Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation
foundation news

March / April 2006

"Beef State: A History of Nebraska Beef"

Just how did Nebraska, once called the "Great American Desert," become the greatest beef-producing state in the world? It is a story that is central both to our state and to the larger pageant of American history, yet one that is largely unknown.

The Civil War not only made Nebraska a state - the first added to the Union after the war - but also helped make Nebraska the Beef State. The Beef State story is also one of cowboys and ranchers who tamed a wild land where buffalo were rapidly replaced by cattle. It is the story of the fight over land and water. It is the story of the genius of saints and sinners, entrepreneurial giants and common folk. It is the story of victory and loss. Ultimately it is Nebraska's biggest story.

The American pattern of eating changed dramatically because of Nebraska. Prior to the Civil War, pork was the centerpiece of the American diet. Beef was a seasonal food, consumed mostly during the cold months of winter. In the three decades following the war, the improvement of cattle breeds and, most important, Edward Cudahy's invention of the artificial refrigerated chilling room, made us a nation of beef-eaters. By 1952 Omaha had become the largest meat-producing city in the world. Thus Nebraska was central in creating a distinctly American cuisine based on beef.

This project will marshal the power of Nebraska Educational Telecommunications' statewide reach to make the story of Nebraska beef both provocative and approachable. The core of the project will be an hour-long documentary. Plans call for the documentary to also be made available worldwide as streaming video over the website. Unlike documentaries in the past, availability on the web will extend the production life much longer than broadcast alone. Moreover, web availability creates the potential for a truly global audience. The website will also provide enhanced content and expanded information for educational use, but available to anyone.

Cowboys and Cattle Barons Project Receives Funding

The Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation received grants from the Nebraska Beef Council, the Nebraska Cattlemen Association, and the Nebraska Cattlemen Research and Education Foundation in support of "Beef State: A History of Nebraska Beef," a co-production of the Nebraska State Historical Society and Nebraska Educational Telecommunications.

This major telecommunications enterprise will bring the engaging history of beef and how Nebraska changed the way America eats to a broad audience through a one-hour documentary produced in state-of-the-art, high definition television. Companion educational materials will also be produced.

The $80,000 grant from the Beef Council and the contributions from the Cattlemen Association and Foundation provide just more than half of the total needed to produce the documentary. The total budget for the project, to air on NET1, is estimated at $163,000. If you would like to support this project, please contact Jackie McCullough, executive director, Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation, at 888-515-3535.

Wes Cowan (left), host of the PBS series History Detectives, talks with Archeology Associate Director Rob Bozell and Gloria and Herb Gibreal at the site of Engineer Cantonment north of Omaha.

Engineer Cantonment Archeological Site Donated

The Herb and Gloria Gibreal family of Omaha has donated to the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation nearly four acres north of Omaha in the Ponca Hills area just inside Washington County. The property includes the archeological remains of Engineer Cantonment, the 1819-20 winter quarters of Maj. Stephen H. Long's scientific party. The Nebraska State Historical Society's Archeology Division had hoped to secure this important site to ensure its permanent preservation and make it available for archeological exploration and interpretation for decades to come. The site has been nominated to the National Register of Historic Places in recognition of its archeological research potential and significance to the history of science and exploration of the American West.

The Society's archeologists are working with Dr. Hugh Genoways of the University of Nebraska State Museum and Dr. Jerry Choate of the Sternberg Museum of Natural History at Fort Hays State University (Kansas) to prepare a research paper announcing to the scientific community the discovery of Engineer Cantonment. The paper will focus on the cantonment's importance as the type site for the scientific description of many species of mammals, birds, reptiles, insects, and plants (including such well-known examples to Nebraskans as the coyote, garter snake, and boxelder bug). Several other outside researchers will be working with Society staff members on various aspects of the project, including study of the local geology as well as plant remains and trade beads recovered from the site. 

As laboratory processing of site materials progresses, a technical report will be completed dealing with what has been learned through field, laboratory, and archival research. Work will also continue on the development of a long-range plan for the study and management of Engineer Cantonment. Because the precise location of the site is now known, the search for other nearby sites of the same general time, such as Lisa's Post and Cantonment Barbour, should be easier and more productive than in the past.

The Board of Directors of the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation would like to thank the Gibreals for their very generous donation of the land and for their commitment to revealing this important aspect of Nebraska history. Many archeological sites are destroyed every year in the greater Omaha area through development, making the Engineer Cantonment acquisition of vital importance.

Test excavations at Engineer Cantonment.


Bea Seybert joined the staff of the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation as administrative assistant on December 1. Bea grew up on a farm in Otoe County near Syracuse. Before coming to the NSHSF, Bea was office manager at Danley's Paint and Décor for ten years. When not working Bea and her husband, Terry, enjoy traveling and golfing. She also enjoys spending time with family and friends, and her three little grandsons keep her very busy.

Contact Information:

Jackie McCullough, Executive Director
Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation
Kinman-Oldfield Suite 1010
128 North 13th Street
Lincoln, NE 68508-1565

Ph: 402-435-3535
Toll Free: 888-515-3535
Fax: 402-435-3986


2005-06 Foundation Board of Directors

Allison D. Petersen, Walton, President
Steven E. Guenzel, Lincoln, Executive Vice President
Jack D. Campbell, Lincoln, Vice President
C. John Guenzel, Lincoln, Treasurer
Joanne F. Shephard, Valentine, Secretary

James C. Creigh, Omaha
Bruce M. Frasier, Omaha
Dr. James W. Hewitt, Lincoln
Dr. F. William Karrer, Omaha
JoAnne D. Kissel, Lincoln
Carol F. Maddux, Wauneta
Dr. Martin A. Massengale, Lincoln
John D. Massey, Scottsbluff
George H. Moyer, Jr., Madison
James F. Nissen, Lincoln
David H. Oldfather, Kearney
Julie M. Schroeder, Waterloo
Andrew D. Strotman, Lincoln
John W. Webster, Omaha
Dr. John R. Wunder, Lincoln

Patricia Phillips, Omaha, NSHS President, Ex-officio
Peter Bleed, Lincoln, NSHS Treasurer, Ex-officio
Michael J. Smith, Lincoln, NSHS Director, Ex-officio

January / February 2006 Issue

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Last updated 17 February 2006

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