River City Empire


River City Empire

Tom Dennison's Omaha

Orville D. Menard
Foreword by Laurie Smith Camp
With a new introduction by the author

370 pages
6 photographs, 1 appendix


November 2013


$24.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

(Requires Adobe Digital Editions)

November 2013


$24.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

More than any other political boss of the early twentieth century, Thomas Dennison, “the Rogue who ruled Omaha,” was a master of the devious. Unlike his contemporaries outside the Midwest, he took no political office and was never convicted of a crime during his thirty-year reign. He was a man who managed saloons but never cared for alcohol; who may have incited the Omaha Race Riot of 1919 but claimed he never harmed a soul; who stood aside while powerful men did his bidding. His power came not from coercion or nobility but from delegation and subterfuge. 

Orville D. Menard chronicles Dennison’s life in River City Empire, beginning with Dennison’s experiences in Colorado mining towns. In 1892 Dennison came to Omaha, Nebraska, where he married and started a family while solidifying his position as an influential political boss. Menard explores machine politics in Omaha as well as the man behind this machine, describing how Dennison steered elections, served the legitimate and illegitimate business communities, and administered justice boss-style to control crime and corruption. The microcosm of Omaha provides an opportunity for readers to explore bossism in a smaller environment and sheds light on the early twentieth-century American political climate as a whole.

Author Bio

Orville D. Menard is a professor emeritus of political science at the University of Nebraska at Omaha. He is the author of Rulo to Lynch with Lewis and Clark: A Guide and Narrative and The Army and the Fifth Republic. Laurie Smith Camp is chief judge of the United States District Court for the District of Nebraska.


"Menard's book represents a worthwhile addition to the study of urban bossism because it deals with a smaller city."--Robert S. LaForte, Choice

“This is a story of the growing-up of Omaha. . . . The whole story here is an extremely well-documented narrative.”—Francis Moul, Omaha World-Herald

“[Menard] has captured the essence of Dennison and how he operated. . . . Menard’s fine and provocative book raises interesting questions about not only the goals but the nature and methods of operation of political bosses with a western background.”—Larry H. Larsen, Nebraska History

"A thoroughly researched and well-written account."--Paulo E. Coletta, retired, United States Naval Academy

“A fascinating story of politics in the early part of the twentieth century. . . . A significant contribution to scholarship.”—Donald J. Senese, director, National Center for Presidential Research

"[River City Empire] is a meticulously researched book. . . . Urban historians and political scientists should find much value in both the factual materials Menard presents and in his interpretations of them. Certainly residents of Omaha and those with ties there will find the study fascinating."--Frederick M. Spletstoser, Great Plains Quarterly

Table of Contents

I Formation
II Penetration
III Association
IV Association--II
V Operations: Elections
VI Operations: The Business Communities
VII Operations: Justice
VIII Assassination
IX Destruction
X Conclusion

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