Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Lincoln, Nebraska

Wed. July 17th - Fri. July 19th   
Wednesday night we stayed at the city campground in Beaver Crossing, Nebraska where there was once a trail from Nebraska City to Fort Kearney that crossed Beaver Creek here.  It was well-known for its artesian wells since 1895, which once filled the largest swimming pool in the state, supplied botanical gardens and in the 1930s goldfish and water lilies were raised here commercially in 50 ponds.  With the coming of irrigation, many of the wells went dry.
We drove to Lincoln on Thursday, where we took in the State Historical Museum.  On the ground floor they had a big exhibit of these Terri Lee dolls which were made in the largest factory in Lincoln in the late 1940s.  She fashioned the first doll after her daughter and later gave her an adopted brother named Jerri Lee, then two Mexican dolls, an Eskimo and two black dolls named Bonnie Lou and Benji and many more, including tiny stuffed monkeys and dogs for the dolls to have a pet.  Non-white dolls were very visionary in the late 40s when segregation was still a reality in many parts of the country.  They were all made from the same mold with different wigs and hand painted faces for different personalities.  They had high quality, fashionable clothes that could be washed and ironed.  They came with a lifetime warranty and free admission to the Terri Lee Doll Hospital.  Little girls were referred to as "Little Mothers" and received birthday cards and could join the friendship club, get Fashion Parade Magazines and subscribe to a monthly magazine with fashions, coloring pages, stories and contests.  Sounds like they were good at marketing.  In 1952 they sold over 100,000 dolls and 500,000 outfits.  I had never heard of this doll, but considering that one little coat cost $37.00 in 1950,  I'm just guessing that my mother hid all ads from me.  The factory later burned down and was moved to Apple Valley, California.  She became friends with many celebrities, including Gene Autry, after whom she modeled a doll.
Necklace made from land turtle leg bones in the 1800s.  It kind of reminded me of the necklace the girls made for John once.  They took all their baby teeth (that I had saved) to a friend of theirs who worked for a dentist and had holes drilled in them.  Then they made a necklace out of them and gave it to him for Christmas.  I don't understand why he never wears it???  
Native American water bottle made from a cow's stomach.  They were originally made from bison stomachs.  I'm certainly glad I don't have to carry one like this on the big bike ride next week and try to drink out of it.
Any of you old enough to remember these tablets we used when we started school way back in the 50s?
The first inaugural ball in 1855 for the new territorial governor was held at the city hotel in Omaha.  It was not a pretentious building, with only two rooms and walls thinly covered with a mud mixture for plaster and a rough, unplaned floor.  The dance floor was scrubbed, but the room was so cold, the water froze and glazed the floor in ice.  Nine women were all that could be mustered, even for a state occasion.  The icy floor caused several falls throughout the evening.  Supper was served at midnight (coffee with brown sugar, bacon sandwiches and dried apples) and had to be passed around, as there were no tables.  Times have certainly changed.
Seems like they could have used one of these buffalo hide coats at the inaugural ball.  In 1872 the Grand Duke Alexis of Russia took part in a special buffalo hunt in Nebraska sponsored by the U.S. government.  Buffalo Bill Cody, General Sheridan and Lt. Col. George Custer were also there.  Union Pacific provided a private train.  Chief Spotted Tail and a group of Brule Lakotas entertained with dances and shooting exhibitions.  The idea for Buffalo Bill Cody's Wild West Show originated in North Platte, Nebraska in 1882 when he did the "Old Glory Blowout" show for the 4th of July.  His Wild West Show toured the U.S. and Europe for the next 30 years.
1866 crimping or fluting iron pressed fabric into evenly spaced ruffles.  A little trivia:  Women's bloomers, named for suffragist Amelia Bloomer, never became popular as an outer garment for women in general, but were worn by women's athletic teams for years.  They had a 1913 wool bloomer gym suit from the University of Nebraska.  Doesn't that sound comfy to play sports in?  1891 experimentation with forestation in the Nebraska Sand Hills for timber, shade and moisture conservation led to President Teddy Roosevelt setting aside two forest reserves, the only manmade national forests in the country.
