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University of Nebraska, by Edward Manley

Edward Manley, a Chicago educator, was the son of Samuel Manley, one of five men composing the faculty of the University of Nebraska when classes first began in the fall of 1871. The father's health failed and he soon resigned. The Manley family lived in Lincoln only a few years when the boy, Edward, was less than twelve years of age. He subsequently shared memories about these early years in a paper read January 25, 1932, before the Chicago Literary Club.

Manley recalled, "A block away from the [family's Lincoln] home was the university, the one building set back a short distance from the street. The university was new and the building was new. In a few weeks students arrived for the opening of the first session. The Governor of the new state [David Butler] had already appointed the board of regents and they had selected the beginning of a faculty, which consisted of five members. . . . .

"The university building was interesting. The mansard was covered with slate in various colors. Broken slates still were to be found and the pieces treasured. The flat parts of the roof were covered tin, which was taken off periodically by cyclones and landed some miles away on the agricultural farm or wherever that particular wind listed . . . . The basement of the building, in which the furnaces were, was as full of pipes and tubes as a major operation. But the heating was never quite a success when the wind blew, and it blew most of the time in cold weather. . . .

"The building was of brick except the foundation, which was of local brown sandstone. Its resistance varied from inch to inch. Sometimes it had the qualities of granite and then those of lump sugar. It might crumble at the touch or it might resist blows of the hammer. This uneven quality soon betrayed itself in the foundation, and the building was rapidly becoming unsafe. So they decided to give the university a new foundation. Short square timbers were brought and hundreds of jackscrews. Workmen put the timbers and jacks in place and raised the building slightly off the old foundation. Thus did the frontier contribute its share toward the elevation of learning. By taking a section at a time they replaced the brown sugar foundation with one of limestone."

(November 2000)



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