Family” and “Archaeology and the Search For African American Pioneer Sites in Southeastern Nebraska,” Nebraska History 82 (2001): 22-25. 31 Benton Aldrich to unidentified correspondent, Benton Aldrich Collection, series 1. 32

“Some of the Thoughts of Benton Aldrich.”


Stoddard to Irwin, Oct. 31, 1971.


Stoddard to Irwin, Oct. 13, 1971.


Mary Aldrich Neff to John Irwin, Oct. 26, 1972.


Dick, 315-30.


Stoddard to Irwin, Oct. 31, 1971.




Curti, 548; Shera, 98.

Benton Aldrich, untitled manuscript, Benton Aldrich Collection, series 2. 40


Benton Aldrich to Mary E. Chickering, Dec. 15, 1892.


Stoddard to Irwin, Oct. 31, 1971.




Stoddard to Irwin, Oct. 18, 1971.


“To Whom It May Concern.”


Elizabeth Dougherty to John Irwin, Jul. 21, 1972.


“To Whom It May Concern.”









Andreas, 1173.

“To Whom It May Concern.”


Benton Aldrich to unidentified correspondent, Dec. 4, 1880. 48

49 Andreas, 1174; “An Outline of Our Organization,” manuscript; and “Clifton Library,” unidentified newspaper clipping, ca. 1882, Benton Aldrich Collection, series 2 and 4.

“An Outline of Our Organization,” Benton Aldrich Collection, series 2. 50

Mrs. Hugh P. Stoddard, “Builder of Nebraska,” 9; Stoddard to Irwin, Oct. 18, 1971. 22

Ibid.; Biographical and Genealogical History of Southeastern Nebraska, 356. 23

Benton Aldrich, “Some of the Thoughts of Benton Aldrich,” manuscript, [posthumously postdated] Dec. 31, 1918, Benton Aldrich Collection, series 8. 24

25 Benton Aldrich, “To Whom It May Concern,” manuscript, Dec. 19, 1910, Benton Aldrich Collection, series 8.





“Some of the Thoughts of Benton Aldrich.”

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51 The Clifton Library was an example of a “social” or “subscription” library. In the nineteenth century before local tax-supported free public libraries became common, these existed in many forms in institutes, athenaeums, lyceums, young men’s associations, mechanics’ and mercantile institutes, and many other organizations. They were commonly divided into two groups: ownership of the library property based on joint stock principle, or the payment of a fee for use of books. Aldrich blended both forms in the Clifton Library. No doubt he drew the ideas and plans from the many examples of social libraries from his New Hampshire childhood. See Thelma Eaton, ed. Contributions

to American Library History (London: Edwards Brothers Publishing Company, 1961). 52

Benton Aldrich to unidentified correspondent.

“Farmers in Council,” Nemaha County Granger (Auburn), Feb. 17, 1882. 53


Andreas, 1174.

Benton Aldrich to unidentified correspondent; “Scratch Book No. 4030,” Benton Aldrich Collection, series 2. 55

“Scratch Book, No. 4030.” The villages were Nemaha City, Sheridan (later Auburn, the county seat), Howard (later Brock), and Wrights. 56


“An Outline of Our Organization.”


“Clifton Library,” undated newspaper clipping.

59 “Scratch Book, No. 4030” and “Western Homes” manuscript, undated, Benton Aldrich Collection, series 2. 60

“Western Homes.”


Benton Aldrich to unidentified correspondent.


“Clifton Library.”



Ibid; Benton Aldrich to unidentified correspondent, undated. 64

65 “Catalogue of Clifton Library,” Benton Aldrich Collection, series 2.

“Statistics of the northern half of a Mississippi Valley book wholesaler for 1882-1887,” compiled for The Critic VIII (August 27, 1887): 99, quoted in Arthur Hobson Quinn, ed., Literature of the American People, An Historical and Critical Survey (New York: Appleton-Century-Crofts, 1951), 591. 66

67 These writers were also among the most popular at the University of Nebraska Library in 1882. Hesperian Student, April 5, 1882, quoted in Prairie Schooner XLIII (Spring 1969): 27.

US Office of Education, Public Libraries in the United States of America: Their History, Condition, and Management, Special Report (Urbana: University of Illinois Graduate School of Library Science, 1967. Orig. pub. Government Printing Office, 1876), 791. Varying federal statistical sources containing information about libraries in the nineteenth century often list wildly contradictory data that are inconsistent and inaccurate. For example, The Report of the Commissioner of Education for the Year 187273 (Government Printing Office, 1893) reports 71 “public libraries” and 219 “private libraries” in Nebraska with a combined total of 147,000 volumes. This number is probably exaggerated. See Hayes McMullen, “Primary Sources in Library Research,” in Rolland E. Stevens, ed., Research Methods In Librarianship: Historical and Bibliographical Methods in Library Research (Urbana: Graduate School of Library Science, 1971). See also Philip Kalisch, “High Culture on the Frontier: The Omaha Library Association,” Nebraska History 52 (1971): 410-17, for the creation of the first Omaha Library Association in 1856-57 that existed only three years due to insufficient financing and conflict among members. 68

by women’s and temperance groups. See Kristin Mapel Bloomberg, “How Shall We Make Beatrice Grow, Clara Bewick Colby and the Beatrice Public Library Association in the 1870s” Nebraska History 92 (Winter 2011): 170-83, for an analysis of the struggle to create a town library amid class distinction, gender discord, and conflicts of rival library groups at the same period as the Clifton Library. See also the issue devoted to public library history in Journal of the West 30:31 (July 1991). 70

Dundas, 24.


Stoddard to Irwin, Oct. 13, 1971.

72 Ibid; see also Fred Kiechel, “A History of the Johnson Cemetery Association,” php (accessed Sept. 29, 2016). 73 Benton Aldrich, untitled manuscript, Benton Aldrich Collection, series 2.

Compiled Statutes of the State of Nebraska….Published Under the Authority of the Legislature by Guy A. Brown, Chapter 49: Libraries (Omaha: Gibson, Miller and Richardson, 1881), 331. 74

Nebraska Public Library Commission, First Annual Report (Lincoln: Nov. 30, 1902), 13-15. By 1902 the total number of all types of libraries had risen to 73, but there were only 27 publically tax-supported public libraries in Nebraska. See also Grace Evelyn Lenfest, “The Development and Present Status of the Library Movement in Nebraska” (Master’s thesis, University of Illinois, 1931). 75

76 “Farmers in Council,” Nemaha County Granger (Auburn), Feb. 17, 1882. 77 For an account of farmers’ institutes and their transition to the state agricultural extension network see Robert M. Manley, Centennial History of the University of Nebraska, Vol. 1: Frontier University (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1969), 108-109, 206-208. 78 Benton Aldrich, “Thoughts on Farmers’ Institutes,” undated manuscript, Benton Aldrich Collection, series 6. 79

Stoddard to Irwin, Oct. 13, 1971.


Benton Aldrich to Mary E. Chickering, Jan. 15, 1899.


Hugh Stoddard to John Irwin, Oct. 13, 1971.


Stoddard to Irwin, Oct. 13, 1971.

Benton Aldrich, untitled manuscript, 1907, Benton Aldrich Collection, series 2. 83

Benton Aldrich, untitled manuscript, undated, Benton Aldrich Collection, series 2. 84

85 “Benton Aldrich Was an Honored Pioneer,” Nemaha County Herald (Auburn), March 15, 1918. 86

Benton Aldrich to Edele C. Emerson, Oct 31, 1907.

