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State of Nebraska

ORIGIN OF STATE NAME: Derived from the Oto Indian word nebrathka, meaning "flat water" (for the Platte River).

NICKNAME: The Cornhusker State.

CAPITAL: Lincoln.

ENTERED UNION: 1 March 1867 (37th).

SONG: "Beautiful Nebraska."

MOTTO: Equality Before the Law.

FLAG: The great seal appears in the center, in gold and silver, on a field of blue.

OFFICIAL SEAL: Agriculture is represented by a farmer's cabin, sheaves of wheat, and growing corn; the mechanic arts, by a blacksmith. Above is the state motto; in the background, a steamboat plies the Missouri River and a train heads toward the Rockies. The scene is surrounded by the words "Great Seal of the State of Nebraska, March 1st 1867."

BIRD: Western meadowlark.

FLOWER: Goldenrod.

TREE: Western cottonwood.

GEM: Blue agate.

LEGAL HOLIDAYS: New Year's Day, 1 January; Birthday of Martin Luther King Jr., 3rd Monday in January; Presidents' Day, 3rd Monday in February; Arbor Day, last Friday in April; Memorial Day, last Monday in May; Independence Day, 4 July; Labor Day, 1st Monday in September; Columbus Day, 2nd Monday in October; Veterans' Day, 11 November; Thanksgiving, 4th Thursday in November and following Friday; Christmas Day, 25 December. Other days for special observances include Pioneers' Memorial Day, 2nd Sunday in June; Nebraska Czech Day, 1st Sunday in August; and American Indian Day, 4th Monday in September.

TIME: 6 AM CST = noon GMT; 5 AM MST = noon GMT.


Located in the western north-central United States, Nebraska ranks 15th in size among the 50 states. The total area of the state is 77,355 sq mi (200,349 sq km), of which land takes up 76,644 sq mi (198,508 sq km) and inland water 711 sq mi (1,841 sq km). Nebraska extends about 415 mi (668 km) e-w and 205 mi (330 km) n-s.

Nebraska is bordered on the n by South Dakota (with the line formed in part by the Missouri River), on the e by Iowa and Missouri (the line being defined by the Missouri River), on the s by Kansas and Colorado, and on the w by Colorado and Wyoming. The boundary length of Nebraska totals 1,332 mi (2,143 km). The state's geographic center is in Custer County, 10 mi (16 km) nw of Broken Bow.


Most of Nebraska is prairie; more than two-thirds of the state lies within the Great Plains proper. The elevation slopes upward gradually from east to west, from a low of 840 ft (256 m) in the southeast along the Missouri River to 5,424 ft (1,654 m) in Johnson Twp. of Kimball County. The mean elevation of the state is approximately 2,600 ft (793 m). Rolling alluvial lowlands in the eastern portion of the state give way to the flat, treeless plain of central Nebraska, which in turn rises to a tableland in the west. The Sand Hills of the north-central plain is an unusual region of sand dunes anchored by grasses that cover about 18,000 sq mi (47,000 sq km).

The Sand Hills region is dotted with small natural lakes; in the rest of the state, the main lakes are artificial. The Missouri Riverwhich, with its tributaries, drains the entire stateforms the eastern part of the northern boundary of Nebraska. Three rivers cross the state from west to east: the wide, shallow Platte River flows through the heart of the state for 310 mi (499 km), the Niobrara River traverses the state's northern region, and the Republican River flows through southern Nebraska.


Nebraska has a continental climate, with highly variable temperatures from season to season and year to year. The central region has an annual normal temperature of 50°f (10°c), with a normal monthly maximum of 76°f (24°c) in July and a normal monthly minimum of 22°f (6°c) in January. The record low for the state is 47°f (44°c), registered in Morrill County on 12 February 1899; the record high of 118°f (48°c) was recorded at Minden on 24 July 1936.

Average yearly precipitation in Omaha is about 30 in (76 cm); in the semiarid panhandle in the west, 17 in (43 cm); and in the southeast, 30 in (76 cm). Snowfall in the state varies from about 21 in (53 cm) in the southeast to about 45 in (114 cm) in the northwest corner. Blizzards, droughts, and windstorms have plagued Nebraskans throughout their history.


