Official Nebraska Government Website Nebraska State Historical Society

 Recent Acquisitions
  by Museum Collections

13160-8  13160-10 13160-8 & 10

The donor of these two quilts indicated that they were purchased at the Miller & Paine department store in Lincoln, Nebraska. Unfortunately, she passed away before further explaining what she meant by this. Although her statement seems to imply that these quilts were purchased as finished pieces at the store, several Lincoln quilters we consulted do not recall Miller & Paine selling finished quilts. They did, however, recall them selling quilt kits and hosting quilt shows.

If you have any information that may be of assistance to us in tracking down the history of these two quilts, please contact Senior Museum Curator Laura Mooney at .

Source: Lois Gaylord, Chesnut Hill, Massachusetts

Items pictured below were used by J.W. Thompson, who worked in the earliest days of the Rural Free Delivery (RFD) mail system. Thompson was in charge of Route 1 in Farnam, Nebraska.

Thompson was born on February 14, 1866 in eastern Nebraska. When he was 11, his family moved to Frontier County, where his father, a carpenter, established a brickyard. Two years later, his father sold the brickyard and took up ranching. The family of eleven lived in a sod house until a permanent home was built. Thompson began his own career as a carpenter, but he and his wife, Ida B. Owen, later homesteaded north of Farnam. In 1906, they moved to Farnam with their three children, Owen, Maude, and Mabel and he began delivering mail.

RFD revolutionized the way farm families kept in touch with the rest of the world. The service was tried as an experimental run in West Virginia on October 1, 1896. It was implemented nationwide on July 1, 1902. Before RFD, farm families had to pick up their mail in the nearest town which could be hours or days away. After RFD they could order machinery and supplies and easily send and receive letters and news. RFD also forced the government to improve the conditions of the roads and stimulated economic growth since families could buy and sell goods by mail and by using the improved roads.

In the early years, rural carriers received a salary of a maximum of $300 per year and provided their own transportation. In 1928, carriers who served a route of 24 miles, six days per week received $1800.00 per year plus four cents per mile for equipment maintenance. Thompson first used a horse and carriage and later conducted his route by automobile. Thompson retired in 1931 and his son Owen took over the route. Thompson died on March 14, 1938.

Source: Nebraska State Historical Society Permanent Collection

J.W. Thompson posing by the mailbox of Henry G. Beye,
who came to Frontier County by covered wagon around 1898. He, his wife Caroline Beisner, and his two sons Art and Herman farmed a section of land three miles south of Farnam. Farnam's History relates that the pasture and windmill in the background of Thompson's picture were constructed after a new road to town was graded. Beye was the fourth box on Thompson's route.

Mail Carrier's Strongbox
whose contents at the time of acquisition included a 1953 list of U.S. Parcel Post Rates, two sheets of notes, a letter scale, parchment paper, two blotters, a package scale, two address books and a 1928 Postal Laws and Regulation book.

  Mail Carrier's Bag
  Mail Carrier's Cap

Whites Only Telephone Booth

A simple phone booth sign reminds us that racial segregation and discrimination were very real here in Nebraska. Our history includes laws against interracial marriage, practices that segregated home buying, and a once-active and virulent Ku Klux Klan. Even during World War II the Nebraska USO clubs that served our brave service men and women had separate facilities for black and white soldiers.

This sign probably dates from the 1920s, but it ties to much larger stories in Nebraska's past. Over the course of the next year the Nebraska State Historical Society will plan and develop exhibits and programs that will explore this important and timely subject more fully.

If you can assist in dating or documenting this sign, please contact John Carter at 402.471-4752 or

Source: Nebraska State Historical Society Permanent Collection


During the regular session in 2008 the Nebraska legislature passed LB157 commonly known as Nebraska's "safe haven" law. Safe haven laws are usually intended to provide parents with a safe way to surrender a newborn they feel they are unable to care for and thereby reduce the number of infants abandoned in peril. However, Nebraska's law was written so broadly it allowed parents or guardians to leave children up to the age of eighteen at a Nebraska hospital without facing abandonment charges.

