Portrait of a City


Portrait of a City

Lincoln, Nebraska, at the Turn of the Twentieth Century

Bruce F. Pauley

334 pages
21 photographs, 25 illustrations, 3 maps, index


September 2023


$29.95 Add to Cart
eBook (EPUB)

September 2023


$29.95 Add to Cart
eBook (PDF)

September 2023


$29.95 Add to Cart

About the Book

Once just a scattering of houses on the open prairie, by the late nineteenth century the city of Lincoln, Nebraska, had evolved into a modern metropolis. The changes ushered in by the Industrial Revolution and an increase in machine labor affected all aspects of daily life—housework, transportation, education, entertainment, fashion, and medicine—changing lives drastically in little more than a single generation. Lincolnites moved beyond simply growing a new city; many also wanted to help create a more enlightened society. By 1910 the city had become a booming political, educational, and cultural center on the Great Plains, with three denominational colleges and a state university with a national reputation for academic excellence.

In Portrait of a City Bruce F. Pauley highlights his hometown of Lincoln, Nebraska, during a period of rapid social and technological change between the 1890s and 1920s. Pauley examines a multitude of important aspects of daily life, including the modernization of homes, public and private transportation, education, the status of women, and entertainment. He also addresses the challenges of life during this time, like the loss of civil liberties during World War I. Pauley’s descriptions and stories allow readers a glimpse into everyday life in Lincoln at the turn of the century.

Author Bio

Bruce F. Pauley is a professor emeritus of history at the University of Central Florida. Among his books are Pioneering History on Two Continents: An Autobiography (Potomac, 2014); From Prejudice to Persecution: A History of Austrian Anti-Semitism; and Hitler, Stalin, and Mussolini: Totalitarianism in the Twentieth Century.


"[Pauley's] portrait is a genuine labor of love. Midwest history buffs will enjoy this tremendously."—Publishers Weekly

“Do you ever feel that the world is changing so quickly that it's hard to keep up? People living a century ago often felt the same way. Historian Bruce Pauley has created a vivid portrait of daily life in Lincoln, Nebraska, during a period of rapid social and technological transformation.”—David L. Bristow, editor of Nebraska History magazine

Portrait of a City offers abundant surprises for readers who may think of Lincoln only as the state capital and home of Husker football. Mining wide-ranging sources, Bruce Pauley combines scholarly rigor with lively narrative to illuminate a city undergoing dramatic changes—and confronting challenges still present today—in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. This book deserves the attention and appreciation of all Nebraskans.”—Mark R. Scherer, coauthor of Echo of Its Time: The History of the Federal District Court of Nebraska, 1867–1933

Table of Contents

List of Illustrations
A Note on Terminology
1. Revisiting the Past
Everyday Life on the Eve of Modernity
Pioneer Lincoln, 1867–89
Progressive Reforms
2. Electronic and Transportation Revolutions
A Decade of Inventions
World Fairs: “No Greater Sensation Than . . . Electricity”
From the Omnibus to Electric Streetcars: “The Welcome Stranger”
Interlude: The Brief but Spectacular Popularity of Bicycles
Here Comes the “Devil Wagon”!
3. The Athens of the West
Public School Education in Nebraska: Compulsory in Theory
Beyond the Struggle to Survive: The University of Nebraska
The Denominational Schools: Nebraska Wesleyan, Union College, Cotner College
4. The New Woman
New Jobs for the New Woman: “An Unwomanly Desire”?
Turn-of-the-Century Fashions and Sports for Women
Downsizing and Modernizing: New Houses, Kitchens, and Bathrooms
5. Feminine Reformers
The Revolt against the “Two Spheres” Ideal
Cigarettes: “A Plain Case of Self-Destruction”
Saloons and Prohibition: “The Vanguard of Progress”?
Women For and Against Suffrage: “Masculine Womanhood”?
6. Amusements for All
The Increase in Leisure Time
Highbrow Entertainment: Opera, Opera Houses, and Theaters
Respectable Entertainment: The Chautauqua Movement
Risqué Entertainment: Vaudeville and Silent Movies
Dancing: “A Moral Graveyard”?
Vacations by Rail, Amusement Parks, and Circuses
The State Fair and Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Show
7. College Football: Birth Pains and Reforms
School Spirit and a Controversial New Sport
A Game “Fit for Savages”?
Changing the Rules: “An Outdoor Game of Basketball”?
From “Bugeaters” to “Cornhuskers”
From Obscurity to Fame: Bummy Booth and the Stiehm Rollers
The “Secrets” of Success
8. Minorities and Immigrants
Lincoln’s Black People: “Ambitious Improvement, Not Yet Realized”
Volga Germans: “Thrifty and Independent”
9. World War, “Aggressive Patriotism,” and the Spanish Flu
The “Great War” and “Scientific” Propaganda
Profiles in Courage: Bryan and Norris
Ethnically Cleansing German Culture: “America Does Not Want You”
The Campaign against Foreign Languages
“A Strong Aggressive War Spirit”
The Spanish Flu: “Not an Unusual Epidemic”?
10. Reaction, Prosperity, and Depression
Ending War and Making Peace
The League of Nations “Menace” and the Conservative Reaction
The Roaring Twenties
The Declining Interest in Reforms
Postwar Nebraska
11. Enduring Gains and Disappointing Setbacks

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