Nebraska's deciduous forests are generally oak and hickory; conifer forests are dominated by western yellow (ponderosa) pine. The tallgrass prairie may include various slough grasses and needle-grasses, along with big bluestem and prairie dropseed. Mixed prairie regions abound with western wheatgrass and buffalo grass. The prairie region of the Sand Hills supports a variety of blue-stems, gramas, and other grasses. Common Nebraska wildflowers are wild rose, phlox, petunia, columbine, goldenrod, and sunflower. Rare species of Nebraska's flora include the Hayden penstemon, yellow ladyslipper, pawpaw, and snow trillium. Three species were threatened as of 2006: Ute ladies' tresses, western prairie fringed orchid, and Colorado butterfly plant. The blowout penstemon was listed as endangered that year.

Common mammals native to the state are the pronghorn sheep, white-tailed and mule deer, badger, kit fox, coyote, striped ground squirrel, prairie vole, and several skunk species. There are more than 400 kinds of birds, the mourning dove, barn swallow, and western meadowlark (the state bird) among them. Three main wetland areas (Rainwater Basin wetlands, Big Bend reach of the Platte River, and the Sandhills wetlands) serve as important migrating and breeding grounds for waterfowl and nongame birds. Carp, catfish, trout, and perch are fished for sport. Rare animal species include the least shrew, least weasel, and bobcat. The US Fish and Wildlife Service listed nine animal species (vertebrates and invertebrates) as threatened or endangered in 2006, including the American burying beetle, bald eagle, whooping crane, black-footed ferret, Topeka shiner, pallid sturgeon, and Eskimo curlew.


The Department of Environmental Quality was established in 1971 to protect and improve the quality of the state's water, air, and land resources. The Agricultural Pollution Control Division of the Department regulates disposal of feedlot wastes and other sources of water pollution by agriculture. The Water and Waste Management Division is responsible for administering the Federal Clean Water Act, the Federal Resources Conservation and Recovery Act, portions of the Federal Safe Drinking Water Act, and the Nebraska Environmental Protection Act as it relates to water, solid waste, and hazardous materials. In 2003, Nebraska had 255 hazardous waste sites listed in the US Environment Protection Agency (EPA) database, 12 of which were on the National Priorities List as of 2006. In 2005, the EPA spent over $15 million through the Superfund program for the cleanup of hazardous waste sites in the state. The same year, federal EPA grants awarded to the state included $8.2 million for its drinking water state revolving fund and $5.4 million for the clean water revolving fund.

A program to protect groundwater from such pollutants as nitrates, synthetic organic compounds, hydrocarbons, pesticides, and other sources was outlined in 1985. In 1996, the state spent $3.2 million on its Soil and Water Conservation Program. In 1994, the state imposed a tax on commercial fertilizers to create the Natural Resources Enhancement Fund, which distributes funds to local natural resource districts for water quality improvement programs. The Engineering Division regulates wastewater treatment standards and assists municipalities in securing federal construction grants for wastewater facilities. The Air Quality Division is responsible for monitoring and securing compliance with national ambient air quality standards. In 2003, 51.5 million lb of toxic chemicals were released in the state.

The state has three main wetland areas: Rainwater Basin wetlands, Big Bend reach of the Platte River, and the Sandhills wetlands. While these areas are protected, the state has lost about 1 million acres (405,000 hectares) of wetlands since pre-European settlement times.


Nebraska ranked 38th in population in the United States with an estimated total of 1,758,787 in 2005, an increase of 2.8% since 2000. Between 1990 and 2000, Nebraska's population grew from 1,578,385 to 1,711,263, an increase of 8.4%. The population was projected to reach 1.78 million by 2015 and 1.81 million by 2025. The population density in 2004 was 22.7 persons per sq mi. In 2004, the median age of all Nebraskans was 36. In the same year, 24.9% of the populace were under age 18 while 13.3% was age 65 or older. The largest cities in 2004 were Omaha, which ranked 43rd among the nation's cities with an estimated population of 409,416, and Lincoln, with 236,146 residents.


