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Rosewater's Christmas

Edward Rosewater, longtime editor and publisher of the Omaha Bee, and a force to be reckoned with in Nebraska politics from the Bee's founding in 1871 until his death in 1906, came to America in 1854 at the age of thirteen. By the time the Civil War broke out he had become a telegrapher and served with the U.S. Army telegraph corps. He was brought to Nebraska by Edward Creighton to serve as Omaha manager for the new transcontinental telegraph line. In Nebraska he became immediately interested in politics. A member of the state legislature in 1870, he was the key figure in impeachment proceedings against Governor David Butler. After he established the Omaha Bee in 1871, it became his major interest and one of the state's great newspapers.

Rosewater's reminiscences of his first Christmas in the United States appeared in the Bee on December 25, 1904, several years before his death: "On Christmas morning, 1854-just fifty years ago today-I first set foot on American soil. Parting with kindred, friends and schoolmates at my native village in Bohemia, in the middle of September, and accompanying my parents to the seaport of Bremen, we traversed the ocean in the packet ship 'Cleo,' a three-mast sailing vessel, and landed in New York harbor after a voyage of forty-two days. Emerging from the ship, which landed in the neighborhood of Castle Garden, we, that is, my father, mother and seven children-five boys and two girls-marched up the middle of Broadway in Indian file, to take our first view of America's metropolis.

"The sky was clear and the air quite crisp on that memorable Christmas morning, and the streets were crowded with people arrayed in their holiday apparel. . . . The streets of New York of 1854 were very unlike the streets of New York in 1904. Broadway was paved then with square blocks of stone and on business days the rush of omnibuses, drays and other vehicles that choked the street from dawn to dusk was simply deafening. The most rapid locomotion was by ordinary carriage. The street railway had not made its appearance. The elevated road had not even been imagined and a bridge across the East river was an iridescent dream. The tallest building in New York was not over seven stories and the office building had not yet been invented."

Rosewater also recalled his first American Christmas gift, "a pea green jacket bought at a ready-made clothes shop for the munificent sum of $3, which I proudly donned and wore for two years thereafter, when it was transmitted for further wear to one of my younger brothers." He noted in conclusion, "These reminiscences are . . . a forceful reminder that my first Christmas in America was also the first Christmas that a handful of pioneers celebrated in the newly founded city of Omaha."

(December 2005)



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