Why Bother with Nebraska History?

RG986-6 detail“Why should we bother with the history of Nebraska or any other state?” writes historian Frederick C. Luebke. “What makes its history distinctive or different, let us say, from that of Iowa or Kansas? A skeptic might well argue that while the superficialities of names and events change from Nebraska to its neighbors, truly significant historical trends are not encompassed by the artificial boundaries of a state.”

Imagine this as a challenge for a historian: Sum up the history of your state–and the things that make it distinctive–within the space of a magazine article. Luebke did just that in “Time, Place, and Culture in Nebraska History,” an article in the Winter 1988 issue of Nebraska History.

Luebke discusses rainfall, the Platte valley, immigrants, railroads, the selection of Omaha as territorial capital in 1854, school districts, Prohibition, politics, taxes, race and ethnicity, and a variety of other topics that have shaped Nebraska history.

The crowd forced the auctioneer to accept bids of five cents on all items, thereby producing $5.35 for a mortgage debt of$449 owed the Elgin State Bank. This was the first ofmany "penny auctions" held in Nebraska under the leadership of the Farm Holiday Association. Illustration from "Time, Place, and Culture in Nebraska History." RG986-6

Farm auction near Elgin, Neb., in 1932. The crowd forced the auctioneer to accept bids of five cents on all items, thereby producing $5.35 for a mortgage debt of $449 owed the Elgin State Bank. This was the first of many "penny auctions" held in Nebraska under the leadership of the Farm Holiday Association. Illustration from "Time, Place, and Culture in Nebraska History." RG986-6

If you ever wanted the state’s entire history in one article, this may be as close as you’ll come to it. Of course, Luebke isn’t trying to tell it all, just to sketch in some of the major themes.

How well did he do? One of the things that keeps historians and history buffs talking is that even when people agree on the facts, they tend to disagree as to which facts are the most important. Do you agree with Luebke’s choices, or do you think he places too much or too little emphasis on some things? Let the discussion begin.

—David Bristow, Associate Director for Research & Publications

(By the way, our online collection of Nebraska History articles continues to grow. See the full list here: http://www.nebraskahistory.org/publish/publicat/history/full-text/index.htm)

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2 Responses to Why Bother with Nebraska History?

  1. Mary Ann May-Pumphrey says:

    Waaaaaaahhh! The link above to the full article is broken. Please fix!

    • dbristow says:

      Thanks for letting us know! I just checked the link and it’s working now. The linked file is a PDF, so if you aren’t able to open it, make sure you have a current version of Adobe Reader (it’s free). You can download it at http://www.adobe.com/products/reader/

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