Among Nebraskans reporting at least one specific ancestry in the 2000 census, 661,133 identified their ancestry as German, 163,651 as English, 229,805 as Irish, 93,286 as Czech, and 84,294 as Swedish. The 2000 population also included 68,541 black Americans 21,931 Asians, and 836 Pacific Islanders. There were 94,425 Hispanics and Latinos in 2000, representing 5.5% of the total population. In 2004, 4.3% of the population was black, 1.5% Asian, 0.1% Pacific Islander, 6.9% Hispanic or Latino, and 1.1% of the population claimed origin of two or more races. Foreign-born residents numbered 74,638, or 4.4% of the total population, in 2000.

There were 14,896 American Indians in Nebraska as of 2000, down from around 16,000 in 1990. The three Indian reservations maintained for the Omaha, Winnebago, and Santee Sioux tribes had the following populations as of 2000: Omaha, 5,194, and Winnebago, 2,588, and Santee Sioux, 603. In 2004, 0.9% of the population was American Indian.


Many Plains Indians of the Macro-Siouan family once roamed widely over what is now Nebraska. Place names derived from the Siouan language include Omaha, Ogallala, Niobrara, and Keya Paha. In 1990, about 1,300 Nebraskans claimed Indian tongues as their first languages.

In 2000, 1, 469,046 Nebraskans92.1% of the resident population five years old or olderspoke only English at home, down from 95.2% in 1990.

The following table gives selected statistics from the 2000 Census for language spoken at home by persons five years old and over. The category "Other Slavic languages" includes Czech, Slovak, and Ukrainian. The category "African languages" includes Amharic, Ibo, Twi, Yoruba, Bantu, Swahili, and Somali.

  Population 5 years and over 1,594,700 100.0Speak only
  English 1,469,046 92.1
  Speak a language other than English 125,654 7.9
Speak a language other than English 125,654 7.9
  Spanish or Spanish Creole 77,655 4.9
  German 8,865 0.6
  Vietnamese 5,958 0.4
  Other Slavic languages 4,236 0.3
  French (incl. Patois, Cajun) 3,631 0.2
  Chinese 2,409 0.2
  Arabic 1,628 0.1
  Russian 1,559 0.1
  African languages 1,472 0.1
  Polish 1,420 0.1
  Italian 1,419 0.1
  Tagalog 1,311 0.1
  Japanese 1,274 0.1

Nebraska English, except for a slight South Midland influence in the southwest and some Northern influence from Wisconsin and New York settlers in the Platte River Valley, is almost pure North Midland. A few words, mostly food terms like kolaches (fruit-filled pastries), are derived from the language of the large Czech population. Usual pronunciation features are on and hog with the /o/, cow and now as /kaow/ and /naow/, because with the /ah/ vowel, cot and caught as sound-alikes, and a strong final /r/. Fire sounds almost like far, and our like are; greasy is pronounced /greezy/.


Nebraska's religious history derives from its patterns of immigration. German and Scandinavian settlers tended to be Lutheran; Irish, Polish, and Czech immigrants were mainly Roman Catholic. Methodism and other Protestant religions were spread by settlers from other Midwestern states.

Though Protestants collectively outnumber Catholics, the Roman Catholic Church is the largest single Christian denomination within the state with about 376,843 adherents in 2004; of which 229,952 belong to the archdiocese of Omaha. As of a 2000 general survey, Lutherans constituted the largest Protestant group with 117,419 adherents of the Missouri Synod, 128,570 of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, and 5,829 of the Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod. In 2004, there were 84,337 members of the United Methodist Church. In 2000, there were 39,420 Presbyterians-USA. In 2006, there were 20,910 members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (Mormons); a Mormon temple was opened in Winter Quarters in 2001. As of 2005, there were 18,119 members of the United Church of Christ. The Jewish population was estimated at 7,100 in 2000 and Muslims numbered about 3,115. That year, there were 704,403 people (about 41% of the population) who were not counted as members of any religious organization.


Nebraska's development was profoundly influenced by two major railroads, the Union Pacific and the Chicago Burlington and Quincy (later merged along with the Great Northern and Northern Pacific railroads into the Burlington Northern in 1970), both of which were major landowners in the state in the late 1800s. As of 2003, the Union Pacific and the former railroads that make up the Burlington Northern (now the Burlington Northern Santa Fe) still operated in Nebraska, and constitute the state's two Class I railroads. Altogether, in that year, there were 11 railroads in the state with 3,548 rail mi (5,712 km) of track. As of 2006, Amtrak provided east-west service to five stations in Nebraska via its Chicago to Emreyville/San Francisco California Zephyr train

Nebraska's road system which totaled 93,245 mi (150,124 km) in 2004, is dominated by Interstate 80, the major east-west route and the largest public investment project in the state's history. Some 1.678 million motor vehicles were registered in 2004, of which around 829,000 were automobiles and about 820,000 were trucks of all types. There were 1,315,819 licensed drivers in the state that same year.

