Nebraska is a state of the central United States in the Great Plains. It was admitted as the 37th state in 1867. The region became part of the United States through the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and was made a separate territory by the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854. Its present boundaries were established in 1861. Lincoln is the capital and Omaha the largest city. Population: 1,750,000.
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Hunters, Explorers, and Fur Traders
Nebraska's soil has been farmed since prehistoric times, but the Native Americans of the plains—notably the Pawnee—devoted themselves more to hunting the buffalo than to farming, since buffalo, as well as the pronghorn antelope and smaller animals, were then abundant in the area. The Spanish explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado and his men were the first Europeans to visit the region. They probably passed through Nebraska in 1541.
The French also came and in the 18th cent. engaged in fur trading, but development began only after the area passed from France to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. The Lewis and Clark expedition (1804) and the explorations of Zebulon M. Pike (1806) increased knowledge of the country, but the activities of the fur traders were more immediately valuable in terms of settlement. Manuel Lisa, a fur trader, probably established the first trading post in the Nebraska area in 1813. Bellevue, the first permanent settlement in Nebraska, first developed as a trading post.
Steamboats and Wagon Trains
Steamboating on the Missouri River, initiated in 1819, brought business to the river ports of Omaha and Brownville. The natural highway formed by the Platte valley was used extensively by pioneers going west over the Oregon Trail and also the California Trail and the Mormon Trail. Nebraska settlers made money supplying the wagon trains with fresh mounts and pack animals as well as food.
Nebraska became a territory after passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. The territory, which initially extended from lat. 40°N to the Canadian border, was firmly Northern and Republican in sympathy during the Civil War. In 1863 the territory was reduced to its present-day size by the creation of the territories of Dakota and Colorado. Congress passed an enabling act for statehood in 1864, but the original provision in the state constitution limiting the franchise to whites delayed statehood until 1867.
Railroads, Ranches, and the Growth of Populism
In 1867 the Union Pacific RR was built across the state, and the land boom, already vigorous, became a rush. Farmers settled on free land obtained under the Homestead Act of 1862, and E Nebraska took on a settled look. The population rose from 28,841 in 1860 to 122,993 in 1870. The Pawnee were defeated in 1859, and by 1880 war with the Sioux and other Native American resistance was over. With the coming of the railroads, cow towns, such as Ogallala and Schuyler, were built up as shipping points on overland cattle trails. Buffalo Bill's Wild West Shows opened in Nebraska in 1882.
Farmers had long been staking out homestead claims across the Sand Hills to the high plains, but ranches also prospered in the state. The ranchers, trying to preserve the open range, ruthlessly opposed the encroachment of the farmers, but the persistent farmers won. Many conservationists believe that much of the land that was plowed under should have been left with grass cover to prevent erosion in later dust storms.
Nature was seldom kind to the people of Nebraska. Ranching was especially hard hit by the ruinous cold of the winter of 1880–81, and farmers were plagued by insect hordes from 1856 to 1875, by prairie fires, and by the recurrent droughts of the 1890s. Many farmers joined the Granger movement in the lean 1870s and the Farmers' Alliances of the 1880s. In the 1890s many beleaguered farmers, faced with ruin and angry at the monopolistic practices of the railroads and the financiers, formed marketing and stock cooperatives and showed their discontent by joining the Populist party. The first national convention of the Populist party was held at Omaha in 1892, and Nebraska's most famous son, William Jennings Bryan, headed the Populist and Democratic tickets in the presidential election of 1896. Populists held the governorship of the state from 1895 to 1901.
Improved conditions in the early 1900s caused Populism to decline in the state, and the return of prosperous days was marked by progressive legislation, the building of highways, and conservation measures. The flush of prosperity, largely caused by the demand for foodstuffs during World War I, was almost feverish. Overexpansion of credits and overconfidence made the depression of the 1920s and 30s all the more disastrous (see Great Depression). Many farmers were left destitute, and many others were able to survive only because of the moratorium on farm debts in 1932. They received federal aid in the desperate years of drought in the 1930s.
Better weather and the huge food demands of World War II renewed prosperity in Nebraska. After the war, efforts continued to make the best use of the water supply, notably in such federal plans as the Missouri River basin project, a vast dam and water-diversion scheme.