69 US Department of the Interior. Bureau of Education, Report of the Commissioner of Education for the Year 18841885 (Washington, D.C.: Government Printing Office, 1886), 739. Many of Nebraska’s early libraries were created

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Book Reviews Homesteading the Plains: Toward a New History Richard Edwards, Jacob K. Friefeld, and Rebecca S. Wingo Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2017. Photographs, maps, tables, charts, appendixes, index, 294 pp. $45 hardcover.


omesteading the Plains is a provocative, well-informed, and strongly argued analysis of the role of homesteading in settling the Great Plains from 1863 to 1900. The subtitle of the book is Toward a New History, and that is indeed where it points, because the authors, Richard Edwards, Jacob K. Friefeld, and Rebecca S. Wingo, convincingly argue that much of what previous and contemporary scholars have held to be true about homesteading is manifestly wrong. Using the newly digitized homesteading records (completed first for Nebraska), the authors scrutinize the conventional wisdom on the topic, or, as they put it, the “stylized facts.” They find a trail of error leading back particularly to the 1930s and historian Fred Shannon and followed by many subsequent historians who blindly adopted Shannon’s false statistics and faulty conclusions. They find, contrary to Shannon, that homesteading was a major component of settling the Plains, accounting for almost two out of three new farms created before 1900; they conclude that while indeed most Plains settlers were petty speculators, using the various land laws to their advantage, only about 8.5 percent of proved-up homesteads were gained by blatant fraud (Shannon had asserted that half of homesteads were fraudulent); and they complicate a third “stylized fact”—that homesteading caused Indian dispossession—by proving that this was not the case in Nebraska and for the most part in Colorado and Montana, while agreeing that there was a connection in Dakota Territory and Indian Territory. These conclusions are reached by detailed empirical research and they render the previous received wisdom obsolete. In two additional chapters, one on women homesteaders and the other on community formation, the authors show how the wealth of information in the homestead records can be organized, analyzed, and displayed using methods of digital history. Using case studies of settlers in Dawes and Custer counties, Nebraska, they are able to delve more deeply into the dynamics of


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settlement than any previous scholars, except perhaps, Charles Barron McIntosh. The chapter on community formation is particularly original: they use network analysis to identify connections among settlers for the purpose, for example, of serving as witnesses for the final proving up of homestead claims, or for joining together to keep fraudulent claims in check. The sophisticated diagrams of individuals’ integration in community practices are revealing and effective. Throughout the book the factual evidence is enriched by the stories of individual lives which are also embedded in the records. The result is a definitive analysis which is also a pleasure to read. It will serve as a model for future historians who want to circumvent the myths and find the facts about homesteading and its role in the development of the nation. David J. Wishart University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Field Life: Science in the American West during the Railroad Era Jeremy Vetter Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2016. Illustrations, introduction, notes, bibliography, index, 512 pp., $49.95 hardcover


istorian Jeremy Vetter, currently a faculty member at the University of Arizona, has produced a remarkable study of scientific exploration in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. His focus is on field work— the practice of going into a particular geographic area and surveying it for plant and animal life, minerals of economic importance, and cultural artifacts. Anyone who has tried to study natural history in the field, or do serious ecological or geological research, will not only sympathize with the characters in Field Life, but also appreciate the audacity involved in tackling large investigations covering vast areas, all without modern four-wheel drive transportation, nearby laboratories, GPS technology, the Internet, digital imaging, satellites, and drones. The period Vetter addresses is mostly prior to the rediscovery of Mendelian inheritance, and certainly prior to most of the ideas that drive ecological and geological research today. On the other hand, this period was one in which American scientists eagerly explored the biological and geographic diversity of a continent whose wonders were recognized, but hardly

known. Thus the questions “what is it?” and “where does it live?” were the primary drivers for those studying natural history, whether as serious amateurs or professionals associated, for example, with museums, although the political question— “How can I get credit for a discovery?”—also functioned as a driving force, especially for paleontologists. Given our understanding of life at all levels today, those first two questions are still the fundamental ones of biology and paleontology; and even though new species descriptions now routinely involve DNA sequences and phylogenetic analysis, it’s not uncommon to find, in the literature cited sections, references to papers published during the “railroad era.” So what does historian Vetter contribute to our understanding of science, especially that area known as “natural history”? The answer is: plenty. First, there is extensive documentation of the people involved, and especially their roles in the establishment of scientific infrastructure. Many of their names, e.g., Frederick Putnam, Theodore (T. D. A.) Cockerell, Charles Gould, Arthur Hague, Vernan Bailey, and Richard Wetherill are now buried in relative obscurity, yet throughout Field Life, Vetter shows how these various individuals made decisions, promoted or aided field work, enabled collectors, and thus contributed in significant ways to the building of a national database on plants, animals, and fossils, as well as sites of anthropological importance. The Wetherill ranching family in the Four Corners area of Colorado is a prime example, essentially discovering and appreciating Native American cliff dwellings for what they represented, and subsequently hosting scholars such as Frederick Chapin whose work, among that of others, on the nearby ruins ultimately resulted in establishment of the Mesa Verde National Park. To a modern scientist involved in surveys and inventories, collection and record keeping practices of the “Railroad Era” can seem frustratingly inadequate, and Vetter understands this facet of natural history, commenting throughout on the problems of provenance, preservation, and transport. Examples include the diverse responses to George Vasey’s call for information about grass culture throughout the west. Vasey was chief botanist for the United States Department of Agriculture as well as curator of its herbarium, and although his request generated over three hundred responses from several states, the contents of those responses varied widely and lacked standardization. Inability of amateurs to

obtain or use taxonomic literature and scientific nomenclature was a large part of the problem. That disconnect between amateurs, no matter how serious, and academic scientists, remains to this day, although the gaps in expertise and literature access are wider in some areas, e.g., fungal taxonomy, than in others, such as the occurrence of common bird species. Nevertheless, collectors, regardless of their reasons for gathering up specimens or their levels of expertise, made major contributions to our knowledge of the nation’s natural resources. Vetter also provides, however, and importantly so, perspective on the intellectual politics associated with the answers to those fundamental questions of “what is it?” and “where does it live?” The well-known rivalry between paleontologists Edward Drinker Cope and Othniel Charles Marsh is the classic case of such fights over reputation, and Vetter provides some insight that would make a modern systematist cringe, for example, the use of telegraphy to convey descriptions of new species. A twenty-first century equivalent might be to claim that Twitter or Facebook posts were adequate to not only distinguish a newly-discovered species from all known related forms, but also to establish priority of the naming of new species. And the naming of new species was basic for this competition between Cope and Marsh, involving, ultimately, small armies of local collectors. Railroads were an integral part of this paleontological exploration because fossil material, especially the dramatic kind appropriate for museum exhibits, is often large, heavy, and requires special packing for shipment. Although the railroads were particularly instrumental in opening western North America to paleontological exploration, they served other scientific disciplines equally well, and throughout Vetter’s book we are reminded again and again of the role that logistical support plays in grand adventures, whether they be military, economic, or scientific. He makes a strong case that our major museums, located in the east, were major beneficiaries of railroad expansion, to the extent that east-west connections were not only physical, but intellectual. Field Life thus speaks of a time when exploration for its own sake was almost glamorous, accepted if not always understood by the public. In the case of natural history, however, specimens are tangible evidence for what the world is really like, and the deposition of those specimens, along with accurate provenance

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and description according to standards of the time, is what establishes credit for a discovery. It would be interesting to know just what fraction of existing biological and paleontological museum specimens from western North America were collected during the railroad era, as opposed to the rest of the twentieth century and the first decades of the twenty-first. I asked some museum curators to estimate that fraction for their own areas, and the answers ranged from a quarter to a half, with birds and plants being most represented. Those specimens now provide a background against which scientists can assess the effects of subsequent development on native flora and fauna. The chapter on quarries is especially important, and the material is handled in a way that demonstrates the value of an historian’s perspective. Vetter reminds us that during the railroad period, American “big science” could legitimately be equated with paleontological excavation supported by museums. Articulated skeletons of extinct megafauna, including dinosaurs and mammoths, inspire awe in museum visitors, but a staggering amount of labor is needed to extract such specimens, transport, and prepare them for exhibit. Museums had financial resources and incentive to acquire paleontological materials, but a focus on context, whether it be Jurassic swamps or Pleistocene prairies, was often missing. Paleoecology as a discipline is largely a development of the twentieth century geology and in order to infer community structure and food pyramids, for example, a broad range of fossil material, especially plants and smaller animals, is required. So in addition to large extinct animals, paleontologists also dug up questions about how they lived and those questions have sustained a continuing study of certain sites, Dinosaur National Monument being the prime example, with scientific papers based on material from that quarry continuing to be published in peer-reviewed journals. Vetter also uses “quarry” not only as both a verb and noun, but also as a metaphor, when he addresses the “mining” of Native American history, music, rituals, languages, and artifacts. Thus he points out the transition from “horizontal” to “vertical” study of not only natural history but also ethnography and material culture, that is, from short-term surveys to long-term engagement in a region. And so he arrives, although indirectly, at perhaps the most important conclusion of Field Life, namely, that exploration for its own sake


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produces questions and problems that in turn sustain generations of serious intellectual endeavor, all aimed at discovering the fundamental nature of our planet. Finally, Field Life is a lesson in documentation and reference. That facet of serious writing may be a given for professional historians, but if current political discourse shows us anything, it’s that the general public is not so burdened by a need to find reliable sources for claims about what people did and how or why they did it. Vetter’s hundred and forty-three pages of citations and references are not only an academic tour de force, they are a demonstration of how scholars mine the vast storehouse of knowledge that lies hidden, almost like a Jurassic ornithopod, in our nation’s libraries, in order to build a picture of the past that tells us about the present. This is an excellent book that tells a compelling story of discovery. John Janovy, Jr. Varner Professor Emeritus University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Local Glories: Opera Houses on Main Street, Where Art and Community Meet Ann Satterthwaite Oxford University Press, 2016. Dedication, contents, introduction, afterword, appendices, notes, bibliography, index, 446 pp., $35.00 hardcover.