Under the law 36 children were surrendered to Nebraska hospitals in a 127 day period. None were newborns or infants and many were brought to Nebraska across state lines. A number of the children were dealing with mental health or behavioral issues. Nebraska's law became the subject of intense national publicity and debate about its intent . It sparked increased public discussion about whether Nebraska, and other states, are providing adequate resources for parents of children with mental health or behavioral issues.

Feeling that the law was being abused, while acknowledging the challenges that many parents faced, Governor Dave Heineman called a special session of the legislature to include an age limit in Nebraska's safe haven legislation. The result was LB1 which amended LB157 to apply only to infants up to thirty days old. It became effective on November 22, 2008.

These signs, one applicable to the original law and one updated to reflect the amended law, were designed by the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services and made available to Nebraska hospitals.

Source: Nebraska State Historical Society General Collection

  Vietnam Women's Memorial Quilt

This quilt was owned by Judith Knopp of Lincoln, Nebraska, quilted by Donna Brittenham and Ann Davis, and painted by Arlene Koenig. Although no information is available about the quilters or painter, Judith Knopp was a 1st lieutenant in the U. S. Army during the Vietnam War and served as a nurse during a three-year tour at a large base hospital in Japan. She was also the Nebraska volunteer coordinator for the Vietnam Women's Memorial project during the 1980s through the memorial's dedication in Washington, DC in 1993.

The image in the center of the quilt is based on a statue by Rodger Brodin of Minneapolis, Minnesota. It was the initial design for the women's memorial, but it was not approved by the Commission of Fine Arts in 1987. A different memorial now stands in Washington.

Source: Judith Knopp Estate, Lincoln, Nebraska


The poster and booklet pictured here are from the Nebraska "Buy Fresh, Buy Local" marketing campaign which began in 2006 in Lincoln and Omaha. The idea behind the campaign was to better connect local food producers in a nine-county area with local grocery stores, restaurants, farmers markets and other food outlets. Producers paid a $25 fee to have their information listed in an online directory and brochures. Those purchasing also pay a fee, based on the size of their business, to be included in the listing. The campaign is a collaborative effort of the Nebraska Sustainable Agriculture Society, Nebraska Cooperative Development Center and Great Plains Resource, Conservation and Development Area.

Source: David Murphy, Lincoln
(10092-37, 32)

Marguerite Marks Nelson made this Drunkard's Path quilt sometime around 1930. Marguerite was born in Ord, Nebraska in 1900 and attended college in York. She married Harold Nelson, a farmer and barber, in 1930 and taught history at Park High School. She died in December of 1936, three days after the birth of her daughter, Katherine.

Source: Katherine Nelson, Vista, California

Change We Can Believe In

Tina Koeppe of Lincoln collected this Barack Obama campaign brochure, signed by Obama's wife Michelle, at the Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln on February 8, 2008. Speaking to a crowd of more than a thousand gathered at the Lied Center, Mrs. Obama urged Nebraskans to support her husband in Nebraska's first ever Democratic Party caucus held the following day.

Source: Tina Koeppe, Lincoln

    Sierra Nevada Bunnell Smith

This quilt was made for Sierra Nevada Bunnell, also known as Vada, who was born in Ashland, Nebraska, in 1870. Family legend has it that her father took a covered wagon load of freight to the west and was so impressed by the beauty of the mountains there that he named his baby girl Sierra Nevada. Sierra's father, Theodore Armstrong Bunnell, was a medical doctor and was elected to the Nebraska legislature as a Greenback Party representative.

Educated in Nebraska and Illinois, Sierra joined the faculty of the Lincoln Business College in 1890 or 1891 to teach stenography and typing. The Lincoln Business College was the predecessor to the Lincoln School of Commerce, which is now Hamilton College. This quilt was made by some of her students in 1892 when she decided to marry and move to Kansas. Almost every block is signed and the picture sewn into the center features college faculty at the time, including Sierra. With her husband, Asa Smith, Sierra lived the rest of her life in Kansas and died in 1933.