Recent attempts to diversify Nebraska's economic base to reduce dependence on meat processing and agriculture have made Lincoln, where state government and the Univ. of Nebraska generate many jobs, a business center, along with Omaha. Among noted Nebraskans have been the pioneer and historian Julius Sterling Morton, who originated Arbor Day, and authors Willa Cather, Mari Sandoz, John G. Neihardt, Loren Eisley, and Wright Morris, all of whom have vividly described the state.
- Nebraska was once called "The Great American Desert".
- In 1927, Edwin E. Perkins of Hastings invented the powered soft drink Kool-Aid.
- J. Sterling Morton founded Arbor Day in Nebraska City in 1872.
- The state nickname used to be the "Tree Planter's State", but was changed in 1945 to the "Cornhusker State".
- State insect is the honeybee.
- State motto: Equality before the law.
- The goldenrod was declared the state flower on April 4, 1895.
- The Naval Ammunition Depot located in Hastings was the largest U.S. ammunition plant providing 40% of WWII's ammunition.
- The Lied Jungle located in Omaha is the world's largest indoor rain forest.
- Nebraska is the birthplace of the Reuben sandwich.
- Spam (canned meat) is produced in Fremont.
- Nebraska has the U.S.'s largest aquifer (underground lake/water supply), the Ogalala aquifer.
- Nebraska has more miles of river than any other state.
- The Union Pacific's Bailey Yards, in North Platte, is the largest rail classification complex in the world.
- Nebraska is the only state in the union with a unicameral (one house) legislature.
- Nebraska was the first state to complete its segment of the nations mainline interstate system, a 455 mile stretch of four lane highway.
- Nebraska is both the nation's largest producer and user of center pivot irrigation.
- Nebraska's Chimney rock was the most often mentioned landmark in journal entries by travelers on the Oregon Trail.
- The 911 system of emergency communications, now used nationwide, was developed and first used in Lincoln, Nebraska.
- Nebraska has more underground water reserves than any other state in the continental U.S.
- Marlon Brando's mother gave Henry Fonda acting lessons at the Omaha Community Playhouse.
- Lincoln County is the origin of the world's largest "Wolly Mammoth" elephant fossil.
- Weeping Water is the nations largest limestone deposit and producer.
- Mutual of Omaha Corporate headquarters is a public building built with 7 floors underground.
- The Nebraska Cornhuskers have been to a record 27 consecutive bowl games and 27 consecutive winning seasons
- The University of Nebraska Cornhusker football team has produced more Academic All-Americans than any other Division I school.
- In Blue Hill, Nebraska, no female wearing a 'hat that would scare a timid person' can be seen eating onions in public.
- The world's first college course about radio personality Rush Limbaugh is taught at Bellevue University in Nebraska.
- Origin of Nebraska's Name: From an Oto Indian word meaning flat water
- Nebraska's Motto: Equality Before the Law
- Nebraska's State Gem is the Blue Agate
- The largest porch swing in the world is located in Hebron, Nebraska and it can sit 25 adults.
- The world's largest hand-planted forest is Halsey National Forrest near Thedford, Nebraska
- The world's only museum dedicated to Fur Trading is located at Fort Atkinson near Blair.
- The famous architect, Edward Durrell Stone, designed the Stuhr Museum near Grand Island, Nebraska.
- The University of Nebraska-Lincoln weight room is the largest in the country. It covers three-fourths of an acre
- Chevyland USA near Elm Creek, Nebraska is the only museum dedicated to a single line of cars.
- The largest Kolache Festival in the world is located in Prague, Nebraska
- Cozad, Nebraska is located on the 100th Meridian where the humid east meets the arid west.
- In Nebraska in 1986 for the first time ever two women ran against each other for governorship of a state.
- The cost of the Nebraska Capitol building was $ 9,800,440.07 in 1932. The construction job came in under budget and the building was paid for by the time it was completed.
- Union Pacific Railroad's museum is headquartered in Nebraska.
- Buffalo Bill Cody held his first rodeo in North Platte, Nebraska July 4, 1882.
- In 1950, Omaha became the home of the College World Series.
- There are five army forts open to the public in Nebraska: Atkinson, Kearny, Hartsuff, Sidney, and Robinson.
- Sidney, Nebraska was the starting point of the Black Hills Gold Rush.
- Antelope and Buffalo are counties in Nebraska named after animals.
- Dr. Harold Edgerton of Aurora, Nebraska is the inventor of the strobe light.
- Kearney, Nebraska is located exactly between Boston and San Francisco.
- Father Edward Flanagan founded Boys Town in Omaha, Nebraska in 1917.
- Nebraska.gov - Official website.
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