he term “opera house” conjures the image of high society and grand palaces that hosted performances for the most elite. In fact, the overwhelming majority were small and may have rarely hosted high opera. As the subtitle of this book implies, the opera houses on the “main street” of small towns brought art and community together in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Ann Satterthwaite’s book examines these buildings and their importance to civic and communal life, providing the broad context of the events they hosted. These entertainments were popular in the years before moving pictures, radio, and much later, television, but changing tastes and access to broader forms of entertainment led to the decline of the opera house. The book is divided into four parts, each covering a different aspect of study. This makes the book accessible to the casual reader as well as the serious researcher. The first part examines the rise of the opera house in burgeoning communities; the opera house thrived by 1900. The second part describes the types of entertainment they hosted;

this reviewer knows of no better reference on this subject. The third part examines the civic role of the opera house as a host of local events. Finally, the last part discusses today’s efforts to preserve a community opera house, many of which have been noted for their architectural and historical value. Satterthwaite explores the little-known and varied social role of the opera house, as well as popular culture during its heyday. She details the types of performances that appeared onstage by traveling troupes and individuals, both well-known and lesser known. Sarah Bernhardt, Mark Twain, and John Phillip Sousa crossed the country with performances, and plays such as Uncle Tom’s Cabin appeared in local communities. Other figures are all but forgotten, their fame declining with the decline of the opera house. Types of entertainment included minstrel shows, melodramas, concerts, as well as performances by comics, lecturers, and novelty acts. Opera houses also hosted community events, civic affairs, and home talent such as public and political gatherings, school graduations, banquets, recitations, sports, dances, and even roller skating. They served a purpose fulfilled by no other smalltown building at the time. An appendix lists extant opera houses by state. Nebraska readers will be impressed by the number of their state’s facilities cited throughout. The author credits a survey conducted by the Nebraska State Historical Society in 1986-87, which concluded that 325 communities once boasted opera houses, with 137 included for in-depth study. As a result, 25 were listed in the National Register of Historic Places. The book includes photographs of many Nebraska opera houses—including the Red Cloud opera house, well-known to the young Willa Cather, on the front cover. Nebraska readers should also consult Opera Houses of the Midwest by the Mid-America Theatre Conference, for a more detailed description of the opera houses that were inventoried. Opera houses were often a community’s most architecturally distinctive building, and most served a wide range of purposes. They were sometimes built as second floors above businesses, fraternal halls, and free-standing buildings. This book’s only shortcoming is the lack of an overview of the architectural types of buildings commonly called opera houses—but in fairness this would have been far beyond the reach of the book’s primary purpose. The author is in a unique position to examine the topic. Satterthwaite is a civic planner involved

in environmental, cultural, and preservation planning. She has lectured widely on the subjects of preservation planning to improve community livability, sustainability, and revitalization. For historians and those studying popular culture during this period, this well-researched and comprehensive book will be an essential reference. L. Robert Puschendorf Associate Director/Deputy State Historic Preservation Officer, NSHS (retired)

God’s Red Son: The Ghost Dance Religion and the Making of Modern America Louis S. Warren New York: Basic Books, 2017. Author’s note on terminology, introduction, figures, maps, epilogue, acknowledgements, notes, index, 479 pp. $35 hardcover. Cattle Kingdom: The Hidden History of the Cowboy West Christopher Knowlton Boston/New York: An Eamon Dolan Book, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 2017. Introduction, maps, photographs, afterword, acknowledgements, notes, bibliography, index. 426 pages, $29 hardcover.


uring the last quarter of the nineteenth century, Congress drew political boundaries across the open plains of the American West, but it was on the ground itself that these new limits identified and divided peoples in ways described in these two volumes. Tribal peoples were restricted to reservations drawn by elected federal officials backed by military power. Much as the Indians had done before the reservation era, Euro-Americans saw the landscape as an endless open space offering opportunities—but ultimately they faced their own physical restrictions brought by one of the innovations of the age, barbed wire. These two books offer two seemingly unrelated, short-lived stories exploring the lives of Plains peoples—red and white—as they found themselves confined in unexpected ways. The deliberate eradication of the buffalo, plus military campaigns and subsequent confinement to resource-poor reservations created the conditions for the enthusiastic Native American reception of the Ghost Dance, based on the spiritual revelations of a Northern Piaute man named Wovoka. On reservations across the West, this new religion offered a hopeful future. On the Lakota

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reservations in South Dakota, however, the actual future revealed itself at Wounded Knee. The bison were gone, but the grass remained. Enter the Texas longhorn cattle, cowboys to herd them and capitalists in Scotland, England, France, and the eastern U.S. seaboard who were chasing double-digit annual returns on their money. The result was one of the great American economic bubbles of the Gilded Age. These interconnected stories speak to the thin line between promise and tragedy on the Plains. Both books present historical narratives of people and events that remain relevant to American life, culture, politics, and national self-image. The authors have very different backgrounds. Louis S. Warren, author of God’s Red Son, is W. Turrentine Jackson Professor of Western U. S. History at the University of California–Davis, and is respected for his record of careful academic research and shrewd insights into the American West and its impact on American life and culture. Christopher Knowlton, author of Cattle Kingdom, began his career as a business journalist, went on to a Wall Street investment career, and is now retired in Jackson, Wyoming. He traces his interest in the West and its cattlemen back to a youthful dude ranch experience. God’s Red Son is an exhaustively-researched and carefully-argued revisionist approach to the story of the Ghost Dance religion. In trances Wovoka encountered an Indian messiah with a new message. Soon regarded as a prophet, Wovoka began to exhort his fellow tribesmen and representatives from other reservations to embrace peace with other tribes and with the whites, to become part of the wage economy working for the white man, and to send their children to school— in other words, to accommodate themselves to the new reality. Warren focuses on these parts of Wovoka’s message and the accompanying Ghost Dance ritual initiated in Nevada. Warren argues that the Ghost Dance was “a forward-looking pragmatic religion that had a long life” (p. 7). This run counter to the usual narrative, in which the Ghost Dance religion centers on a promised arrival of an Indian messiah who will rid the world of the whites and bring back the buffalo and Indian ancestors, creating a new, old world. For many of those who danced, that dream disappeared on December 29, 1890, in the massacre along Wounded Knee Creek on the Pine Ridge Reservation. In Part 2 of his book, Warren considers how the Ghost Dance spread across the West to reservations


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from Montana to Oklahoma. It did so by two modern devices: letters written by newly-literate Indians, and the railroad, which carried seekers to and from Wovoka’s home in the Great Basin. Warren’s two focal points are the Lakota reservations in South Dakota and the Arapaho and Southern Cheyenne reservation in western Oklahoma. On both, Indian peoples sought social and psychological foundations for addressing their new lives and bleak future prospects. Emissaries to Nevada returned with the Ghost Dance which, Warren argues, provided a path back to a sense of community, reinforced by the traditional medium of dance—which government agents and Christian missionaries were now prohibiting. The Ghost Dance offered the people a way forward, one of accommodation and new beginnings. Central to Warren’s study are the reactions of white on-reservation representatives versus those of majority white society. In Oklahoma, local white authorities who spoke Native languages took a waitand-see approach, believing this new enthusiasm would likely subside on its own. Even when it did not disappear these authorities continued to accommodate the Southern tribespeople. In South Dakota, however, reservation agents and the voting public panicked. Their cries reached Washington, where President Benjamin Harrison’s administration was already frantic over winning a close and crucial congressional election in South Dakota. A military overreaction ensued; Wounded Knee was the result. In Part 3 Warren shows that the Ghost Dance continued on southern reservations well into the twentieth century. He explores its influence on the creation and acceptance of Native American religious beliefs, rituals, and institutions—including the Native American Church. He examines the life and influence of the anthropologist James Mooney Jr., whose extensive field work on the reservations resulted in his 1896 report, The Ghost Dance Religion and the Great Sioux Outbreak of 1890, submitted to the Bureau of American Ethnology. This report remains the primary source of information on the religion and is basic to all work on the subject, including Warren’s own. In opposition to Christian churches and the scientific establishment of the day, Mooney cast “aside ideas of psychological and religious evolutionism in favor of a broader, more inclusive and more contingent view of religious thought” (p. 13). As a result, Mooney’s work was suppressed and his career ruined, though he did manage to establish a place in the social science spectrum for the religious tenets of indigenous people.

