Robert W. Furnas of Brownville is considered
the Society's founder. He established the Nebraska Advertiser
newspaper in 1856 and the Nebraska Farmer magazine in
1859. He also served in the territorial legislature. Following
Civil War service, he was Nebraska's governor from 1873 to 1875.
On August 12, 1878, Furnas invited other prominent
Nebraskans to organize a state historical society to gather,
from "living tongues and pens," material that would
illustrate Nebraska's settlement and growth.
The organization meeting was held in Lincoln
on September 25-26, 1878, and the Society was incorporated.
After the 1883 legislature appropriated $500
for the Society and designated it a "state institution,"
it began publishing historical recollections and the reports
of its meetings.
The Society adopted its official seal in 1888.
The Latin phrase, translated as "Let arms give way to the
gown," means let conflict be replaced by understanding and
the rule of law.
For fifteen years, the Society had no permanent
office or museum. In 1893 the Society moved into one wing of
the new University of Nebraska library (now Architecture Hall).
The Society's collections of books and "curios"
were displayed in "open storage."
Fieldwork was an early activity. Here, Ethnologist
Melvin Gilmore records Omaha Indian songs for the Society.
Since 1878 members have supported the Society
with their dues and had a voice in its governance.
The officers had always believed the Society
should have a building of its own. Lincoln architect George Berlinghof
drew this design at the Society board's request about 1907.
After the Society asked for funding to build
a library and museum, the 1907 legislature appropriated $25,000
to build the basement of one wing of the proposed building. It
was completed in December 1909, across the street southeast of
the capitol, but funds were never provided to finish the building.
Some Society collections were stored in the basement until the