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Nebraska State Flag
Nebraska State Flag
Nebraska State Seal
Nebraska State Seal
Nebraska Location
Nebraska Location

Nebraska

Nebraska is a Great Plains state of the United States. Nebraska gets its name from a Native American (Oto) word meaning "flat water," after the Platte River that flows through the state. Once considered part of the Great American Desert, it is now a leading farming state. Nebraskans have practiced scientific farming to turn the Nebraska prairie into a land of ranches and farms. Much of the history of the state is the story of the impact of the Nebraska farmer.

Nebraska has 25 official state symbols, including the Platte River, the mammoth, and John Neihardt.

The USS Nebraska was named in honor of this state.

Nebraska is also the name of a 1982 album by Bruce Springsteen, considered by many to be one of his best.

Kool-Aid was created by Edwin Perkins in the city of Hastings.

The world's largest train yard, Union Pacific's Bailey Yard, is located in North Platte.

Former President Gerald R. Ford, Vice President Dick Cheney, civil rights activist Malcolm X, and various celebrities including Adele and Fred Astaire, Marlon Brando, Dick Cavett, Montgomery Clift, Henry Fonda, Swoosie Kurtz, Larry the Cable Guy, Harold Lloyd, and Darryl F. Zanuck were born in the state. Other famous natives are film director Alexander Payne, singer/musician Conor Oberst, College Football Hall of Fame coach Dr. Tom Osborne, and athletes Gale Sayers, Bob Gibson, and Ahman Green. The world's second wealthiest person, billionaire investor Warren Buffett, was born and still resides in Nebraska. Comedian Johnny Carson grew up in Norfolk, and today the town of Wahoo is the "home office" for David Letterman's Late Show.

Al-Capones Brother, James Vincenzo Capone Moved to Nebraska from Brooklyn, in 1908 at the age of 16.

East Jesus, Nebraska, is a mythical town, often referenced in various Advanced Trauma Life Support (ATLS) scenarios to illustrate application of these life-saving principles.

Capital Lincoln
Largest City Omaha
Governor (2005) Dave Heineman (R)
Area
- Total
- Land
- Water
- % water

200,520 km² (16th)
199,099 km²
1,247 km²
0.6%
Population
- Total (2000)
- Density

1,711,263 (38th)
8.6 /km² (42nd)
Admittance into Union
- Order
- Date

March 1, 1867
37th
Time zone Central: UTC-6/-5 (eastern)
UTC-7/-6 (western)
Latitude
Longitude
40°N to 43°N
95°25'W to 104°W
Width
Length
Elevation
- Highest
- Mean
- Lowest
340 km
690 km

1,653 m
790 m
256 m
ISO 3166-2 US-NE
Official languages English
   
 
Official state symbols of the U. S. state of Nebraska, listed in the order adopted by the Nebraska Legislature:

State motto: Equality Before the Law, designated 1867
State flower: Goldenrod (Solidago serotina), designated 1895
State poet laureate: John Neihardt, designated 1921
State flag: designated 1925
State bird: Western meadowlark (Sturnella neglecta), designated 1929
State nickname: Cornhusker State, designated 1945
State fossil: Mammoth, designated 1967
State gemstone: Blue agate, designated 1967
State rock: Prairie agate, designated 1967
State song: "Beautiful Nebraska", designated 1967
State grass: Little bluestem, (Schizachyrium scoparium), designated 1969
State tree: Cottonwood (Populus deltoides), designated 1972
State insect: Honeybee (Apis mellifica), designated 1975
State soil: Holdrege series, designated 1979
State mammal: White-tailed deer (Odocoileus virginianus), designated 1981
State poet: William Kloefkorn, designated 1982
State fish: Channel catfish (Ictalurus punctatus), designated 1997
State American folk dance: Square dance, designated 1997
State ballad: "A Place Like Nebraska", designated 1997
State historic baseball capital: St. Paul, designated 1997
State baseball capital: Wakefield, designated 1997
State village of lights: Cody, designated 1997
State river: Platte River, designated 1998
State soft drink: Kool-Aid, designated 1998
State beverage: Milk, designated 1998

Geography

Nebraska is bordered by South Dakota to the north; Iowa and Missouri to the east, across the Missouri River; Kansas to the south; Colorado to the southwest; and Wyoming to the west. Nebraska has 93 counties; it also occupies the central portion of the Frontier Strip.

