Welcome to the "Treasures" page, a gallery of fantastic artifacts, not currently on exhibit, from the museum collection of the Nebraska State Historical Society.
Recent Acquisitions highlights fantastic artifacts acquired for the museum collections within the last few years. To see more treasures visit the Library / Archives Treasures page.
World War II Posters
From beginning to wars end, these posters chronicle change in marketing the war effort to the American people. This sampling of World War II posters was collected by Addison E. Sheldon, superintendent of the Nebraska State Historical Society from 1917 to 1943.
(743p-168-01, Batik Map of Nebraska)
This batik map of Nebraska was created by Lincoln artist Lilian Ibser while employed by the federal government on the Public Works of Art Program (PWAP). The PWAP was a New Deal program organized under the Civil Works Administration to provide employment relief to Americans struggling through the Great Depression. The Nebraska PWAP employed thirty-two artists for six months during the winter and spring of 1933-34. When the PWAP ended, federally-funded art projects continued under the United States Treasury and the Works Progress (later Work Projects) Administration. Ibser's map, and more than 140 other works of art produced by Nebraskans for the PWAP, is on long-term loan to the Nebraska State Historical Society from the federal government.
(2199, Turtle Bone Necklace)
Donation information indicates that this turtle bone necklace belonged to Young Spotted Tail, a son of the Brule Lakota Chief Spotted Tail. Young Spotted Tail was held briefly at Fort Niobrara after he murdered his rival, White Thunder, in 1884. Little is known of his life or whereabouts afterwards. This necklace, and the accompanying photograph, was donated as part of the collection of D. Charles Bristol, also known as "Omaha Charley" a trader who, starting in the 1870s, would exhibit his collection of Native American materials. By the 1890s Bristol was traveling extensively with his own Wild West show, Omaha Charley and his Wandering Band of Sioux. It is currently unknown how Bristol came into the possession of this necklace and photograph. It is possible that Young Spotted Tail toured with or met Bristol in the 1890s and Bristol obtained the items directly, or perhaps he obtained them from a third party.
Source: D. C. "Omaha Charlie" Bristol, Homer, Nebraska
Photograph of Young Spotted Tail and an unidentified female from D. Charles Brisol's scrapbook
Photograph of D. Charles Bristol from his scrapbook
This box belonged to Ruth Cox who was born a slave on December 18, 1818 in Talbot County, Maryland. After escaping from slavery around the age of 21 she attended a meeting held by Frederick Douglass, the famous African-American Abolitionist and orator. It is told that, upon initially seeing Ruth, Frederick believed she was his long lost sister although he soon realized she was not. Nonetheless, he invited her to come and live with his family in Lynn, Massachusetts. Ruth lived with the Douglass family as an adopted sister for a number of years . She helped Douglass's wife Anna with the children and with correspondence because Ruth was literate and Anna was not. When Douglass was away, he would send letters for Ruth to read to Anna, along with letters to Ruth directly.
In 1847, Ruth married Perry Francis Adams and had three children. In 1884, after the death of her husband, Ruth moved to Nebraska with her daughter and son-in-law. Although they lost touch over the years, Douglass never forgot Ruth and later in his life began to search for her. In the early 1890s, he found word of her in a Norfolk, Nebraska newspaper which noted that the VanDerZee family had left their farm (her son-in-law's name) and moved to Lincoln. In 1893, Douglass traveled to Nebraska to look for her but was unsuccessful in his search. He eventually regained contact with her via letter and they corresponded until his death in 1894. Ruth died in 1900 in Lincoln and is buried in Wyuka cemetery.
This box was a gift to Ruth from Frederick Douglass. An 1847 letter to Ruth, postmarked in Belfast, describes the "beautiful work box" he bought for her in London.
Tintype of Ruth (11941)
Source: Alyce McWilliams Hall, Los Angeles, California
The plaque on this rifle reads: "This gun carried by Joseph D. Gilman, Falls City, Nebr. Enlisted Oct. 15, 1861, Company E, 2nd Regiment Berdan's Sharpshooters." (310K PDF)
Gilman was born in Vermont in 1841. After attending public schools in Vermont, he studied law at Syracuse University but enlisted in the Berdan's Sharpshooters of Vermont before he finished his degree. In Late 1865 he came to Nebraska City where he entered the law office of T.B. Stephenson and continued his law studies. In 1868 he was admitted to the bar and moved to Falls City, where he practiced law. He represented his county in the Nebraska Legislature of 1876 and died in 1926.