1914 pedal car.  My brothers had a pedal John Deere tractor in the early 60s.  Kids today with their electric cars sure would scoff at these.
1910 Dexter washing machine with ringer.  Just pull the wooden lever back and forth to agitate.  And 1900 vacuum cleaner in back corner, just pump the handle to produce suction.  Sometimes when we are parked in the RV with no electric connections, these wouldn't seem like such a bad idea.
Nebraska became the 37th state in 1867.  They had a two-house system until 1934, when they became the only state to go to a Unicameral system, which they still have.   The statue on top is the "Sower" (of seeds) rising above the golden dome of the 400 foot tower.  It is 19 feet high and weighs over nine tons.  There is a bronze statue of Lincoln at the west entrance by the sculptors who did the Lincoln Memorial in Washington D.C. 20 years later.   
This is a huge building with four outdoor courtyards within each corner of hallways.  The dome of the 15 floor building is covered with 4.5 inch clay ceramic tiles coated with a 20-carot, gold-painted glaze.  The building was completed from 1922 to 1932 at a pace at which their tax dollars could pay for it.  It took ten years, cost $9.8 million and was paid for in full when it was complete.  Twenty murals inside the dome and elsewhere and four fountains in the courtyards were eliminated from the original design, due to limited funds during the depression.  The murals were completed in 1996 and they are currently raising funds for the fountains in the courtyards.  What a novel idea, waiting until you have the cash to build it. 
This is a view of the city looking north from up near the dome and down toward the main entrance.  This is their third capitol building and it was designed to last 500 years and it certainly looks like it should.
This shows the main entrance and a bit of two of the courtyards.  Nebraska was the first state capitol to feature a functional office tower rising up as a landmark into the sky.  It can be seen from 30 miles away.
Here's a closer look at one of the courtyards from one of the four hallways that are filled with sculptures of the Nebraska Hall of Fame.   Some of the notables are Willa Cather, Pulitzer prize winning author of pioneer novels (her home can be toured in Red Cloud); Father Flanagan, founder of Father Flanagan's Boys Home; Red Cloud, Oglala Lakota warrior and statesman; Buffalo Bill Cody, soldier, buffalo hunter, army scout, actor, rancher, irrigationist, American legend; J. Sterling Morton, founder of Arbor Day in 1872 (also newspaper editor, legislator, governor and U.S. Secretary of Agriculture); and General John J. Pershing, Commandant of Cadets at U of N, founder Pershing Rifles, served Indian wars, Cuba, Philippines, Commander of Mexican border, Commander American Expeditionary Forces in France, Central Armies of U.S. and Army Chief of Staff.
This is one of the Hall of Fame walkways overlooking one of the courtyards.  This building is very different from other capitols.  It feels very much like a medieval castle. 
When we walked in on the ground floor where the 39 governor's portraits are, the cavernous hallways felt like we were in a dungeon.  This is the main floor hallway heading toward the rotunda off which the Hall of Fame hallways run. 
The floors are covered with mosaic tiles telling all kinds of stories.  Nebraska is second in beef production nationally and sixth in pork production. 
Governor's residence across the street south of the capitol.  We were going to take a tour, but found out too late that there are no tours on Friday, the only day we had left here.  Oh well, next time.
1869 Kennard House built by one of the three men who were the commission that chose the little town of Lancaster as the capitol for the new state.  They changed the name to Lincoln and each built a mansion here to encourage others to come.  It is the only one of the three left and perhaps the oldest home in Lincoln.  It is just kitty corner southeast from the capitol.  $3.00 tours by appointment. 
Just by coincidence, Friday evening John's cousin's son was getting married in Lincoln, so we got to attend a lovely outdoor wedding and catch up with a few cousins. 
Tomorrow on to Council Bluffs, where I will start the RAGBRAI bike ride with many thousands of other riders on Sunday morning.  I'm a little worried about whether I trained enough.  I will soon find out. 


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