God’s Red Son establishes the Ghost Dance religion as modern and transformational for both the Indian and the white scientific communities, an outcome that could not have been imagined as the frozen bodies were gathered for burial on those brutal winter days in South Dakota. Writing for a general audience in Cattle Kingdom, Christopher Knowlton provides an “epic saga” (p. xix) of the open-range cattle industry He builds his narrative around eight men, some of whom are often featured in other works, and others that are less known: badlands cattleman and future President Theodore Roosevelt; the Marquis de Mores, a French nobleman become North Dakota beef packer; Moreton Frewen, a younger son of the English aristocracy who chased his fortune in Wyoming; Roosevelt’s fellow Harvard alum and son of Eastern money, Hubert Teschemacher, who became the leader of the Cheyenne cattlemen’s clique; the “savvy Scotsman John Clay” (p. xxi) who capably ran his employers’ cattle operations; trail driver and top hand E. C. “Teddy Blue” Abbott, who fled his father’s Nebraska farm for a life on the Montana range; Gustavus Swift, who dispatched beef-filled refrigerated railroad cars from his packing houses at the Chicago stockyards to a hungry eastern population; and barbed wire entrepreneur Joseph Glidden of Illinois. Cattle Kingdom’s narrative spans the period from the elimination of the bison and the birth of the Texas cattle drives in the wake of the Civil War, to the 1891 Johnson County War, in which the Wyoming cattle barons and their imported Texas gunmen tried to rid the land of homesteaders and small cattle producers. In between, Knowlton covers the creation of the American and overseas markets for beef, the investment of large sums of European and American capital in vast cattle-raising enterprises on the open range, the introduction of barbed wire ending that open range, and the herddecimating blizzards of 1886-87. Knowlton’s financial experience informs the narrative as he places this story among other great American financial bubbles and finds in it lessons that are applicable today. He has a fine sense for the natural world, and explores the reality of the life, work, and prospects of the cowboy—which were much at odds with the stories of Owen Wister and Ernest Haybox, or the films of John Ford. Western history specialists may find points to argue with, particularly the writer’s suggestion that

the Johnson County War was in reality a hubristic dream akin to the land clearing and enclosure campaigns of the British aristocracy. Nebraskans, too, may find some irritation in the book’s omission of the open-range enterprises in the Panhandle and Sandhills. That said, Knowlton offers insights into his subjects’ often-desperate actions, seeking capital by promising investors (and themselves) immediate and extraordinary returns on raising animals in a place where nature ruled. The reader cannot help but recall the wisdom that says, “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is!” Cattle Kingdom is a well-written, accessible and engaging read. Both of these books go behind Western mythology and will assist readers in clearing their minds, reminding them that the facts, not the fables, are necessary tools for understanding and living in twenty-first century America. Michael J. Smith Director/CEO NSHS (Retired)

Great Plains Bison Dan O’Brien Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2017. Illustrations, maps, appendix, index, 144 pp., $14.95 paperback.


hen it comes to the subject of bison (erroneously called buffalo by Europeans), there may be no other writer who has written more, or more eloquently, than Dan O’Brien. In Buffalo for the Broken Heart and Wild Idea O’Brien took readers on his personal journey of restoration with bison on his South Dakota ranch, including stories of ecology, history, and family sprinkled throughout. In Great Plains Bison, which O’Brien describes as “a short, simple book about a complicated slice of history,” he manages to capture the essentials of this history in 101 pages. It is a welcome addition to short books on geology and Indians that are part of the new Bison Books Series, “Discover the Great Plains,” produced by the Center for Great Plains Studies in cooperation with the University of Nebraska Press. It essence, it is a story of the bison’s relationship to the prairie ecosystem and the humans who have lived there. Told in a linear fashion, it covers the arc of bison history from nomadic Asian hunters who pursued the modern bison’s larger and slower ancestors across the Bering Land Bridge, to bison’s symbiotic relationship with Native Americans and

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the ultimate decimation of both under the banner of Manifest Destiny. Along the way, readers learn how the bison’s demise was hastened by the military, hunters, trade, barbed wire, and railroads, the impacts of these changes on Native Americans who regarded the bison as brothers, and the stages of the bison slaughter as it moved from south to north. Integral to the narrative is destruction of the Great Plains grassland ecosystem due to what O’Brien calls “mindless, gung-ho agriculture.” This may strike some people as an unfair generalization, especially cattle ranchers who have preserved ecosystems like the Nebraska Sandhills by keeping the grass “right side up.” On a more hopeful note, O’Brien describes the bison’s rescue from the brink of extinction by well-known people like Teddy Roosevelt and William Hornaday, and lesser known heroes like Samuel Walking Coyote and Buffalo Jones. He also credits growing consumer demand as bison “was rediscovered as a very healthy and tasty source of protein.” But regardless of the bison’s rebound, O’Brien’s inescapable conclusion is that “humans have forever changed the buffalo kingdom,” and “the lesson in their near extinction and return can inform us all about bringing our planet back to balance.” For those who want to be informed about bison, this book is a great place to start! Dave Sands Executive Director, Nebraska Land Trust

A History of Nebraska Agriculture: A Life Worth Living Jody L. Lamp and Melody Dobson Mt. Pleasant, SC: The History Press, 2017. Illustrations, notes, 240 pp., $21.99 paperback


s the subtitle suggests, this book is a celebration of Nebraska agriculture and an introduction to technological developments and continuing modernization in Nebraska agriculture. The book also includes personal stories of individuals, organizations, and towns that contributed to agricultural improvements that made agriculture more productive and safer. The book is divided into six parts. Part I is about land and early agriculture. Surprisingly, it covers little pre-history. A brief reference to Francisco Coronado in 1540 misses his significance as one of the few early European explorers to see the land’s agricultural potential. Lewis and Clark were directed to assess


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the agricultural potential of the land they explored. Later, Fort Atkinson became the first successful non-native farming community west of the Missouri River, but the authors give little background on what followed. There is, for example, no discussion of the legislation creating “permanent Indian Country” west of the Missouri such as the 1830 Indian Removal Act and the 1834 Indian Intercourse Act. The authors correctly acknowledge the building of the transcontinental railroad as important to the future of agriculture, but don’t mention other developments important to the development of Nebraska agriculture, such as the overland trails, used by migrants and freighters, and which prompted the establishment of road ranches along the way, creating markets and lodging for those moving west. As the authors state, competition was indeed spurred on by town developers, who advertised their town sites as the potential eastern terminus for the railroad or the possible state capital. The section on statehood ends with personal stories, including a discussion by Addison Sheldon, an early director of the Nebraska State Historical Society, on the removal of the capital from Omaha to Lancaster, which was renamed Lincoln. The authors miss the real reason for the name change and sidestep the fact that there is more to the story. Part II focuses on water and irrigation. Major Stephen H. Long’s report of his 1820 expedition condemned much of Nebraska as “a treeless, semi-arid country that would never support an agricultural population.” The authors also mention the later and equally fallacious theory that “rainfall follows the plow,” but not the two University of Nebraska pseudo-scientists who promoted it. The authors continue with a discussion of Major John Wesley Powell, chief of the Department of the Interior Survey of the Rocky Mountain Region. Powell was a scientist who believed that the Great Plains could never support extensive crop growth because of inadequate rainfall and recurring drought. He also believed that non-irrigable farming could not be carried on west of the 100 th meridian (which passes through Cozad). Theodore Roosevelt supported the creation of the U. S. Bureau of Reclamation, resulting in major new irrigation projects in western states, including Nebraska. The section on water and irrigation is the book’s strongest and best written, but it still has a few errors. The first automatic windmill, which moved the fan into the wind, was not invented in Nebraska by Kregel or Dempster but by Daniel Halladay from Connecticut in 1854, a quarter century before Kregel or Dempster. (It

is always dangerous to try to teach the “first” of anything.) The real issue is that Nebraska was a leader in windmill construction. Of seventy-five windmill companies in the United States, only seven remained by 1898 and five of them were based in Nebraska. Part III covers the family farm and changes prior to the1970s, emphasizing developments that increased agricultural production. The authors focus on a number farm families in Keith and Hall Counties, but don’t always explain clearly issues such as requirements in the Homestead Act that affected immigrants. Part IV focuses on the edible dry bean industry and the Kelley Bean Company. The narrative is unclear whether the farmer who planted the first crop of Great Northern Beans was Chester B. Brown or his son, George B. Brown, or whether dry bean production began in 1923 or in 1917 when a seed company in Sheboygan, Wisconsin started contracting with American farmers to grow seed beans. There is little doubt that Chester Brown was an innovator who made the process of planting, cultivating, and harvesting edible dry beans easier, and his leadership helped establish processing plants in Morrill, Gering, Bayard, and eventually in Minatare. By 1941 total bean acreage was 27,000 acres. By 2014 dry bean farmers produced 3.8 million 100 pound bags of beans valued at $120 million, making edible dry beans Nebraska’s third largest agricultural export. The authors finish this part with a tribute to the Capitol, the Nebraska Hall of Fame, and Arthur Weimar Thompson, who was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame in 1991 as the “leading purebred livestock auctioneer.” They also discuss changes in beef processing that began in Iowa in 1961 by Iowa Beef Processors (IBP) and which had a major impact on beef ranching and feeding in Nebraska. Section V focuses on the Morrill Act of 1862 and the development of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s East Campus. Section VI is a very brief discussion of the future of Nebraska agriculture from the authors’ perspectives. While the authors wish to promote the history of Nebraska agriculture, the book’s purpose remains unclear. The authors write of “their passion” to be advocates for agriculture, and show interest in agricultural progress and the historical events that enabled it. But many readers will need more background to understand the issues presented. Despite examples of positive agricultural developments, the book has many problems.