Berdan's sharpshooters were organized in 1861 by top rifle shooter, Hiram Berdan. He sent agents all over the North to recruit the best marksmen in each state to form units of sharpshooters. These men were offered special benefits for participation, including a Sharps breech-loading rifle, extra pay, and the avoidance of battle duty. However, the only benefits they ever received were the Sharps rifles. This rifle, however, is a Colt Model 1855 revolving rifle and was issued to the Sharpshooters prior to the Sharps. Many of the soldiers, especially in the 2nd regiment, kept these because they preferred them.
Source: Joseph D. Gilman, Falls City
First Ladies Inaugural Ball Gowns
John Falter's illustrations
Elected to the Illustrator's Hall of Fame in 1976, John Falter has gifted Nebraskans and the world with his unique vision.
Indian "Commission" Signed by William Clark
This 1815 Indian commission was signed by William Clark of Lewis and Clark Expedition fame. Clark was appointed governor and superintendent of Indian affairs of Missouri Territory in 1813.
Government officials presented such commissions, often accompanied by medals, to Indian leaders as recognition of their status (in this case, as chief soldier of the Omaha Nation). The commissions and medals were diplomatic symbols meant to signal the government's desire for peace and friendship. Indians highly prized the commissions even though they could not read them.
In the early 1930s, Nebraska U.S. Senator George Norris promoted the concept of the non-partisan, one-house legislature called the Unicameral. He believed that a one-house system would curb abuses of the conference committee which had allowed the majority party to rewrite legislation to favor its own positions. In 1934, Nebraska voters enthusiastically endorsed the idea and in 1937 Nebraska became the first and only state to have a unicameral legislature. This gavel opened the first unicameral legislative session on January 5, 1937.
Source: Senator and Mrs. George W. Norris
This baseball, signed by members of the 1928 St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, includes the signatures of two Nebraska baseball greats, Clarence Mitchell and Grover Cleveland Alexander. The Cardinals were National League Champions that year but lost to the New York Yankees in the World Series. Mitchell, born in 1891 in Franklin County, Nebraska, and Alexander, born in 1887 in Elba, Nebraska, both pitched in game two of the series.
Source: Clarence Mitchell, Jr.
Grace Abbott was born in Grand Island, Nebraska, in 1878. After graduating from Grand Island College in 1898, she received a master's degree in political science from the University of Chicago. Abbott remained in Chicago, working for immigrant rights, until 1917, when she moved to Washington, D.C., and joined the U.S. Department of Labor's Children's Bureau. In 1921 she was the first woman to hold a cabinet-level post when President Warren G. Harding appointed her director of the Children's Bureau. There, Abbott worked tirelessly for legislation to protect children from child labor abuses. In 1931 Grace Abbott received this medal from the National Institute of Social Sciences for her service as director of the Children's Bureau and for the bureau's contributions to the welfare of America's children.
Source: Charlotte E. Abbott
At the 1900 Democratic National Convention in Kansas City, William Jennings Bryan was nominated for President for the second time. Although Bryan remained home in Lincoln, Nebraska during the convention, this bust was unveiled on opening day. Henry George, Jr. sculpted the bust.
Source: Mr. and Mrs. Charles W. Bryan
7847-1 Allis quilt
7828-8 Flower Basket Petit Point
Grace McCance Snyder spent sixteen months piecing and assembling her Flower Basket Petit Point quilt. Entirely handmade, the quilt contains 85,789 pieces and 5,400 yards of thread. Grace adapted the basket petit point pattern for her quilt from a china plate manufactured by the Salem China Company of Ohio. German artist Wendelin Grossmann of Berlin designed the plate. After finishing the quilt, Grace wrote to the company, which gave her a complete set of flower basket dishes in response.
Grace earned national recognition for the skill and complexity of her quilts. The Congress of Quilters Hall of Fame in Arlington, Virginia, inducted her in 1980, as did the Nebraska Quilters Hall of Fame in 1986. The 1999 International Quilt Festival, held in Houston, Texas, selected Grace Snyder's quilt as one of "The Twentieth Century's One Hundred Best American Quilts."
This is the first sample of crude petroleum from the first producing oil well in Nebraska. The well was located in Richardson County, near Falls City and it struck oil in November of 1939 at 2279 feet.