Murray Elwin Smith, Sierra's grandson, donated the quilt to the Nebraska State Historical Society.

American Albino  White Horse Ranch memorabilia

In 1917 twin brothers Cal and Hudson Thompson from West Point, Nebraska, bought a white stallion, "Old King," and began a breeding program. The breed they developed had pink skin and dark eyes. In the 1930s Cal and his wife, Ruth, bought Hudson's share of the program and began a registry for the breed, which they called American Albino. In 1938 Cal and Ruth moved to a 2,400-acre ranch near Naper, Nebraska, originally called El Rancho del Caballo Blanco, although it was known by most as White Horse Ranch.

In addition to the breed registry, Cal and Ruth trained the horses and began putting on regular Sunday afternoon shows at the ranch. Over time, they began to perform at horse shows, fairs, and rodeos. Ruth also started a riding school for young people. By the mid-1940s, some of the youths were part of the White Horse Troupe, which performed throughout the United States and Canada, as well as at the White Horse Bowl, a natural arena on the ranch.

Soon after Cal's death in 1963, Ruth Thompson closed the ranch and auctioned the equipment and most of the horses, though she retained ownership of the property. In 1989, with the help of former White Horse trouper Carley Daugherty and her husband, Dean, restoration of the ranch began. Although Ruth died in 1990 her sister, Ruby Shumaker, continued the restoration with the Daughertys' help. The White Horse Ranch soon opened for summer tours and on July 5, 1990, it was listed in the National Register of Historic Places.

Ruby Shumaker died in 2000, leaving the ranch to her children, Betty Whipple and Bob Shumaker, who generously donated the White Horse Ranch's archival collections and other memorabilia to the Nebraska State Historical Society.

Ruth Thompson wore this outfit during a White Horse Ranch show called the Liberty Act. Ruth was inducted into the National Cowgirl Hall of Fame in 1990 for her role in the development and registry of the American Albino horse, as well as for the development of the White Horse Ranch's training and riding school.

 13063-15 and 13063-16
Ruth Thompson and her sister, Ruby Shumaker, made ceramics to sell as souvenirs at the White Horse Ranch.

A very young White Horse Ranch trouper wore this costume. The White Horse Troupe began with mostly boys, then became coed, and included only girls by 1952. The troupers performed such feats as jumping horses over a convertible, and standing atop five or six horses jumping a three-foot hurdle side-by-side.

Nameplate for White Wings, one of the Thompson's top show horses. White Wings sired 102 white foals.

Cal and Ruth Thompson, 1938

Ruth Thompson with the White Horse Troupe, 1948

 RG1714-15     RG1714-22

A 1945 Life Magazine photo shoot at the White Horse Ranch. The ranch was featured in many publications, as well as in two movie shorts filmed by Warner Brothers in 1946 and 1952: Ride a White Horse and Ranch in White.

Nebraska Quarters
The official Nebraska Quarter Commemorative Set

On April 6, 2006, the Nebraska Quarter, with an image of Chimney Rock (a Nebraska State Historical Society Historic Site), was launched with much fanfare around the state. The Society was deeply involved in the planning of the launch events and was privileged to be the distributor of the Nebraska Quarter Commemorative Sets. On March 31 thirty thousand loose Nebraska Quarters were delivered to the Society in canvas bags. Immediately Awards Unlimited in Lincoln, the vendor for the commemorative set packaging, formed their "25¢ Swat Team" (complete with t-shirts), and began assembling the sets. These were then delivered to the Society's Nebraska History Museum, where staff and volunteers inserted them into special envelopes for delivery to the launch sites and the museum store.