In 2005, Nebraska had a total of 303 public and private-use aviation-related facilities. This included 266 airports, 36 heliports, and one seaplane base. Eppley Airfield, Omaha's airport, is by far the busiest in the state. In 2004, Epply had 1,892,379 passengers enplaned.

Nebraska in 2004 had 318 mi (512 km) of navigable waterways. In 2003, waterborne shipments totaled only 50,000 tons.


Nebraska's first inhabitants, from about 10,000 bc, were nomadic Paleo-Indians. Successive groups were more sedentary, cultivating corn and beans. Archaeological excavations indicate that prolonged drought and dust storms before the 16th century caused these inhabitants to vacate the area. In the 16th and 17th centuries, other Indian tribes came from the East, some pushed by enemy tribes, others seeking new hunting grounds. By 1800, se-misedentary Pawnee, Ponca, Omaha, and Oto, along with several nomadic groups, were in the region.

The Indians developed amiable relations with the first white explorers, French and Spanish fur trappers and traders who traveled through Nebraska in the 18th century using the Missouri River as a route to the West. The area was claimed by both Spain and France and was French territory at the time of the Louisiana Purchase, when it came under US jurisdiction. It was explored during the first half of the 19th century by Lewis and Clark, Zebulon Pike, Stephen H. Long, and John C. Frémont.

The Indian Intercourse Act of 1834 forbade white settlement west of the Mississippi River, reserving the Great Plains as Indian Territory. Nothing prevented whites from traversing Nebraska, however, and from 1840 to 1866, some 350,000 persons crossed the area on the Oregon, California, and Mormon trails, following the Platte River Valley, which was a natural highway to the West. Military forts were established in the 1840s to protect travelers from Indian attack.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854 established Nebraska Territory, which stretched from Kansas to Canada and from the Missouri River to the Rockies. The territory assumed its present shape in 1861. Still sparsely populated, Nebraska escaped the violence over the slavery issue that afflicted Kansas. The creation of Nebraska Territory heightened conflict between Indians and white settlers, however, as Indians were forced to cede more and more of their land. From mid-1860 to the late 1870s, western Nebraska was a battleground for Indians and US soldiers. By 1890, the Indians were defeated and moved onto reservations in Nebraska, South Dakota, and Oklahoma.

Settlement of Nebraska Territory was rapid, accelerated by the Homestead Act of 1862, under which the US government provided 160 acres (65 hectares) to a settler for a nominal fee, and the construction of the Union Pacific, the first transcontinental railroad. The Burlington Railroad, which came to Nebraska in the late 1860s, used its vast land grants from Congress to promote immigration, selling the land to potential settlers from the East and from Europe. The end of the Civil War brought an influx of Union veterans, bolstering the Republican administration, which began pushing for statehood. On 1 March 1867, Nebraska became the 37th state to join the Union. Farming and ranching developed as the state's two main enterprises. Facing for the first time the harsh elements of the Great Plains, homesteaders in central and western Nebraska evolved what came to be known as the sod-house culture, using grassy soil to construct sturdy insulated homes. They harnessed the wind with windmills to pump water, constructed fences of barbed wire, and developed dry-land farming techniques.

Ranching existed in Nebraska as early as 1859, and by the 1870s it was well established in the western part of the state. Some foreign investors controlled hundreds of thousands of acres of the free range. The cruel winter of 188687 killed thousands of cattle and bankrupted many of these large ranches.

By 1890, depressed farm prices, high railroad shipping charges, and rising interest rates were hurting the state's farmers, and a drought in the 1890s exacerbated their plight. These problems contributed to the rise of populism, a pro-agrarian movement. Many Nebraska legislators embraced populism, helping to bring about the first initiative and referendum laws in the United States, providing for the regulation of stockyards and telephone and telegraph companies, and instituting compulsory education.

