Be it ever so humble … The interiors of early Nebraskans’ homes varied as much as the exteriors. Sod houses may have had only one room, and tenement houses may have had shared public areas, but there were mansions, too, containing extras like formal entry halls, libraries, smoking rooms, conservatories, sun rooms, and billiards rooms.
The image at left shows a sparsely finished room in an early 1900s Omaha settlement house which still provided a corner for relaxing in a rocking chair to read a book from the shelf while listening to music on the gramophone (Gramophone and chair inside settlement house, Omaha Public Library Collection). About four decades later, the descendants of those immigrants would have had a living room more similar to the one at the right (John Birkel family, Butler County Gallery Collection). While basics furnishings are the same and the room is used for reading, relaxing and listening to music, the easy chairs are now upholstered and the floor carpeted while the music comes from the radio at the left. Note that in the settlement house a clock and picture sit on top of the book shelf, while in the later living room a clock sits on the fireplace mantel with a picture hanging above.
In a simple house or farm house, meals were most likely served in the kitchen as is the case in the photograph to the left (Kitchen dining, Keene Memorial Library Collection). In the better part of town, a fancy house would have had a separate dining room such as the one at right, featuring chandelier lighting, coffered ceiling, carved dining table with matching upholstered chairs, oriental carpet and glass-front cabinet showcasing the fine china (Ray Julius Nye residence dining room, Keene Memorial Library Collection). Still the family in the kitchen looks happy enough.
While the woman in the picture above probably cooked her family’s meals on a wood stove and used kerosene in her lamps, the young woman in the picture at right appears to have all the latest appliances available in 1945 (Man and woman in a kitchen, Omaha Public Library Collection). In addition to the gas stove and oven, she has electricity (the fuse box is behind her), indoor plumbing and probably a water heater. All that and a soldier safely returned from the war!
How comfortable do you think the bed at the left would be? It seems to dip a bit in the middle. But then this photograph is of a “third floor bedroom,” so even though the room is nicely furnished with extra pillows on the bed, framed photographs hung from a picture rail and a bedside table, perhaps it was not the “best guest room” (Bed at Wallace residence, Omaha Public Library Collection). In the master bedroom at the right, however, one would think the Mr. and Mrs. slept quite well in their own beds with the carved and turned frames (Ray Julius Nye residence master bedroom, Keene Memorial Public Library Collection).
No matter the furnishings or the number or types of rooms, people could still kick back and relax in their own personal space like the gentleman above (Man in rocking chair at desk, Nebraska State Historical Society Collection). Or perhaps enjoy a Christmas party like the children in the picture below with the interesting tree and decorations (Joseph T. May residence Christmas party, Keene Memorial Public Library Collection). We hope your Christmas is as merry as theirs!
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, or contact Beth Goble, Historical Services Librarian, or Devra Dragos, Technology & Access Services Director.