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Historical Newsletter
June 1998


For nearly forty years the photographs of Solomon D. Butcher (1856-1927) and the letters of Uriah Oblinger (1842-1901) and his family have been used to tell the story of settlement on the Great Plains, most recently in the Ken Burns and Stephen Ives epic television production, The West.

Now these powerful photographs and moving letters will be available to all Nebraskans via the World Wide Web. The Library of Congress announced that it has selected these collections from the holdings of the Nebraska State Historical Society to add to its prestigious American Memory site. American Memory, which has received substantial funding from the Ameritech corporation, is designed to provide an electronic gateway to the nation's cultural treasures. As part of the Library's National Digital Library Program, American Memory allows the American citizen to directly interact with his or her own past.

The Solomon D. Butcher Collection comprises nearly 3,000 glass plate negatives crafted between 1886 and 1912. Butcher photographed actively in central Nebraska including Custer, Buffalo, Dawson, and Cherry counties. His photographs of sod houses have graced textbooks and histories of the American West for over three-quarters of a century, and are familiar to most Americans.

Uriah Oblinger came to Fillmore County to homestead in 1873. In the eloquent letters exchanged between Uriah and his soon-to-be-wife, Mattie, and in letters to other family members, Oblinger expressed a very personal insight into the joy and despair that was settlement on the Plains.

"We are both pleased and proud," said Lawrence Sommer, director of the Nebraska State Historical Society, "to have these two important collections added to the celebration of America's story on the American Memory web site."

Work on this project, which is expected to take over a year to complete, will begin in July 1998 at the Society's new Digital Imaging Laboratory at the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha. The laboratory will be equipped with some of the most sophisticated technology available in the world of digital imaging, and coupled with the state-of-the-art storage and security found at the Ford Center, will allow scans of the highest possible quality to be made quickly and safely. One of the major purposes in establishing this facility is to provide museums, historical societies, libraries, and other cultural organizations in Nebraska with an economical and safe way to bring their collections into the computer age. For more information about how your organization might use the Digital Imaging Laboratory, contact Julie Reilly, Ford Center director, at 402-595-1171.

For more information, visit the Nebraska State Historical Society web site at http://www.nebraskahistory.org, the Library of Congress/Ameritech National Digital Library Competition Web site at http://lcweb2.loc.gov/ammem/award/ or contact Jill Koelling at 402-471-4409.


Watch future newsletters for details about a one-day tour, October 28, to sites in the Omaha area. Stops will include the Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha, the Winter Quarters Visitors Center and Mormon Pioneer Cemetery in Florence, the Western Historic Trails Center in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and the Strategic Air Command Museum near Mahoney State Park. If the proposed tour interests you, call Deb McWilliams at 402-471-4955.



McCook will host an all-day session of the State Historical Records Advisory Board (SHRAB) on Wednesday, June 17. The McCook gathering is the third of five meetings to be held in Nebraska during 1998. The meetings are being funded by a grant from the National Historical Publications and Records Commission (NHPRC).

After a brief overview of the SHRAB's historical records strategic plan titled Insuring Nebraska's Documentary Heritage, the morning session features a grant-writing seminar. The afternoon will be devoted to a program on paper preservation.

The McCook Public Library, 802 Norris Ave., is the site for this meeting, which begins at 9:30 A.M. For more information about this or other upcoming SHRAB meetings or to obtain copies of Insuring Nebraska's Documentary Heritage, contact Andrea Faling at 402-471-4785.

By Cindy S. Drake, Library Curator

Passports and Nebraska Ancestors

Many Nebraska researchers have immigrant ancestors for whom it may be difficult (or impossible) to locate exact birthplaces in American records. Although my grandfather, William Kehlbeck, lived to be ninety-eight, he did not know the German birthplace of his father, Henry, who came to America in 1885. Henry was naturalized on September 17, 1906, and he was not required to report his exact birthplace in Germany for his naturalization papers. Federal laws that went into effect on September 26, 1906, required local courts to submit various reports to the Immigration and Naturalization Service. These reports requested more detailed information from immigrants such as exact birthplace along with the date, ship, and port of arrival in the United States.

From a local newspaper account I knew that Henry and two friends returned to Germany for a visit in 1913. Because he was a naturalized citizen it seemed likely that he would have needed a passport to return to his native country.