World War I created a rift among Nebraskans as excessive patriotic zeal was directed against residents of German descent. German-language newspapers were censored, ministers were ordered to preach only in English (often to congregations that understood only German), and three university professors of German origin were fired. A Nebraska law (1919) that prohibited the teaching of any foreign language until high school was later declared unconstitutional by the US Supreme Court.

Tilling of marginal land to take advantage of farm prices that had been inflated during World War I caused economic distress during the 1920s. Nebraska's farm economy was already in peril when the dust storms of the 1930s began, and conditions worsened as drought, heat, and grasshopper invasions plagued the state. Thousands of people, particularly from the southwest counties in which dust-bowl conditions were most severe, fled Nebraska for the west coast. Some farmers joined protest movementsdumping milk, for example, rather than selling at depressed priceswhile others marched on the state capital to demand a moratorium on farm debts, which they received. In the end, federal aid saved the farmers.

The onset of World War II brought prosperity to other sectors. Military airfields and war industries were placed in the state because of its safe inland location, bringing industrial growth that extended into the postwar years. Much of the new industry that developed during the postwar era was agriculture-related, including the manufacture of mechanized implements and irrigation equipment.

Farm output and income increased dramatically into the 1970s through wider use of hybrid seed, pesticides, fungicides, chemical fertilizers, close-row planting, and irrigation, but contaminated runoff adversely affected water quality and greater water use drastically lowered water-table levels. Many farmers took on large debt burdens to finance expanded output, their credit buoyed by strong farm-product prices and exports. When prices began to fall in the early 1980s, many found themselves overextended. By spring 1985, an estimated 10% of all farmers were reportedly close to bankruptcy. In the early 1990s farm prices rose; the average farm income in Nebraska rose more than 10% between 1989 and the mid-1990s. Increasingly, the state had fewer, larger, and more-mechanized farms. The growth of small industries and tourism also bolstered Nebraska's economy in the 1990s. By 1999 the state enjoyed one of the lowest unemployment rates in the nation2.9%. But farmers were struggling again. A wildfire in the Sandhills of Nebraska's panhandle in 1999 scorched 74,840 acres and claimed 25,000 trees; it was the largest fire in the state's history. In the summer of 2000, areas of the state had had no substantial rain in a year. The previous autumn and winter were the driest on record. Drought conditions prevailed. Even with mitigation efforts, much of the state's corn crop was lost.

Challenges still facing the state have included a loss of population in rural areas, urban decay, and tension among various ethnic groups. In 1998 there were more Hispanics, accounting for 4.4% of the population, in the state than there were African Americans; Nebraska also has a small Native American population. Water conservation to avoid depletion of the state's aquifers for irrigation purposes remains a major priority. Nebraska was facing its worst recession since the 1980s in 2003. By 2004, the state was in its fifth straight year of severe drought conditions.

Lt. Governor Dave Heineman became Nebraska's governor in January 2005 when former Governor Mike Johanns resigned to serve as US Secretary of Agriculture. Heineman upon coming to office focused on four priorities: education, economic vitality, efficiency in government, and protecting families.


The first state constitution was adopted in 1866; a second, adopted in 1875, is still in effect. A 191920 constitutional convention proposedand voters passed41 amendments; by January 2005, the document had been revised an additional 222 times.

Nebraska's legislature is unique among the states; since 1934, it has been a unicameral body of 49 members elected on a nonpartisan basis. Members, who go by the title of senator, are chosen in even-numbered years for four-year terms. Legislative sessions begin in early January each year and are limited to 90 legislative days in odd-numbered years and to 60 legislative days in even-numbered years. Special sessions, not formally limited in duration, may be called by petition of two-thirds of the legislators. Legislators must be qualified voters, at least 21 years old, and should have lived in their district for a year prior to election. The legislative salary was $12,000 in 2004, unchanged from 1999.

Elected executives are the governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, auditor, treasurer, and attorney general, all of whom serve four-year terms. The governor and lieutenant governor are jointly elected; each must be a US citizen for at least five years, at least 30 years old, and have been a resident and citizen of Nebraska for at least five years. After serving two consecutive terms, the governor is ineligible for the office for four years. As of December 2004, the governor's salary was $85,000.