Nebraska is comprised of two major land regions: the Dissected Till Plains and the Great Plains. The easternmost fifth of the state was scoured by Ice Age glaciers; the Dissected Till Plains were left behind after the glaciers retreated. The Dissected Till Plains is a region of gently rolling hills; Omaha and Lincoln are located within this region.

The Great Plains occupy the western four-fifths of Nebraska. The Great Plains itself is comprised of several smaller, diverse land regions, including the Sand Hills, the Pine Ridge, the Wildcat Hills, and the High Plains. Panorama Point, at 5,424 feet (1,653 m), is the highest point in Nebraska; despite its name and elevation, it is merely a low rise near the Colorado and Wyoming borders.

A past Nebraska tourism slogan was "Where the West Begins"; locations given for the beginning of the "West" include the Missouri River, the intersection of 13th and O Streets in Lincoln (where it is marked by a red brick star), the 100th meridian, and Chimney Rock.

History

The Kansas-Nebraska Act became law on May 30, 1854; it established the U.S. territories of Nebraska and Kansas. The territorial capital of Nebraska was Omaha.

In the 1860s, the first great wave of homesteaders poured into Nebraska to claim free land granted by the federal government. Many of the first farm settlers built their homes out of sod because they found so few trees on the grassy land.

Nebraska became the 37th state in 1867, shortly after the Civil War. At that time, the capital was moved from Omaha to Lancaster, later renamed Lincoln after the recently assassinated President Abraham Lincoln.

Arbor Day began in Nebraska. The National Arbor Day Foundation is still headquartered in Nebraska City.

Prohibition in the U.S. was adopted in 1918, with Nebraska as the thirty-sixth state necessary to make the Eighteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

"Rural Flight"

Nebraska, in common with five other Midwest states (Kansas, Oklahoma, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Iowa), is feeling the brunt of falling populations. Eighty-nine percent of the total number of cities in those states have fewer than 3000 people; hundreds have fewer than 1000. Between 1996 and 2004 almost half a million people, nearly half with college degrees, left the six states. "Rural flight," as it is called, has led to offers of free land and tax breaks as enticements to newcomers. As an example in Nebraska, Monowi, which in the 1930s had a population of 150, now (2005) has a population of one.

Law and Government

Nebraska is the only state in the United States with a unicameral legislature; that is, a legislature with only one house. Although this house is known simply as the "Legislature," its members still call themselves "senators." Nebraska's Legislature is also the only one in the United States that is nonpartisan. The senators are elected with no party affiliation next to their names on the ballot, and the speaker and committee chairs are chosen at large, so that members of any party can be (and often are) chosen for these positions. The Nebraska legislature can also override a governor's veto with a three-fifths majority, in contrast to the two-thirds majority required in some other states.

For years, United States Senator George Norris and other Nebraskans encouraged the unicameral referendum. Norris argued:

...The constitutions of our various states are built upon the idea that there is but one class. If this be true, there is no sense or reason in having the same thing done twice, especially if it is to be done by two bodies of men elected in the same way and having the same jurisdiction.
Unicameral supporters also argued that a bicameral legislature had a significant undemocratic feature in the committees that reconciled Assembly and Senate legislation. Votes in these committees were secretive, and would sometimes add provisions to bills that neither house had approved. Nebraska's unicameral legislature today has rules that bills can contain only one subject, and must be given at least five days of consideration.

Finally, in 1934, due in part to the budgetary pressure of the Great Depression, Nebraska's unicameral legislature was put in place by a state initiative. In effect, the Assembly (the house) was abolished; as noted, today's Nebraska state legislators are referred to (especially by themselves) as "Senators."

