1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Omaha

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OMAHA, the county-seat of Douglas county and the largest city in Nebraska, U.S.A., situated on the W. bank of the Missouri river, about 20 m. above the mouth of the Platte. Pop. (1880) 30,518, (1890) 66,536,[1] (1900) 102,555, of whom 23,552 (comprising 5522 Germans, 3968 Swedes, 2430 Danes, 2170 Bohemians, 2164 Irish, 1526 English, 1141 English Canadians, 997 Russians, &c.) were foreign-born and 3443 were negroes, (1906 estimate) 124,167. Originally, with Council Bluffs, Iowa, the eastern terminus of the first Pacific railway, Omaha now has outlets over nine great railway systems: the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, the Union Pacific, the Chicago, Rock Island & Pacific, the Chicago Great-Western, the Chicago & North-Western, the Chicago, Milwaukee & St Paul, the Illinois Central, the Missouri Pacific and the Wabash. Bridges over the Missouri river connect Omaha with Council Bluffs. The original town site occupied an elongated and elevated river terrace, now given over wholly to business; behind this are hills and bluffs, over which the residential districts have extended.

Among the more important buildings are the Federal Building, Court House, a city-hall, two high schools, one of which is one of the finest in the country, a convention hall, the Auditorium and the Public Library. Omaha is the see of Roman Catholic and Protestant Episcopal bishoprics. Among the educational institutions are a state school for the deaf (1867); the medical department and orthopaedic branch of the University of Nebraska (whose other departments are at Lincoln); a Presbyterian Theological Seminary (1891); and Creighton University (Roman Catholic, under Jesuit control). This university, which was founded in honour of Edward Creighton (d. 1874) (whose brother. Count John A. Creighton, d. 1907, gave large sums in his lifetime and about $1,250,000 by his will), by his wife Mary Lucretia Creighton (d. 1876), was incorporated in 1879; it includes the Creighton Academy, Creighton College (1875), to which a Scientific Department was added in 1883, the John A. Creighton Medical College (1892), the Creighton University College of Law (1904), the Creighton University Dental College (1905) and the Creighton College of Pharmacy (1905). In 1909–1910 it had 120 instructors and 800 students. St Joseph’s Hospital (Roman Catholic) was built as a memorial to John A. Creighton. The principal newspapers are the Omaha Bee, the World-Herald and the News. The Omaha Bee was established in 1871 by Edward Rosewater (1841–1906), who made it one of the most influential Republican journals in the West. The World-Herald (Democratic), founded in 1865 by George L. Miller, was edited by William Jennings Bryan from 1894 to 1896.

Omaha is the headquarters of the United States military department of the Missouri, and there are military posts at Fort Omaha (signal corps and station for experiments with war balloons), immediately north, and Fort Crook (infantry), 10 m. S. of the city. A carnival, the “Festival of Ak-Sar-Ben,” is held in Omaha every autumn. Among the manufacturing establishments of Omaha are breweries (product value in 1905, $1,141,424) and distilleries, silver and lead smelting and refining works, railway shops, flour and grist-mills and dairies. The product-value of its manufactures in 1900 ($43,168,876) constituted 30% of the total output of the state, not including the greater product (48.7% of the total) of South Omaha (q.v.), where the industrial interests of Omaha are largely concentrated. The “factory” product of Omaha in 1905 was valued at $54,003,704, an increase of 41.8% over that ($38,074,244) for 1900. The net debt of the city on the 1st of May 1909 was $5,770,000; its assessed value in 1909 (about of cash value) was $26,749,148, and its total tax-rate was $5.73 per $1000.

In 1804 Meriwether Lewis and William Clark camped on the Omaha plateau. In 1825 a licensed Indian post was established here. In 1846 the Mormons settled at “Winter Quarters”—after 1854 called Florence (pop. in 1900, 668), and in the immediate environs (6 m. N.) of the present Omaha—and by 1847 had built up camps of some 12,000 inhabitants on the Nebraska and Iowa sides of the Missouri. Compelled to remove from the Indian reservation within which Winter Quarters lay, they founded “Kanesville” on the Iowa side (which also was called Winter Quarters by the Mormons, and after 1853 was known as Council Bluffs), gradually emigrating to Utah in the years following. Winter Quarters (Florence) was deserted in 1848, but many Mormons were still in Nebraska and Iowa, and their local influence was strong for nearly a decade afterwards. Not all had left Nebraska in 1853. Speculative land “squatters” intruded upon the Indian lands in that year, and a rush of settlers followed the opening of Nebraska Territory under the Kansas-Nebraska Bill of 1854. Omaha (named from the Omaha Indians) was platted in 1854, and was first chartered as a city in 1857. It was the provisional territorial capital in 1854–1855, and the regular capital in 1855–1867. Its charter status has often been modified. Since 1887 it has been the only city of the state governed under the general charter for metropolitan cities. Prairie freighting and Missouri river navigation were of importance before the construction of the Union Pacific railway, and the activity of the city in securing the freighting interest gave her an initial start over the other cities of the state. Council Bluffs was the legal, but Omaha the practical, eastern terminus of that great undertaking, work on which began at Omaha in December 1863. The city was already connected as early as 1863 by telegraph with Chicago, St Louis, and since 1861 with San Francisco. Lines of the present great Rock Island, Burlington and North-Western railway systems all entered the city in the years 1867–1868. Meat-packing began as early as 1871, but its first great advance followed the removal of the Union stock yards south of the city in 1884. South Omaha (q.v.) was rapidly built up around them. A Trans-Mississippi Exposition illustrating the progress and resources of the states west of the Mississippi was held at Omaha in 1898. It represented an investment of $2,000,000, and in spite of financial depression and wartime, 90% of their subscriptions were returned in dividends to the stockholders.

  1. These are the figures given in Census Bulletin 71, Estimates of Population, 1904, 1905, 1906 (1907), and are the arithmetical mean between the figures for 1880 and those for 1900, those of the census of 1890 being 140,452; these are substituted by the Bureau of the Census, as the 1890 census was in error. In 1910, according to the U.S. census, the population was 124,096.