Source: Arthur J. Weaver
This hat belonged to Lady Vesty, otherwise known as Evelene Brodstone, of Superior, Nebraska. Evelene was born in Wisconsin in 1875. At the age of three, she moved with her parents to Superior. After graduating high school at the age 14 she attended business school in Iowa, afterwhich she went to work as a stenographer for the Vesty Meat Packing Plant in Chicago, part of an international company based owned by the Vestey family of England. While there, Evelene worked her way up to a salary of $250,000 which made her the highest paid female executive of her time. By WWI, Evelene had retired and returned to Superior, however, she was quickly recalled by Vesty and soon became the company's troubleshooter in places like China and Venezuela. In 1923, Evelene married Lord William Vestey and, at his request changed her name to Evelyn, although, by then, she was known as Lady Vesty. Evelene Brodstone died in England in 1941 and her ashes were sent to Superior for burial.
Source: Ella Guthrie Shaw
This bronze sculpture is from the life mask of Abraham Lincoln that was taken by artist Leonard Volk in 1860. In 1886, a committee was formed to purchase the original casts and present them, along with bronze copies, to the National Museum in Washington. Additional bronze copies were presented to the committee members. This copy was a gift to General John J. Pershing in 1920 from Douglas Volk, the son of the artist.
Source: Mr. and Mrs. Warren Pershing
This is an envelope that was used to hold Indianola herb tablets, concocted by Richard "Diamond Dick" Tanner. Tanner was born in Taylorville, Illinois, in 1869, and came to Nebraska in 1878. He began his career as a long distance rider and circus performer in the 1890s. In 1905 he entered medical school in Nebraska and in1910 he combined his show business talent and knowledge of herbs to promote and sell natural remedies out of his Norfolk, Nebraska location. Although he tried to go "straight" for a while and temporarily dropped the Diamond Dick moniker and persona, the call of show business was too strong for him and he began easing his way back into the public spotlight as Diamond Dick. A self-proclaimed specialist in chronic diseases, Dr. Tanner enjoyed success as such, no-doubt aided by his self-promotion as a noted personality of the "Wild West."
Source: Dr. Richard Tanner (heirs)
Miles Maryott was born in Burt County, Nebraska in 1873. During his early years he played professional baseball in a number of cities. After his baseball career ended in the early 1900s, he became known as many things: a taxidermist, artist, marksman, and outdoorsman. In 1926, he also became known as a murderer after killing Oshkosh marshal, George Albee. Although there is some evidence that the killing may have been in self-defense, Maryott was sentenced to life in prison in 1927. In prison Maryott continued creating works of art, such as this piece painted in 1932. He would give his creations to people he liked or wanted to thank, and also used them to barter for goods and services. He was technically freed from prison a short time before his death in 1938 so that he could spend his remaining days in a Lincoln hospital.
Source: NSHS Foundation.
In the early 1900s, this bell was used on a homestead in Otoe County to call farmhands to meals. In the 1920s, it was used by WJAG radio announcer, and future Nebraska Senator, Karl Stefan to add sound effects to his noon report. WJAG radio of Norfolk was started in 1922 by the Huse family, and is one of the nation's oldest radio stations.
Source: John W. & W.L. McAllister
This simply constructed incubator was devised by the Nebraska Department of Health to counteract high premature infant death rates. The Department of Health distributed one of these to each county in 1938. They could be heated by light bulb, hot water bottle or hot water in fruit jars.
Source: Nebraska State Department of Health.
Many people entering Nebraska Territory in the 1850s were interested in founding towns as a means of personal enrichment. Groups of individuals could organize a town company, stake out 320 acres as allowed under the Federal Townsites Act, cut the site up into lots and then sell shares usually on the basis of ten lots per share. Once the legislature had incorporated the town the founders would advertise the town's merits, many times through newspapers, and encourage people to locate there. Not all towns prospered and many quickly faded away. This lot share in the Plattsmouth Town Company was issued to A. J. Poppleton in 1855. Poppleton is best known as one of the lawyers who worked with Ponca chief Standing Bear during his trial in 1879, the outcome of which declared that Indians were citizens under the law.
This alien registration card was issued to Lena Scheuneman of Ithaca, Nebraska in 1918. After the beginning of United States involvement in WWI, all resident, non-naturalized, persons from "enemy" countries were required to register with the federal government.
Source: Cedars Home for Children Foundation
To see more treasures visit the Library / Archives Treasures page.
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