The New International Encyclopædia/Omaha (city)

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OMAHA. The largest city of Nebraska and the county-seat of Douglas County, 492 miles west by south of Chicago, Ill.; on the Missouri River, opposite Council Bluffs, Iowa, and on the Burlington Route, the Chicago, Milwaukee and Saint Paul, the Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific, the Chicago, Saint Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha, the Fremont, Elkhorn and Missouri Valley, the Chicago and Northwestern, the Illinois Central, the Missouri Pacific, and the Union Pacific railroads (Map: Nebraska, J 2). The great bridges across the Missouri are among the sights of the city. These unite it, through Council Bluffs on the east side, with a great radiating system of railways to all points eastward. A belt line encircles the city, affording railway intercommunication.

Omaha is finely situated on a plateau, rising into bluffs which are largely used for residence sites, the business district lying adjacent to the river. From its important position, with reference to the West, it has been called the ‘Gate City.’ It occupies an area of 24½ square miles at an elevation of about 1030 feet above sea level, and 80 feet above the river, and has broad streets, of which 85 miles are paved. The public park system, nearly 600 acres in extent, includes the more notable Hanscom, Riverview, Bemis, Miller, and Elmwood parks, and Jefferson Square. Omaha is the seat of Creighton University (Roman Catholic), founded in 1879, a Presbyterian Theological Seminary, Creighton Medical College, Omaha Medical College, Nebraska College of Pharmacy, Brownell Hall, Academy of the Sacred Heart, and Saint Catherine's Academy, and has several libraries. The Public Library contains more than 55,000 volumes, and is located in one of the prominent buildings of the city. Other architectural features are the city hall, county court house, United States Government Building, high school, New York Life Insurance Building, office of the Omaha Bee, Paxton Block, the Exposition Building, the Coliseum (a large convention hall), and Protestant Episcopal and Roman Catholic cathedrals. The State School for the Deaf is in the city, and there are also several well-equipped hospitals, among which particular mention may be made of Saint Joseph's, Presbyterian, Methodist, and Immanuel (Swedish) hospitals. Omaha is the seat of the United States military headquarters of the Department of the Platte. The city has extensive shops of the Union Pacific Railroad, and one of the most complete establishments in the country for smelting and refining the ores of gold, silver, copper, lead, and zinc which come from the mining regions along the line of the Union Pacific and other railways. The meat-packing industry, represented by five separate plants located in South Omaha (q.v.), has assumed an extent excelled only by Chicago and Kansas City. Other manufactures include linseed oil, white lead, carriages, malt and distilled liquors, boilers and steam-engines, and bricks. The trade in live stock, grain, lumber, dry goods, and groceries is enormous, due to the city's excellent facilities for transportation.

The government is vested in a mayor, chosen every three years; a unicameral council; and in subordinate administrative officials, appointed by the executive with the consent of the council. The board of education, composed of 15 members, is independently elected by popular vote. Omaha, spends annually, in maintenance and operation, nearly $1,500,000, the principal items being about $375,000 for schools, $295,000 for interest on debt, $120,000 for the fire department, $80,000 for the police department, and $80,000 for municipal lighting. The city carries (1901) a bonded debt of over $5,600,000. Population, in 1860, 1883; in 1870, 16,083; in 1880, 30,518; in 1890, 140,452; in 1900, 102,555, including 23,600 persons of foreign birth and 3400 of negro descent.

In 1804 Lewis and Clark held a council with the Indians on or near the present site of Omaha, and in 1825 J. B. Royce, a fur-trader, built here a stockade and trading station, which, however, soon fell into decay. The first permanent settlement was made in 1854, and from that date to 1867 Omaha (so called from the Omaha Indians, a tribe of the Dakotas) was the capital of Nebraska. It was incorporated as a city in 1857. The growth of Omaha was greatly accelerated by the construction of the Union Pacific Railroad, work on which was begun here in 1864. Previous to its completion Omaha was the most northerly outfitting place for overland wagon trains to the ‘far West.’ From June 1 to November 1, 1898, the great Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition was held here. Consult: Savage and Bell, History of the City of Omaha (New York, 1894); Sorensen, Early History of Omaha (Omaha, 1876); Powell, Historic Towns of the Western States (New York, 1901).