Besides the lack of adequate background information, readers should also be wary of the tendency of corporate histories to slip into “booster histories” that extol the virtues of their business. It also appears that the publisher did not provide a thoughtful referee or careful copyeditor who might have helped avoid some factual errors that can creep into such an ambitious work. Ronald C. Naugle, Ph.D. Professor Emeritus of History Nebraska Wesleyan University

Travels in North America, 1832-1834: A Concise Edition of the Journals of Prince Maximilian of Wied Edited by Marsha V. Gallagher, Translated by William J. Orr, Paul Schach, and Dieter Karch Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2017. Illustrations, editorial notes, bibliography, list of flora and fauna, index, 624 pp., $34.95 hardcover


ravels in North America is an abridged travelogue of German nobleman and professional traveler Prince Maximilian of Wied-Neuwied. Similar to his adventures in South America (1815-1817), Maximilian and his companions arrived from Germany and set out from Boston to present-day Montana to see, record, and collect experiences and artifacts unlike anything they had known before. The author’s fortuitous timing presents a vivid snapshot of the people and places of eastern and central North America right before they are changed by westward expansion, industrial advancement, Native American displacement, and civil war. On July 4, 1832, Maximilian and his main traveling partners, hunting guide and logistical coordinator David Dreidoppel and painter Karl Bodmer, began their journey upon landing in Boston, Massachusetts. They traveled by boat down the Ohio River past Philadelphia, Cincinnati, and Louisville, then up the Mississippi River to St. Louis. From there they traveled up the Missouri River, stopping to experience the different worlds established in US military outposts and in Native American villages. After reaching their westernmost destination at Fort McKenzie in present-day northern Montana, the group backtracked to the East Coast in 1834. The original description of Maximilian’s North American adventure totaled 700,000 words and spanned three volumes comprising text and prints. These sizeable works were geared towards the

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German and European public who had become enthralled with stories and images of still “wild” North America. In this book, the editors (many of whom are associated with the Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha, Nebraska) present a newly translated, edited, and abridged 200,000-word version that does an admirable job balancing physical description with narrative pacing. This abridged edition presents Maximilian’s daily travel log as it accounts both major and minor events. The author succinctly articulates how travel in the 1800s, whether by land or by boat, was an arduous, time consuming, and unglamorous endeavor. Many entries describe the frequent stops required to remove log jams, fix boat parts, or drop off/pick up supplies. He intertwines these experiences with examples of human ingenuity, natural beauty, joys of discovery, and the universality of the human experience. Where this book excels are the entries that detail Native American people and culture. Because of the geographic distance covered during the trip, Maximillian encounters a striking diversity of Native American cultures. He does an admirable job describing many of the unique characteristics of each group’s dress, manner, physical appearance, and social complexity. He also insightfully notes each group’s ever-changing relationships among themselves and with the US military, government, and pioneers. Many of these descriptions are highlighted with full color plates and ink sketches created by Karl Bodmer. In the same vein as George Catlin, Bodmer’s artistic representations depict both the scenic beauty of the landscape and the stark reality of the peoples who lived there. Many of the original images from the book are on long-term loan at the Joslyn Museum in Omaha. Whether Travels in North America is an accurate depiction of actual events or a glorified version designed to entice an expectant European audience, the volume of information and the level of detail make it a fascinating and enlightening description of a dynamic time in the American West. John Rissetto History Nebraska

Paul Goble, Storyteller By Gregory Bryan Pierre: South Dakota Historical Society Press, 2017. Illustrations, index, bibliography, 204 pp., $29.95 paperback


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he well-known book illustrator and author Paul Goble died in January 2017. A white man who developed a passion for the Native American way of life, Goble spent his career learning and retelling through text and beautiful illustrations the stories and myths of the American Indian. Author Gregory Bryan likewise researches and gathers information from Goble’s wife Janet, son Robert and others to tell Paul Goble’s story in this illustrated biography. Beginning with Goble’s birth and upbringing in England, Bryan meticulously covers each of Goble’s forty-three books and their critiques, painting a picture of the variable career of a deeply dedicated artist and author. Goble’s musical mother and craftsman father set the stage for the young man’s artistic leanings. Literature seemed to be one of Goble’s few subjects of interest in school, so it was through books that he became enamored with nature and the native way of life. His mother and his nanny thus showered him with books, including those by naturalists Thomas Seton and Grey Owl, who claimed that he learned from the Ojibway. At age nine or ten the young man received a set of George Catlin’s Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs and Conditions of Native American Indians. His mother made him a tipi and buckskin leggings, and according to Bryan the great Indian leaders became his heroes. Family friends introduced him to Native American leaders and he read the classic Black Elk Speaks by John Neihardt. Although some of the details of Goble’s young life seem excessive, readers will find his experiences and memories of World War II of interest. Clearly, it left an indelible mark on the young boy and his family. After a two-year stint in the British National Service as an infantryman, Goble worked at the famous Harrods’s department store in London and went to art school to study furniture design. A turning point for Goble was his first trip to the United States where he met Native American people living in the Great Plains. He visited the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation in South Dakota and the Crow Indian Reservation in Montana. He heard stories, slept in his first real tipi and met individuals such as Edgar, the great-grandson of Chief Red Cloud, who would become his mentor. Goble said of Edgar: “I believe he must have seen, in the young man I was then, something in my future life, about which I knew nothing.” He also visited the Little Bighorn battlefield, which he wrote about in his first book, Red Hawk’s Account of Custer’s Last Battle. In it

Goble goes to great lengths not to portray the protagonist as a hero. The book was published in 1969 and reprinted by the University of Nebraska Press in 1992. From here Bryan delves into each of Goble’s books. After reading about his third book the biography begins to feel heavy and somewhat repetitive with reviews and comparisons of each consecutive book published. As with so many young artists and authors, Goble toiled for years and experienced many hardships before he found success. Goble’s breakthrough came in January 1979 when he was awarded the Caldecott Medal for The Girl who Loved Horses. Other awards, including the Aesop Prize, would follow. Paul Goble, Storyteller encompasses many of the positive reviews and accolades that the illustrator and author received. When, in the latter part of the book, Goble experiences negative reviews from Native American critics for his Iktomi trickster stories, Bryan seems to go to bat to defend him. Yet Bryan also provides an honest portrayal of Goble’s shortfalls and offers good insight into the pressures, fears, and insecurities that authors and artists face when trying to meet the expectations of critics. He also gives us a glimpse of the writing and illustrative process, noting Goble’s rightful credit to his wife, Janet, for her support that allowed him to work uninterrupted. Readers will enjoy the gorgeous illustrations and may find themselves looking to read one of the many books this prolific gentleman wrote and illustrated in his lifetime. Sharon Kennedy History Nebraska

J. C. Penney: The Man, the Store, and American Agriculture David Delbert Kruger Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2017. Illustrations, maps, notes, index, 360 pp., $29.95 hardcover.