Since 1991, two of Nebraska's five electoral votes are awarded based on the winner of the statewide election; the other three go to the highest vote-getter in each of the state's three congressional districts. For the last ten elections, Republicans have won all of Nebraska's electoral votes, and no Democrat has carried the state since Lyndon Johnson. In the 2004 presidential election, George W. Bush won the state's five electoral votes by the overwhelming margin of 33 percentage points (the fourth most Republican vote among states) with 65.9% of the vote. Only Native American-dominated Thurston County voted for John Kerry.

The legislature is housed in the third Nebraska State Capitol, built between 1922 and 1932.

Economics

The Bureau of Economic Analysis estimates that Nebraska's total state product in 2003 was $66 billion. Per-capita personal income in 2003 was $30,179, 24th in the nation. Nebraska is known for its agriculture, especially beef and corn (maize).

Demographics

According to the Census Bureau, as of 2004, the population of Nebraska was 1,747,214. This includes about 84,000 foreign-born residents (4.8% of the population).

The five largest ancestry groups in Nebraska are German (38.6%), Irish (12.4%), English (9.6%), Swedish (4.9%), and Czech (4.9%).

Nebraska has the largest Czech-American population percentage-wise in the nation. German-Americans are the largest ancestry group in most of the state, particularly in the eastern counties. Thurston county has a large Indian population, and Butler County is one of only two counties in the nation with a Czech-American plurality.

Racial makeup

The racial makeup of the state and comparison to the prior census:

Census year: 2000 1990
White 89.6% 93.8%
Black 4.0% 3.6%
Asian 1.3% 0.8%
Native American 0.9% 0.8%
Other race 2.8% 1.0%
Mixed race 1.4% N/A
White, non-Hispanic 87.3% 92.5%
Hispanic 5.5% 2.3%

 

Historical Populations
Census year
Population
1860 28,841
1870 122,993
1880 452,402
1890 1,062,656
1900 1,066,300
1910 1,192,214
1920 1,296,372
1930 1,377,963
1940 1,315,834
1950 1,325,510
1960 1,411,330
1970 1,483,493
1980 1,569,825
1990 1,578,385
2000 1,711,263

 

Religion

The religious affiliations of the people of Nebraska are shown below:

  • Christian – 90%
    • Protestant – 61%
      • Lutheran – 16%
      • Methodist – 11%
      • Baptist – 9%
      • Presbyterian – 4%
      • Other Protestant – 21%
    • Roman Catholic – 28%
    • Other Christian – 1%
  • Other religions – 1%
  • Non-religious – 9%

Largest Cities and Towns

Colleges and Universities

  • Bellevue University
  • Central Community College
  • Chadron State College
  • Clarkson College
  • College of Saint Mary
  • Concordia University, Nebraska
  • Creighton University
  • Dana College
  • Doane College
  • Grace University
  • Hastings College
  • Midland Lutheran College
  • Nebraska Christian College
  • Nebraska Wesleyan University
  • Peru State College
  • Southeast Community College
  • Union College
  • University of Nebraska
    • University of Nebraska-Lincoln
    • University of Nebraska at Kearney
    • University of Nebraska at Omaha
    • University of Nebraska Medical Center
  • Wayne State College
  • York College

Sports Teams

  • Nebraska Cornhuskers, college football
  • Omaha Royals, minor league baseball
  • Lincoln Saltdogs, minor league baseball
  • Creighton Bluejays, college basketball
  • Omaha Beef, Arena Football
  • Lincoln Stars, United States Hockey League
  • Husker Soccer, College Soccer

Climate

Two major climates are represented in Nebraska: the eastern two-thirds of the state has a hot summer continental climate, and the western third of the state has a semiarid steppe climate. The entire state experiences wide seasonal variations in temperature and precipitation. Average temperatures are fairly uniform across Nebraska, while average annual precipitation decreases from about 31.5 in (800 mm) in the southeast corner of the state to about 13.8 in (350 mm) in the Panhandle.

Nebraska is located in Tornado Alley; thunderstorms are common in the spring and summer months. The chinook winds from the Rocky Mountains also warm the western part of Nebraska at times.