Before my visit to Washington, D.C. last year for a meeting, I reviewed a book titled The Center: A Guide to Genealogical Research in the National Capital Area by Christina K. Schaefer. From this source I learned that passports were not required of U.S. citizens before World War I, but they were frequently obtained for added protection. The National Archives has passport applications dating from 1791 to 1925. The applications became more detailed over the years, and it was possible that the date and place of birth would have been requested of an applicant.

The applications are arranged chronologically from 1830 to 1925 in bound volumes. According to The Center, the indexes are in different formats for various years. When I arrived at the National Archives, I first requested the three-by-five-inch index cards for the years 1906 through 1923. I was fortunate to locate Henry in this index and then I requested the actual application. His exact birthplace was listed, as well as the month, year, and port of departure from Germany; his birthdate; the date he was naturalized; and his physical description.

Before visiting or corresponding with the National Archives about passport records, I recommend that you review The Center, as well as "U.S. Passport Applications: Leads to Immigration and Naturalization Records" by John P. Colletta, which appeared in Heritage Quest, September/October 1997 (Issue Number 71, pp. 9-15).

In the next column I plan to review some of the presentations I attended at the National Genealogical Society Meeting in Denver May 5-9.

New Acquisitions of Interest to Genealogists

The Ancestry of the Paul Gengenbach Family and The Ancestry of the Paul Gengenbach and Sophie Wilheimine (Koch) Gengenbach Families, [compiled by Diane G. Brown, et. al.]. (Families in Frontier and Phelps Counties).

The Kolb Newsletter and Kolb-Frank Newsletter: Dedicated to Preserving the History of the German Villages of Frank & Kolb, Russia, edited by Norman and Pauline Dudek. (Published in Nebraska).

[Jiskra Genealogy, compiled by Helen L. Dorman, Carole A. Dorman and Duane D. Dorman.] (Family in Saline County).

Some Charles and James Jordans, Born In Virginia 1790-1848, and Their Families, compiled by Paul R. Jordan. (Family in Cass County).

An American Melting Pot Saga, by Carl M. Schmitthausler. (Schmitthausler family in Lancaster County).

By Cindy S. Drake, Library Curator

The following are high priority titles we wish to purchase for the Library. The title and author are given, along with the approximate price (including postage if known). Members are encouraged to donate funds toward the purchase. Please direct monetary donations to me with a note on your check specifying "L/A Wish List" to alert our accounting staff.

Annie Oakley, by Shirl Kasper (University of Oklahoma Press, 1992), $22.95.

An Archaeology of the Soul: North American Indian Belief and Ritual, by Robert L. Hall (University of Illinois Press, 1998), $24.95 (paper).

Army Wives on the American Frontier: Living by the Bugles, by Anne Bruner Eales (Johnson Books, 1996), $16.95 (paper).

Bartenbach's Opera House, by Jane Cunningham (Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer Press, 1987), $4.95.

Pioneer Families of the Midwest, by Blanche Lea Walden, originally published in 1939, and reprinted by the Clearfield Company. The advertisement mentions that the family name of Dorr is represented from Nebraska. $28.50.

We would like to thank the following donors: Dr. William R. Marsh for donating the funds to purchase Road Ranches Along the Oregon Trail; Lori, Dixie, and Cheyenne Gottula for donating the funds to purchase A Thousand Honey Creeks Later: My Life in Music from Basie to Motown by Preston Love. The Library would also like to thank Richard Vogt for his monetary donation in December 1997 from which the following titles were purchased: Genealogical & Local History Books In Print, U.S. Sources & Resources (two volumes), Producing a Quality Family History, and Parkin's Guide to Tracing Your Family Tree in Missouri.



Beginning June 1, 1998, the Society marks the centennial of Omaha's Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition with a new exhibit in the headquarters building rotunda. Souvenirs, photographs, and printed materials recall the "world's fair" that attracted some 2.5 million visitors between June 1 and October 31, 1898.

Highlights of the exposition included displays or exhibit buildings from thirty-one states and several foreign countries, along with a "congress" of American Indians from thirty-five tribes. President William McKinley visited the exposition on October 15. The exposition's monumental and elaborate buildings were constructed of wood, plaster, and horsehair, and were razed soon after the exposition closed. The Society's exhibit includes fragments of some of the architectural details, and numerous photographs show the "White City" in all of its glory.

The Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition exhibit will be on view through May 31, 1999.