ruger is a research librarian at the University of Wyoming. He has interviewed Penney family members and business associates, read Penney’s books and articles, and researched Penney’s papers at Southern Methodist University. Employing this wide range of evidence, Kruger presents a highly favorable portrait of Penney, focusing on Penney’s agricultural projects, which blended philanthropy and profit. Kruger is convinced that “[f]rom birth to death, Penney never

lost his core identity as a poor Midwestern farm boy” (p. 12). Kruger dismisses any comparison between Penney and Sam Walton, defends the sincerity of Penney’s application of the Golden Rule to retailing and to agricultural projects and— perhaps too briefly—accepts the contribution of Penney’s farming and stock breeding projects to increasing the income of family farmers. Aware of the temptation of nostalgia, Kruger cannot avoid expressing a fondness for the vanishing small towns of rural America in which Penney’s stores flourished for decades. Penney opened his first stores in small towns, and throughout his life continued to operate many stores there. As his growing wealth allowed, Penney invested in farms in several states and dedicated them to progressive methods of cultivation, animal husbandry, and management. In 1917 Penney startled his company convention by announcing his retirement as president. Penney purchased a country estate north of New York City and then a sizable dairy farm in Duchess County. He combined his interest in visiting Penney’s stores and investigating new store locations with a program of improving Guernsey dairy cattle. By improving dairy cattle breeds, the incomes of dairy cattle farmers would improve. Kruger forcefully argues that Penney’s motive was genuinely philanthropic and not an attempt to improve Penney’s profit by improving farmers’ disposable incomes (pp. 40-41). Penney’s investment in Florida property was very different in scale and nature. In 1925 Penney purchased at court-ordered bankruptcy sale 120,000 acres in northern Florida. Penney envisioned a planned agricultural community with 6,000 families, diversified crops, cooperative dairy, marketing and extension services, school and church— all subsidized by Penney and motivated by his commitment to living the Golden Rule. The scale of Penney’s investment, the high cost of crop production in Florida, the decline of commodity prices, and the Great Depression made the experiment untenable. Penney had to sell almost all the land and terminate all activities—only the dairy cooperative proved viable. Years later Penney observed that his haste and overly ambitious plans, made possible by his wealth, had led to failure. Once again Kruger concludes that Penney’s motive was philanthropic, that previous historians who have claimed that personal profit was Penney’s motive are mistaken. The Great Depression was a disaster for Penney. He lost his entire personal fortune and fell into intense depression. While in

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Battle Creek, Michigan, Penney checked into the Kellogg Sanitarium. In the sanitarium’s chapel Penney underwent an intense religious experience which transformed his condition and allowed him to return to active business life. At the same time J.C. Penney executives who had profited from his generosity in earlier years made substantial loans to Penney so he could buy back shares in the corporation. While never again as rich as he was in 1929, Penney was again a multimillionaire. He was also as committed as ever to agricultural innovation. Buying land his father had once owned near Hamilton, Missouri, Penney developed an excellent Percheron herd and then an Angus herd. The rapid transition from draft animals to tractors forced Penney to sell the Percheron operation in 1946; the discovery that his partner in the Angus program was serving liquor at the annual sales led Penney to dissolve their partnership, end the Angus program, and sell his Home Place Farm in 1955. But Penney could not end his interest in Missouri farm projects. He began another breeding venture, developing a prize Hereford herd. That venture had to be liquidated when increasing dwarfism in Herefords was identified with his breeding line. While Penney helped many young farmers, contributed to improving the Angus breed, and generously supported 4-H, his major projects were not successful—a conclusion Kruger documents but does not consider sufficiently. Kruger details the significant complexities in Penney’s life. Although his father was defrocked by his Primitive Baptist congregation for advocating Sunday school services and paid ministers, Penney remained a devout (but non-denominational) Christian. At ease with customers and convention crowds, Penney was a loner, traveling the country, visiting stores and his farms on his own. A millionaire, he rode the subway to work. Eager to mentor young store managers and farmers, he was unable to give his three sons direction and support and watched alcoholism ravage their lives. Kruger describes these and other contradictions. While the narrative is at times slowed by excessive detail, this work richly rewards careful reading. Penney’s long, energetic, and varied career, marked by family tragedies and business catastrophe as well as success, deserves to be known and pondered. Spencer Davis Professor Emeritus of History Peru State College


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Kings of Broken Things Theodore Wheeler New York: Little A, 2017. 322 pp., $24.95 hardcover.


ebraska History does not normally review works of fiction. Theodore Wheeler’s new novel, however, is set in Omaha during the turbulent years from 1917 to 1919, and while the author makes clear that his book “is a work of imagination,” he weaves many real events and people into his narrative— including the underworld empire of crime boss Tom Dennison and the infamous lynching of Will Brown in 1919. The story follows the lives of three main (fictional) characters: Karel Miihlstein, an elevenyear-old Austrian immigrant trying to discover his identity in his tough neighborhood; Jake Strauss, a young man fresh off a northeast Nebraska farm who begins working his way up in Dennison’s organization; and Evie Chambers, a kept woman in Omaha’s vice district who becomes romantically involved with Jake. But this brooding tale isn’t a love story so much as a meditation on the many ways in which people can simultaneously love each other and push each other away. It is also a vivid portrait of World War I-era working-class Omaha, rich in period detail. The story is set in Omaha’s old “Third Ward” (here called the “River Ward”), the downtown district where Dennison held sway and controlled election results. The author sets much of the action on the fictional Clandish Street, which allows him to concentrate various features and events of Omaha’s ethnic neighborhoods into a smaller space. Other locations are real, such as Rourke Park, the Western League ballpark that used to stand at 15th and Vinton, where young Karel pursues his growing passion for baseball. The final chapters are mostly set around the Douglas County Courthouse during a lynching of a black man accused of raping a white woman. The scene plays out with all the horror of the historical accounts, but with Wheeler’s white, working-class characters in the middle of it. They are carried along by events larger than themselves, but they aren’t innocent, either. Wheeler shows how a novelist can make effective use of history in illuminating the human condition.

David L. Bristow, Editor History Nebraska

That Punk Jimmy Hoffa Marilyn June Coffey Omega Cottonwood Press, 2017. Illustrations, Bibliography and Index, 357 pp., $19.95 paperback.


arilyn Coffey has written a book about the struggle between her father Tom’s Coffey Transfer truck line, and Teamster leader and bully Jimmy Hoffa. But the book is more than an account of industrial warfare. Coffey writes of her father’s brief career as a state legislator, purchasing agent and city manager, while including glimpses of family life in Alma, her sexual activity, and her subsequent life as a print journalist. For someone with literary credentials and experience, Coffey’s book is haphazardly organized and the prose is rather sophomoric. Yet in spite of the various flaws, it is a compelling story. Tom Coffey emerges as a stubborn, resolute defender of unfettered capitalism, while Jimmy Hoffa is portrayed as a scheming and foul-mouthed thug whose vaulting ambition led to his demise and the weakening of the trade union movement. Coffey theorizes about Hoffa’s disappearance, his profane vocabulary, and his penchant for wearing white crew sox with expensive suits and shoes. The nexus of the dispute between Tom Coffey and Hoffa was the effort by Hoffa to unionize Coffey’s drivers, which the trucker bitterly resisted. Alma, Nebraska, was not a hotbed of labor-management strife, but Hoffa was almost psychopathic about enlisting all truckers in Nebraska. Coffey Transfer was Alma’s largest employer, but in its heyday it employed fewer than thirty drivers. Most brought goods from Des Moines, Omaha, and Kansas City to Alma, where delivery trucks fanned out into the Republican Valley. Over a span of several years in which Tom Coffey fought valiantly to remain non-union, Hoffa and union goons at his behest installed secondary boycotts in the larger, more metropolitan areas where larger national truck lines either shipped or delivered goods to Coffey. Huge quantities of butter which Coffey Transfer brought to Omaha could not be loaded on other carriers heading out of state because of the boycott, effectively shutting Coffey Transfer down for interline shipments. Many years later, Coffey sued the union and secured a substantial judgement, but only after Coffey had sold his truck line to Burlington Lines for a fraction of its real value. Prior to selling his business, Tom Coffey served a two-year term as a member of Nebraska’s

unicameral legislature, where he established himself as a rigid conservative. After his sale of the truck line, he served as Nebraska’s state purchasing agent until administrations changed, and then he embarked upon a career as a city manager, first at Sidney, Nebraska, and then at Fort Collins, Colorado. It is obvious that Marilyn Coffey, now at long last again a Nebraska resident, thought highly of her father and portrays him very sympathetically. She does not treat herself as well, as she mentions a variety of journalistic jobs she held and lost before she finally landed as a teacher of English at the Pratt Institute in Brooklyn. One discordant, and somewhat unnecessary note, is the author’s recitation of some of her sexual encounters in unnecessary detail. Apparently she cut a wide, if recumbent, swath across Gotham. She states that an undiagnosed bipolar disorder caused her overheated sexuality, although one could suppose she simply enjoyed sex. Throughout the book, Coffey gives her evaluation of a number of Nebraska’s lawyers and political figures, although she does not go into elaborate detail. The careful reader will have little difficulty in ascertaining where she stands. This is an intriguing book. Some readers may be put off by the hundreds of guttersnipe oaths, but the story of how Tom Coffey fought to save his business and protect his employees is worth reading. Marilyn Coffey is now eighty, and is living in Omaha in a home she purchased with some of her father’s union judgment. She has led a full and fascinating life. It would be a treat to hear her discuss what has transpired. It would be more difficult to talk to Jimmy Hoffa. James W. Hewitt Lincoln, Nebraska Emeritus Trustee, History Nebraska