Monthly temperature and precipitation data for two cities in Nebraska are shown in the following tables:

Lincoln
Month Temperature Precipitation
Mean Maximum Minimum
January -5.9 C (21.3 F) 0.2 C (32.4 F) -12.2 C (10.1 F) 14 mm (0.54 in)
February -3.0 C (26.6 F) 3.3 C (37.9 F) -9.4 C (15.1 F) 18 mm (0.72 in)
March 3.7 C (38.6 F) 10.2 C (50.3 F) -2.9 C (26.8 F) 53 mm (2.09 in)
April 10.9 C (51.7 F) 18.0 C (64.4 F) 3.8 C (38.9 F) 70 mm (2.76 in)
May 16.7 C (62.1 F) 23.4 C (74.2 F) 10.0 C (50.0 F) 99 mm (3.90 in)
June 22.5 C (72.5 F) 29.3 C (84.7 F) 15.7 C (60.2 F) 99 mm (3.89 in)
July 25.7 C (78.2 F) 32.2 C (90.0 F) 19.1 C (66.3 F) 81 mm (3.20 in)
August 23.9 C (75.0 F) 30.4 C (86.7 F) 17.4 C (63.3 F) 87 mm (3.41 in)
September 18.5 C (65.3 F) 25.1 C (77.2 F) 11.8 C (53.2 F) 88 mm (3.48 in)
October 12.0 C (53.6 F) 19.3 C (66.7 F) 4.7 C (40.5 F) 54 mm (2.12 in)
November 3.8 C (38.8 F) 10.1 C (50.2 F) -2.6 C (27.3 F) 32 mm (1.27 in)
December -3.6 C (25.6 F) 2.1 C (35.8 F) -9.2 C (15.4 F) 22 mm (0.88 in)
Annual 10.5 C (50.9 F) 17.0 C (62.7 F) 3.9 C (39.0 F) 718 mm (28.26 in)


Scottsbluff
Month Temperature Precipitation
Mean Maximum Minimum
January -3.9 C (24.9 F) 3.3 C (37.9 F) -11.2 C (11.8 F) 13 mm (0.50 in)
February -1.0 C (30.2 F) 6.4 C (43.6 F) -8.4 C (16.8 F) 12 mm (0.47 in)
March 2.3 C (36.2 F) 10.2 C (50.3 F) -5.5 C (22.1 F) 28 mm (1.09 in)
April 8.1 C (46.5 F) 16.3 C (61.4 F) -0.3 C (31.5 F) 40 mm (1.58 in)
May 13.6 C (56.4 F) 21.6 C (70.9 F) 5.4 C (41.8 F) 70 mm (2.77 in)
June 19.6 C (67.3 F) 27.8 C (82.0 F) 11.5 C (52.7 F) 67 mm (2.64 in)
July 23.4 C (74.2 F) 32.1 C (89.7 F) 14.8 C (58.7 F) 52 mm (2.06 in)
August 22.0 C (71.6 F) 30.7 C (87.2 F) 13.3 C (56.0 F) 27 mm (1.07 in)
September 16.3 C (61.4 F) 25.1 C (77.2 F) 7.5 C (45.6 F) 28 mm (1.10 in)
October 9.8 C (49.6 F) 18.6 C (65.5 F) 0.9 C (33.7 F) 21 mm (0.81 in)
November 2.4 C (36.3 F) 10.1 C (50.2 F) -5.3 C (22.4 F) 16 mm (0.62 in)
December -3.2 C (26.2 F) 4.2 C (39.5 F) -10.6 C (12.9 F) 14 mm (0.56 in)
Annual 9.2 C (48.5 F) 17.2 C (63.0 F) 1.1 C (33.9 F) 388 mm (15.27 in)

 

Transportation

Railroads
The Union Pacific Railroad was incorporated on July 1, 1862 in the wake of the Pacific Railway Act of 1862. The first rails were laid in Omaha. They were part of the railroads which came together at Promontory Summit, Utah in 1869.

Interstates
Interstate 80
Interstate 76
Interstate 129
Interstate 180 (Lincoln spur)
Interstate 480 (metro Omaha loop)
Interstate 680 (north Omaha loop)

Further reading

  • Chokecherry Places, Essays from the High Plains, Merrill Gilfillan, Johnson Press, Boulder, Colorado, trade paperback, ISBN 1-55566-227-7.

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