By Monday, April 10, all fifteen thousand sets had been sold. The proceeds from the sales will go to the Nebraska State Historical Society Foundation and will be used for innovative projects in education. Many artifacts relating to the Nebraska Quarter launch (including a commemorative set) have been added to the Society's permanent collection. Here are a few:

T-shirt worn by the Awards Unlimited "25¢ Swat Team"

U.S. Mint Quarters, $1000, bagNebraska Quarters Bag tag11055-2917, 2918
Canvas bag with tag in which $1000 of loose Nebraska Quarters were delivered

Cigar making and cigar smoking in Nebraska reached their pinnacle shortly after the turn of the century. Then more than two hundred cigar makers in the state produced nearly thirty million cigars each year. Cigars declined in popularity as World War I, and then the 1920s, saw the rise in cigarette smoking.

Many of these early cigar "factories" were actually cottage industries located in a home or perhaps an adjoining shed. Two or three people made cigars by hand, using wooden molds. However, not all cigar manufacturing was done on such a small scale, even in Nebraska. In 1916 Hastings had six cigar factories producing seven million cigars per year. The Kipp Cigar Company, founded in 1909, by 1925 was making ten million cigars annually. Another Hastings cigar factory, the Evans-Bloom Cigar Company, was established in 1905 and by the 1920s claimed to be the largest cigar factory in Nebraska.

These Nebraska cigar boxes are just a few from the Charles Tuthill collection that were recently donated to the Society.

Road Queens Cigar Box
H. F. Busche, Seward
Early 1900s

Our Baby Cigar Box
Hobbs Bros. Manufacturers, Pawnee City

My Boys Cigar Box
Hene & Co., Omaha

Old Dad Cigar Box
Gay & Sons, Hastings
Early 1900s

Bismark Cigar Box
Falls City
Late 1800s- early 1900s

Little Pets Cigar Box
Shaffer & Miller, Beaver City

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year Cigar Box
Late 1800s-early 1900s

traffic safety label box of labels  10116-21

This box of traffic safety labels was donated to the Society by Gifford Mullins, former director of the Lincoln-Lancaster Safety Council and co-founder of the Nebraska Traffic Safety Foundation. The labels were used as part of the Save-A-Life Crusade, a 1955 traffic safety campaign spearheaded by the Save-A-Life League of America, a non-profit organization headquartered in Omaha. They were produced by Paramount Paper Products, also of Omaha.

cootie game     Abbot and Costello, Kitchen Mechanics  Mary's Little Lamb  Chimp on the Farm  11681

The Cootie game and three 8 mm Castle films belonged to John and Lydia Peters of Seward. All dating from the 1940s and 1950s, they were part of a larger collection of toys that the Peters' kept at their house to entertain their visiting grandchildren (all twenty-seven of them!), including the donor.

Source: Jan Livingston, Richmond, Indiana

Charles R. "Joe" Sterling, raised near Weeping Water, Nebraska, joined the U.S. Navy in the late 1950s. In January 1968 he was a crewmember on the USS Pueblo, a navy vessel on an intelligence mission off the coast of North Korea, which was attacked and captured by North Korean forces. One sailor was killed and the remaining eighty-two, including Sterling, were incarcerated in North Korea for eleven months. After his release, Sterling continued his naval career, retiring after nearly thirty years of active and reserve service. He died in 2002 in Lincoln, Nebraska. The items pictured here are part of a larger collection relating to Sterling's career and his experiences as a USS Pueblo crewmember, which the Nebraska State Historical Society has recently acquired.

Prisoner of War Medal awarded to Sterling following his incarceration in North Korea. The back of the medal is inscribed, "Awarded to Charles Sterling for honorable service while a prisoner of war, United States of America."

Purple Heart awarded to Charles Sterling in 1969 for wounds received while incarcerated in North Korea.

Cushman scooter  11932-10

This Cushman Super Silver Eagle scooter, manufactured in 1965, has an air-cooled Husky engine. The Cushman Motor Works of Lincoln manufactured many Eagles for Shrine groups, who were famous for their precision riding maneuvers in parades. Originally owned by an Omaha Tangier Shriner, this scooter bears the Omaha Shrine colors. Ken and Peggy McClure of Lincoln purchased this scooter in 1985 and used it for Cushman Club of America events. Peggy was a secretary at Cushman Motor Works for more than thirty years.

