Nebraska – 125 Years Ago

Recently I was browsing the Nebraska Memories website and ran across a photo of Omaha taken from the intersection of Center Street near 40th Street. The date of the photo was 1888. I did a bit of searching in Nebraska Memories and was pleasantly surprised with the variety of items all from 1888. Here are a few items that made an impression on me.

Crawford, Nebraska, in 1888Let’s start in the panhandle with a picture of Crawford. The picture appears to be showing main street or business area of town. Reading the note included with the picture I learned that sometime in the future most of the wooden buildings on the right side of the photo were destroyed in a fire. It’s hard to imagine how devastating of a loss that would be for the town.

Unfortunately the next stop in Fillmore County also isn’t very cheerful. On January 12, 1888 a bad blizzard hit the Great Plains. There are no pictures of the blizzard but there is a book in Nebraska Memories documenting the 50th anniversary of the blizzard. You can learn more about the blizzard and this book in Blizzard Reunion blog post.

Lincoln May Music Festival, 1888 Let’s move on to a happier occasion and look at the program from the Lincoln May Music Festival that was held at the First Congregational Church in Lincoln on May 14-16, 1888. At first this may not sound that interesting unless you are a music lover but I was surprised with all of the interesting things I learned looking at the program. As you expect there is great information about the concerts and performers but you will also ads from local businesses. Looking at the program I learned:

Lincoln police force, 1888

I’m sure everyone attending the Music Festival felt safe with the Lincoln Police Force on duty.

  • It would have cost your 50 cents to attend the festival or you could have purchased season tickets for $1.25.
  • At the festival they performed Judas Maccabaeus composed by George Frederic Handel and The Holy City by A. R. Gaul.
  • J. E. Miller advertised “Best Quality Body Brussels Carpet” for $1.05 per yard. The ad didn’t mention installation.
  • A single meal at the Odell’s Dinning Hall would cost you 25 cents or you could pay $4.50 per week.
  • The ad for “Leavitt’s Domestic” does not say what they are selling. Based on the picture and wording I’m guessing its coal. Whatever it is will cost you $7.65 delivered and it “Burns to Clean Ash. – Makes no Soot nor Clinker.”
  • Folks saving their money at the Union Savings Bank they would receive interest. “Paid depositors at the rate of Five per cent per annum on all deposits exceeding $5.00 and under $3,000.00, for all full calendar months such deposit is in bank. Interest payable semi-annually.”

Street grading on Center Street near 40th Street Let me end this tour of with the some photos of Omaha taken in 1888 by William Wallace. I’ve included links to the 1888 photos along with links to Google Street views of approximately the same location.

Visit Nebraska Memories to search for or browse through many more historical images digitized from photographs, negatives, postcards, maps, lantern slides, books and other materials.

Nebraska Memories is a cooperative project to digitize Nebraska-related historical and cultural heritage materials and make them available to researchers of all ages via the Internet. Nebraska Memories is brought to you by the Nebraska Library Commission. If your institution is interested in participating in Nebraska Memories, see for more information, or contact Beth Goble, Historical Projects Librarian, or Devra Dragos, Technology & Access Services Director.

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