Did you drop that Ming vase? Did you put Grandma's silver spoon down the disposal? Did your dog chew up your favorite rare book? Don't throw it away. Instead, donate it to the Historical Society! The Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center needs your broken, dented, torn, or damaged objects to help museum studies students learn about the care, handling, storage, and exhibition of fragile items. To give your broken objects a second chance at life as teaching materials, call Objects Conservator Debbie Long at 402-595-1180 to discuss your donation.


E. A. Kral, Theatre Great Irene Worth: Her Career, Nebraska Roots, and California Years. This twelve-page, illustrated supplement to The Wilber Republican, April 15, 1998, reports the career of actress Irene Worth. Born Harriett E. Abrams in Fairbury in 1916, Worth had a distinguished acting career in England and the U.S., receiving three Tony Awards (1965, 1976, and 1991) and an Obie Award for sustained lifetime achievement. Order copies of supplement for $3 each (postage and handling included) from Stagecoach Mall, 510 E St., Fairbury NE 68352.


The Nebraska State Historical Society needs your support. Much of our Nebraska history is lost every day, and we need your help in saving it.

Call us before you clean out that attic! To preserve all aspects of Nebraska's history, we need photographs, letters, diaries, documents, home movies, tape recordings, video tapes, and artifacts that define the lives of all Nebraskans.

Make a cash donation toward preserving or interpreting a portion of Nebraska history. The NSHS Foundation is continually seeking support for special projects worthy of your investment. Gifts to the Foundation may be designated for a special project or to a particular division of the Society.

Your time is extremely valuable. Sharing your time as a Society volunteer allows history to be interpreted and delivered instead of just preserved.

Encourage others to become Society members or give a gift membership to a lover of history. That contribution alone will provide many benefits, and gives you the satisfaction of being an active participant in telling the story of our past.

If you are interested in contributing, write to the Nebraska State Historical Society, P.O. Box 82554, Lincoln NE 68501; or call toll-free 800-833-6747.


June 11: Lincoln Corral of Westerners, tour of Pioneers Park Gardens/Chet Ager Nature Center by Kay Young. Reservations required, contact Margaret Allington, 402-488-5698.

June 8-12: Fourth Annual Prairie Institute, "Rhythms of the Land," a week of history, literature, geography, and the arts in the land of Willa Cather--on site in Red Cloud. Sponsored by Willa Cather Pioneer Memorial in cooperation with the University of Nebraska-Kearney. For more information call the Willa Cather State Historic Site: 402-746-2653.

June 14: Medal of Honor Marker Dedication for Pvt. Robert D. Booker, 2 P.M., Rose Hill Cemetery, Callaway. Contact Bob Gavin, Custer County veterans service officer, 308-872-2071.

June 15, 17, 18: Kids and Cameras (ages ten to twelve). NSHS summer workshop for kids. For information contact Jessica C. Stoner, museum office, 1-800-833-6747 or 471-4757 in Lincoln.

June 18: Brown Bag Lecture, by David Wells, independent historian, Omaha. "The Trans-Mississippi Exposition of 1898 in Omaha," provided through Nebraska Humanities Council Speakers Bureau. 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, 15th and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

June 20: Dedication of "Buffalo Bill" Statue, Wild West Memorial, Cody Park, North Platte. Contact Convention and Visitors Bureau, 800-955-4528.

June 20-21: Evelyn Sharp Days, Evelyn Sharp Field, Ord. Auto and airplane swap meet, crafts and flea market, music, horseshoe tournament. Contact Dorothy Andreesen, 308-728-5527.

June 20-21: Civil War Reenactment, Stuhr Museum, Grand Island. Contact Larry Geiger, 308-382-2229.

July 16: Brown Bag Lecture, by Paul Eisloeffel, curator of manuscripts and audio-visual collections, NSHS Library/Archives Division. "Film Making in Nebraska: The Early Years." 12 noon, Museum of Nebraska History, 15th and P streets, Lincoln. Free and open to the public.

July 25: Collectors Saturday Lecture Series, by Nancy Kirk and Diane Russell Harbison. "Quilts," 10 A.M., Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center, 1326 South 32nd St., Omaha 68105. Free and open to the public. To schedule a twenty-minute appointment with speaker ($25 fee), call 402-595-1180. Appointments can be scheduled between 1:30 and 4 P.M.

In observance of Independence Day Society administrative offices and museum offices will be closed Friday, July 3. The NSHS Library/Archives will be closed Friday, July 3 through Sunday, July 5. The Gerald R. Ford Conservation Center in Omaha will be closed July 3 through July 5. The Museum of Nebraska History exhibits will be open regular hours all three days.

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Last updated 10 July 1998

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