Source: Ken and Peggy McClure, Lincoln

organ 13013-1

James M. Ross purchased this Mason and Hamlin organ in 1879 for his 16-year-old daughter, Celia. He paid $100 and a horse for it. The organ was one of the first in Johnson County, Nebraska, and Celia had to ride her horse six miles to Tecumseh, the county seat, to take music lessons. So Celia could play for church services and special occasions, the Rosses hauled the organ into Tecumseh and Vesta. Celia later moved, with the organ, to Hitchcock County.

Source: Kim Wilnes, Lincoln, Nebraska

Tulip Appliqué  Around-the-World  Lavender Flowers in Pot  13046

Kathrine Enevold Grunwald made these quilts in the 1920s and 1930s. She was born in Germany in 1870 and in 1889, immigrated to Omaha to live with her sister. Kathrine was a talented seamstress and lace maker and shortly after her arrival in Omaha, became employed at a shirt manufacturing company. She married Bernhard Grunwald in 1898. Kathrine and Bernhard raised a family and lived in Omaha for the rest of their lives, where Kathrine used her formidable skills to produce beautiful quilts, lace, and other needlework.

Source: Berno Marie Anderson

star quilt 7152-161

This star quilt, by an unknown maker, was presented to Colonel Bryan Tuma, superintendent of the Nebraska State Patrol, during a March 14, 2006, celebration marking the Department of the Interior's approval of the Santee Sioux Nation's request for retrocession.

The act of retrocession returned criminal jurisdiction over the reservation to the tribe and federal government. It effectively reversed a 1953 law that gave the state of Nebraska jurisdiction over certain crimes committed on American Indian lands. Following the celebration, Colonel Tuma presented the quilt to Governor Dave Heineman.

Source: Governor Dave Heineman

wind tarp  sandhill glow  13048-1,2

Thomas Palmerton of Brownville painted these works, which were recently donated to the Nebraska State Historical Society. Palmerton, also known for his sculpture, graduated from the Kansas City Art Institute in 1959, and worked as an art director and educator at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. In 1975 he founded 7 Hills Art Casting Foundry in Brownville, where he still lives and maintains a gallery and studio. Palmerton's work can be seen in Nebraska art museums, the state capitol, and Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo, as well as in many other public and private collections.

Source: Thomas D. Palmerton

Winchester Sporting Rifle    lifter engraved detail

This Winchester Model 1876 Deluxe Sporting Rifle is factory engraved on the cartridge lifter with the following: "Judge E. S. Dundy, Falls City, Neb."  

Judge Dundy was the presiding judge in the trial of the Ponca leader Standing Bear and made the landmark ruling that Indians were persons under the law. Winchester records indicate that this rifle was shipped from the warehouse on April 10, 1879, twenty days before the start of the trial.

Source: Nebraska State Historical Society Permanent Collection

Joan (Hees) Clare and Lloyd Hees of Lincoln wore these typical square dance outfits of the 1980s and 1990s. Couples coordinated their outfits through matching fabric colors or patterns. About 2000 Callerlab, the national square dancing organization, changed the dress code for women, allowing "prairie skirts"(also known as "broomstick skirts") and tops of any style. The large petticoat seen here was no longer required, and dancers could purchase clothing at many retail outlets. Coordination of couple's outfits is still seen, but it is not as prevalent as before.


If you have an object you feel will help tell the story of Nebraska History, please contact the Nebraska History Museum.


Return to Museum Treasures


NSHS Home  |  Search  |  Index  |  Top
Last updated 6 July 2010

For questions or comments on the website itself, email  
Nebraska State Historical Society - P.O. Box 82554, 1500 R Street, Lincoln, NE 68501
Nebraska State Government Homepage
 |  Website Policies  |  © 2010 All Rights Reserved