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Books Briefly Winning Wasn’t Enough: How Young Men Made Football History in Valentine, Nebraska Jessi Shamis with Rick Shamis Valentine, Nebraska, 2017. Forward by Stu Pospisil, prologue, photographs, quotes from the team, acknowledgements, epilogue, 153 pp., $15.95. Available from Plains Trading Company,Valentine,


n the fall of 1945 the eleven-man Valentine High School football team went undefeated and unscored upon through its eight-game schedule, a rarity in the century-plus history of eleven-man programs in Nebraska football. Jessi Shamis, with her grandfather Dick—the team’s fullback—has written a paean to the members of that team, noting that they were “talented, hard working, smart, strong, fast and lucky,” but most of all possessed what is perhaps the greatest of Nebraska values, determination. The players consciously decided that they would not allow their opponents a single point that year, and they succeeded. More than a football tale, Shamis’ well-written volume is a window into small-town life at the end of World War II: all family members worked at home, on their ranches or in town, church attendance was expected, and community pride was promoted. On the other hand, vices such as youthful liquor consumption and betting on games was not unknown. This was the year when victory was achieved in Europe and Asia. Newspaper listings of local men released from military service, and the end of gasoline and other rationing brought a new sense of hope. What better time could there have been for a singular accomplishment by a team of young men representing their hometown? It is a time and a story worth remembering, an important piece of Nebraska history here preserved. Michael J. Smith NSHS Director/CEO (Retired)

A Carpenter’s Life as Told by Houses Larry Haun Newtown, Connecticut: The Taunton Press, 2011. Forward by Kevin Ireton, introduction, photographs, acknowledgements, 265 pages, $22.95.


ecently poking into a bookstore shop on Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago, I came across a memoir by a Nebraska-born carpenter, builder, and writer named Larry Haun. As the


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title indicates, Haun (1931-2011) recounts the adventure of his life through a series of physical structures as he inhabited, built, remodeled, and experienced them. Haun is the author of both practical craftsmen’s books and blogs on the contemporary world of residential building. He leads the reader from his beginnings in Banner County, Nebraska, to booming Los Angeles in the 1950s, to retirement on the Oregon coast where he concentrated on building homes with Habitat for Humanity. The narrative is intermixed with his poetry, a variety of images (including several from the NSHS), and descriptions of the nature and workings of the lumber and tools that constituted his livelihood. Always engaging in his commentary on the American environment and his view of the excesses of contemporary society, Haun offers an example of a life created in the Nebraska Panhandle and played out in the light of the values he took from his beginnings. Of special interest to Nebraska readers will be the author’s memories of living in Harrisburg and Harrison during the Depression years, memories of never being warm during winters in uninsulated frame houses on the Plains, of being the rare Catholic family in the region, and how New Deal programs and the war effort provided economic relief for his close-knit family. It is a worthwhile read from a Nebraskaborn and warmly-engaging personality. MJS

Out Where the West Begins, Volume 2: Creating and Civilizing the American West Philip F. Anchutz with William J. Convery Denver, Colorado. Cloud Camp Press, 2017. Introduction, timeline, map, photographs, afterword, bibliography, index, 392 pp., $34.95 hardcover.


ealthy Colorado-based entrepreneur Philip F. Anschutz, with the assistance of University of Colorado-Denver historian William J. Convery, has authored a second book focused on the histories of the American West. Spanning the sixteenth to the mid-twentieth centuries, the narratives cover the expansion from the early Republic across the Plains to the Pacific. Anschutz’s first volume, which focused on business leaders, was reviewed in the Summer 2016 issue of this journal. This second volume consists of short essays outlining the lives, careers, and contributions of

more than 100 individuals associated in various ways with the western movement and Western life and culture, ranging from the Spaniard Francisco Vasquez de Coronado in the 1540s to Dr. Florence Rena Sabin, who in the 1940s led the drive for improved public health policies in Colorado. Mixed in are politicians, priests, judges, suffragists, surveyors, inventors, writers, architects, and others. Native Americans, women, and African Americans are included in the mix. The essays are succinct and based on competent research. Nebraska is represented by Red Cloud, William Cody, William Jennings Bryan (to whom the book mistakenly accords the title of Senator), and Willa Cather. This is an attractive book, well-illustrated with color images from the collection of the American Museum of Western Art in Denver, as well as photographic portraits of book’s subjects. The question that confronts the reviewer is frankly, who constitutes the audience for this book? The essays are far too brief to be of use to a widely-read audience, although few will have known of every entry, Dr. Sabin being an example. Perhaps it could be considered to serve as an invitation to the subject and an initial reference for students grade six and above, as well as those who are just warming to “The American West” for reading and exploration. MJS

University of Nebraska—Lincoln Kay Logan-Peters Charleston, South Carolina: Arcadia Publishing, 2017. Forward by Ronald D. Green, acknowledgements, introduction, photographs, 127 pages, $21.99 paperback.


ith photographs selected and text written by Kay Logan-Peters of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Libraries, Arcadia Publishing has issued this volume in its Campus History Series in its now-expected photographand-caption format. The author has drawn on her research into the when, why, and how of the buildings on both the City and East (Agricultural) campuses in developing the story of the founding and growth of the University from its establishment as a land-grant school for agricultural, industrial, and military studies in 1869 to its present roles as part of the statewide University of Nebraska system and an internationally-recognized research institution. As would be expected, the images are largely

those of campus spaces and buildings, leaders (especially chancellors) worthy professors and student life. Significant alumni are featured— including Willa Cather, Louise Pound, and Johnny Carson. So too are a number of football coaches. Section introductions and image captions carry the dynamic story of an institution always struggling for financial resources, facing enrollment ups and downs, the militant student actions of the early 1970s, etc., set against the memory-making times of classes and social events well-known to alumni. The length limitation implicit in an Arcadia book necessarily requires omissions that may troublesome—no mention of volleyball, track and field, and gymnastics at which the school has excelled, for example—but as a short review of the growth of the “Prairie University,” the book will be a popular read and handy gift for almost all. MJS

The Great Medicine Road: Narratives of the Oregon, California, and Mormon Trails: Part 3: 1850-1855 Michael L. Tate, ed. with the Assistance of Kerin Tate, Will Bagley and Richard L. Rieck Norman, OK: The Arthur H. Clark Company, 2017. Illustrations, maps, acknowledgments, editorial procedures, introduction, photographs, bibliography, index, 308 pp., $45 hardcover.


he University of Oklahoma Press, under its Arthur H. Clark Company imprint, has released Part 3 of Michael L. Tate’s projected four-volume compilation of first-person reports on the experience of traveling overland to Oregon, California, or the Mormon settlements in Utah. This is the twenty-fourth volume in the Press’s American Trails series. Tate’s excellent introduction is followed by nine accounts, five by men and four by women. Included are letters written back home from the West Coast, providing stories of the adventures on the trail and offering advice to potential migrants, Army Captain (later General) Rufus Ingalls’ report to the Quartermaster General of his mission west of the Great Salt Lake in 1854-55, and later-in-life recollections of trips that were undertaken by travelers when they were as young as thirteen. The accounts generally remove any notions that modern readers may have of these having been any kind of a romantic adventure across a kindly landscape. As Mrs. Mary Jane Long wrote from

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Oregon six decades after her trip: “If you own a home and are comfortably fixed, stay with it and let the other fellow do the traveling.” (p. 165.) This is a complete work with Dr. Tate’s general introduction, specific introductions to and histories of the documents themselves, biographical and genealogical information on the writers, superblydrawn maps, exhaustive annotations of the accounts, and a helpful bibliography. It is a book every student of western history will want to know and every trail enthusiast will want to add to their personal library. MJS

Dictionary of Midwestern Literature. Volume Two: Dimensions of the Midwestern Literary Imagination Philip A. Greasley, General Editor Bloomington, Indiana. Indiana University Press. 2016. Acknowledgements, introduction, entries A-Z, bibliography, contributors’ biographies, list of entries by author, index, 1057 pp., $85 hardcover.


n 2001 the Indiana University Press published the Dictionary of Midwestern Literature: Volume One: The Authors, a project of the Society for the Study of Midwestern Literature located at Michigan State University, which provided some 400 entries on the lives and literary orientations of noted authors. The second volume is vastly more ambitious with extensive essays on the literary histories of each of twelve states from Ohio to Nebraska, and Michigan to Missouri, along with a number of major Midwestern cities. It also includes insightful entries on Midwestern literary themes and traditions such as Jewish, Latino, Native American, African American, immigrant, gay and lesbian, urban, rural and farm, religious, and more. In addition there are entries on poetry, mystery writing, dime novels, comics, periodicals, creative non-fiction, and many other genres. Each entry is both descriptive and, to an extent, evaluative. Together the two volumes provide as complete a reference as one could expect to find. Major libraries should have this on their reference shelves. A copy is found at the library of History Nebraska in Lincoln. MJS

Ernest Haycox and the Western Richard W. Etulain Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 2017. Illustrations, preface, notes, bibliography, index, 200 pp., $29.95 hardcover.


