The Nebraska Statesman: The People Behind the Picture


Solomon Butcher’s photo of the Nebraska Statesman, Broken Bow, Nebraska, 1886. NSHS RG2608-2457a

An iconic Solomon Butcher photograph portrays a frontier newspaper office in Broken Bow. But the story of the two men who founded the short-lived paper has not been told until now. Patricia C. Gaster writes about it in the Fall 2011 issue of Nebraska History. It “may not have been one of Nebraska’s most notable newspapers,” Gaster writes, “but because of this iconic photograph, it is one of the most visually recognizable.”

“The Statesman, established in late 1885 as a ‘red hot Democratic paper’ by John S. Dellinger and Robert E. Martin, prospered briefly because it enjoyed the patronage of the land office at Grand Island.” The partnership later dissolved, with Martin retaining ownership of the paper until he left Broken Bow suddenly in 1891.

This wasn’t Martin’s only abrupt departure from a town. Five years later he would narrowly escape a lynch mob in Eddyville, Iowa. But you’ll have to read Gaster’s article to learn more about that. For the purposes of this blog post, the interesting thing is the number of newspapers Broken Bow had in its early days. Incorporated in 1884, two years later the town was said to have a population of 1,000. The Statesman was one of three newspapers competing for readers and advertisers. The others were the Custer County Leader and the Custer County Republican. And after Martin and Dellinger split up, Dellinger founded the short-lived Broken Bow World before moving away.

Today Broken Bow has about 3,100 residents, but only one newspaper, the Custer County Chief.

The Fall 2011 issue of Nebraska History announces a new NSHS membership category: Subscription Only. For just $29 per year, you’ll receive four issues of each of Nebraska History and Nebraska History News. (Memberships with full benefits are still $40.) Click here to learn more.

—David L. Bristow, Associate Director / Publications

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