When people think of places like Nebraska, and the American West in general, they often assume that residents have little to no access to cultural institutions. That is, no libraries, opera houses, theaters, art museums or symphonies. Those of us who live in the West, know this to be otherwise. In fact, nineteenth century mining communities hosted traveling acting troupe or minstrel shows. Other early towns built opera houses and theaters, while some opened small libraries.
With its large population, Omaha was home to numerous theaters, such as the American Music Hall and the Orpheum Theater.
Theaters and other entertainment venues could be found in smaller communities as well. Opera houses, for example, could be found in Valley and Papillion. They may not have been the most beautiful of buildings, but they provided stages for more than a few talented people. More importantly, opera productions allowed people with a brief respite from the rigors of prairie life.
Additionally, Nebraska was home to more than few musical groups. Composed of local musicians, these groups enabled participants to hone their talents while providing entertainment for others. For some musicians, particularly those who immigrated from outside the United States, music may have not only connected them to fellow immigrants, but linked them to their former homes as well.
If the opera or a musical gathering didn’t provide enough entertainment, people could attend Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show when it roared into the state. Perhaps not high culture, but entertaining!
Visit http://memories.nebraska.gov/ 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 http://nlc.nebraska.gov/nebraskamemories/participation.aspx for more information, contact Devra Dragos, Technology & Access Services Director.