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escued from obscurity, author Richard W. Etulain traces the career of once-popular Western writer Ernest Haycox. Best known for writing the short story “Stage to Lordsburg,” which John Ford turned into Stagecoach, the 1939 classic starring John Wayne, Haycox served a long apprenticeship as a writer in the “pulps” and the “slicks” before gaining recognition as a distinct literary stylist and voice. Starting as a rank beginner, Ernest Haycox had his first work published in 1921 while still a student at the University of Oregon. Determined to learn to write creatively and to sell his work, Haycox was single-minded and prolific. Throughout the rest of the 1920s his work appeared in pulp magazines such as Western Story and West. By the 1930s Haycox’s works were appearing in the more prestigious slick magazine Collier’s and late in the decade he had twin movie successes with Stagecoach and Cecil B. DeMille’s Union Pacific, based on his 1936 serial “Trouble Shooter.” Dissatisfied with the limitations imposed by short story and serial writing, Haycox’s ambition was to create works of lasting importance and of distinct literary merit. His introduction of the contemplative “Hamlet hero” in the Western genre was a significant stylistic creation. Through several historical novels, including Bugles in the Afternoon and Canyon Passage (both also made into movies), The Adventurers, and The Earthbreakers, Haycox attempted to create historical fiction on a panoramic scale with character development and historical fact as important components. Etulain’s study goes a long way in returning Haycox to a position of prominence in the Western writing field. Andrea Faling History Nebraska

Good Friday on the Rez: A Pine Ridge Odyssey David Hugh Bunnell New York: St. Martin’s Press, 2017. Overture, acknowledgements, notes, bibliography, map, photographs, xv, 271 pp., $26.99 hardcover.


efore he made his fortune in founding computer magazines and other ventures, David Bunnell taught in the Bureau of Indian Affairs school at Kyle, South Dakota, on the Pine Ridge Reservation. That was after he founded the chapter of the Students for a Democratic Society

(SDS) at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, which in turn followed his youth in Alliance where he worked on the Alliance Daily-Times Tribune, edited by his father, Hugh Bunnell. The elder Bunnell sometimes challenged the townspeople while reporting on issues such as the suspicious deaths of intoxicated Indians and the trial of the killers of Raymond Yellow Thunder. When David Bunnell died in October 2016 at age sixty-nine he was remembered as a wealthy man who never deviated from his commitment to the betterment of the less fortunate and the politically powerless. Good Friday on the Rez is David Bunnell’s parthistory, part-polemic, part-rant, and part-love poem of the Lakota and the Pine Ridge Reservation built around his relationship with his blood brother Vernell White Thunder, himself a Lakota entrepreneur raising bison and operating White Thunder Ranch resort at Kyle. The story is truly personal to Bunnell and he relates the events of the Lakota past through the lens of his experience and philosophy. Well written, emotional and highly engaging, it is worth the read. The last chapter, the author’s description of the funeral of Vernell’s father, Chief Guy White Thunder, is highly recommended for members of today’s dominant white culture on the Plains for its sympathetic reflection on the unquenchable dignity and unity of the Lakota people. MJS

This Blessed Earth: A Year in the Life of an American Farm Family Ted Genoways New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2017. Prologue, epilogue, acknowledgments, bibliography, photographs, 226 pp., $26.95 hardcover.


incoln, Nebraska-based writer Ted Genoways continues his focus on contemporary agriculture in this new book, which follows The Chain, his recent exploration of the meatpacking industry. Here he digs into twenty-first century production agriculture as told through the multigenerational story of homesteader Thomas Barber and his descendants, the Harrington and Hammond families of Centennial Hill Farm in York County, Nebraska. The author follows Rick Hammond and his family through the 2014-15 harvest-to-harvest year, a time of low commodity prices and uncertain national agricultural trade policies. Genoways sets the story within the context of the history of these families, their land, the rise of irrigation, the introduction of

genetically-modified seeds and new GPS-guided planting, market shifts, and threats from pipeline developers. The result is a valuable book for its review of the march of Nebraska agriculture over time. Along the way, the writer explores his own family’s involvement with farming, politics, and the beginnings of irrigation in the North Platte River Valley. This important book by an insightful and skilled writer is recommended for every Nebraskan. MJS

Prelude to the Dust Bowl: Drought in the Nineteenth-Century Southern Plains Kevin Z. Sweeney Norman: University of Oklahoma Press, 2016. Acknowledgments, introduction, epilogue, notes, bibliography, index, maps, photographs, xv, 283 pp., $34.95 hardcover.


weeney, a professor of geography and history, combines the science of paleoclimatology, the oral traditions of Native Americans, and the written historical record of the Near Southwest, a large swath of land surrounding the Oklahoma Panhandle in parts of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado and southern Kansas. He examines four major nineteenth-century droughts in the Near Southwest, showing how they impacted its Native American and Euro-American residents. For example, drought prompted bison herds to migrate north in the late 1860s; the Southern Cheyenne and Arapaho followed the herds across the Arkansas River, leading to the fatal conflict known as Hancock’s War. Sweeney shows how the cycle of drought affected the region’s early social and cultural history, a story eclipsed by the severity of the 1930s Dust Bowl in the same region. This environmental history is a reminder that climate change of any length influences the possibilities available to human residents. And in this part of the West, drought will strike again. This important book should influence current thinking on climate change.


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See? Coronado Made it to Nebraska After All


istorians long believed that in 1541, Francisco Vázquez de Coronado became the first European explorer to reach the Platte River in Nebraska. By the 1890s, historical and archeological evidence pointed toward central Kansas as Coronado’s farthest north, but the story lived on in popular culture. Here, “Coronado” takes a smoke break at Nebraska’s Diamond Jubilee in Omaha on November 5, 1929. The celebration marked seventy-five years since the opening of Nebraska Territory to Euroamerican settlement. More than 150,000 people lined the two-mile route of the “Parade of Nations.” According to the next day’s Omaha World-Herald, the turnout was nearly as large as the record crowds for Woodrow Wilson and Charles Lindbergh.


The parade included Indians representing “Nebraska’s first families,” and floats representing various immigrant groups and historical topics. The parade’s larger theme, said the World-Herald, was to depict “the perils of the pioneers, the struggles and privations of the early home makers and achievements of the second generation.” More perils, struggles, and privations were soon to come. The same newspaper includes a full-page ad from The Saturday Evening Post attempting to calm fears after the recent stock market crash: “Wall Street may sell stocks but Main Street is still buying goods. The ticker may slow down but production is going right ahead.” Despite cheerleading from the Post and from President Hoover, the nation’s economy plunged into the Great Depression. —David L. Bristow, Editor


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Back cover: Moonshine liquor seized by law enforcement from 4200 N Street, Lincoln, in 1931. Detail of RG2183-1931-912

Right: Detail of 1922 sheet music, “Songs of the Ak-Sar-Ben Pageant: Coronado in Quivera.” Hartley Burr Alexander, best known as the “iconographer” of the Nebraska State Capitol, wrote the lyrics. History Nebraska 367/AK7ps

Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation Board of Directors Trixie Schmidt, President Sue Tricker, Treasurer Allison Petersen, Secretary Rod Basler Lizabeth Bavitz Nancy E. Davis Steve Guenzel Kirk Jamison F. William Karrer Martin A. Massengale Robert McFarland Michael Nelson Ryan Sailer L. Joe Stehlik Carol Zink The Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation is a public, nonprofit, 501(c) (3) organization founded to solicit, receive, and manage gifts of money and property to assist History Nebraska (Nebraska State Historical Society) in its mission. Private funding secured by the Foundation helps support History Nebraska’s efforts to acquire, preserve, and exhibit Nebraska’s historical treasures.

You can help ensure that the record of the past remains available for future study through a contribution of money or property to the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation. The Foundation supports History Nebraska in its mission and can provide information and assistance regarding planned giving in confidence and at no cost or obligation.

Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation Leslie Fattig, Executive Director Email: 128 N. 13th St., Suite 1010 Lincoln, NE 68508 402-435-3535 |


PAID 1500 R ST. Lincoln, Nebraska 68508-1651 Publication No. (ISSN 0028-1859)

Nebraska History Summer 2018  
Nebraska History Summer 2018