A bill becomes law when passed by a majority of the legislature and signed by the governor. If the governor does not approve, the bill is returned with objections, and a three-fifths vote of the members of the legislature is required to override the veto. A bill automatically becomes law if the governor does not take action within five days of receiving it.

A three-fifths majority of the legislature is required to propose an amendment to the state constitution. The people may propose an amendment by presenting a petition signed by 10% of total votes for governor at last election. The amendments are then submitted for approval at the next regular election or at a special election in which a majority of the votes tallied must be at least 30% of the total number of registered voters.

Nebraska Presidential Vote by Major Political Parties, 19482004
*Won US presidential election.
**IND. candidate Ross Perot received 174,687 votes in 1992 and 71,278 votes in 1996.
1948 6 Dewey (R) 224,165 264,774
1952 6 *Eisenhower (R) 188,057 421,603
1956 6 *Eisenhower (R) 199,029 378,108
1960 6 Nixon (R) 232,542 380,553
1964 5 *Johnson (D) 307,307 276,847
1968 5 *Nixon (R) 170,784 321,163
1972 5 *Nixon (R) 169,991 406,298
1976 5 Ford (R) 233,692 359,705
1980 5 *Reagan (R) 166,424 419,214
1984 5 *Reagan (R) 187,866 460,054
1988 5 *Bush (R) 259,235 397,956
1992** 5 Bush (R) 217,344 344,346
1996** 5 Dole (R) 236,761 363,467
2000 5 *Bush, G. W. (R) 231,780 433,862
2004 5 *Bush, G. W. (R) 254,328 512,814

Voters in Nebraska must be US citizens, at least 18 years old, and state residents. Restrictions apply to convicted felons and those officially found mentally incompetent.


In the 2000 presidential elections, Republican candidate George W. Bush secured 63% of the vote; Democrat Al Gore, 33%; and Green Party candidate Ralph Nader, 3%. In 2004, Bush again dominated, with 66% of the vote to Democratic challenger John Kerry's 33%. In 2004 there were 1,160,000 registered voters. In 1998, 37% of registered voters were Democratic, 49% Republican, and 14% unaffiliated or members of other parties. The state had five electoral votes in the 2004 presidential election.

In the 2000 elections, Democrat Ben Nelson was elected to the Senate; Republican Chuck Hagel won election to the Senate in 1996 and was reelected in 2002. In 1998 Republican Mike Johanns was elected to succeed Nelson as governor; Johanns was reelected in 2002, but resigned before completing his term to become the US secretary of agriculture. Johanns was succeeded by Lieutenant Governor Dave Heineman in January 2005. Republicans won all three of the state's seats in the US House of Representatives in 1994, 1996, 1998, 2000, 2002, and 2004. Nebraska's unicameral state legislature is nonpartisan.


In 2005, Nebraska had 93 counties, 531 municipalities, and 576 public school districts. Some 1,146 special districts covered such services as fire protection, housing, irrigation, and sewage treatment. In 2002, there were 446 townships. Boards of supervisors or commissioners, elected by voters, administer at the county level. Municipalities are generally governed by a mayor (or city manager) and council. Villages elect trustees to governing boards.

In 2005, local government accounted for about 79,114 full-time (or equivalent) employment positions.


To address the continuing threat of terrorism and to work with the federal Department of Homeland Security, homeland security in Nebraska operates under executive order; the lieutenant governor is designated as the state homeland security advisor.

As of 1 June 1971, the Office of Public Counsel (Ombudsman) was empowered to investigate complaints from citizens in relation to the state government. The Accountability and Disclosure Commission, established in 1977, regulates the organization and financing of political campaigns and investigates reports of conflicts of interest involving state officials.

The eight-member state Board of Education, elected on a non-partisan basis, oversees elementary and secondary public schools and vocational education. The Board of Regents, which also consists of eight elected members, governs the University of Nebraska system. Special examining boards license architects, engineers, psychologists, and land surveyors. The Coordinating Commission for Postsecondary Education works to develop a statewide plan for an educationally and economically sound, progressive, and coordinated system of postsecondary education.

The Department of Roads maintains and builds highways, and the Department of Aeronautics regulates aviation, licenses airports, and registers aviators. The Department of Motor Vehicles provides vehicle and driver services. Natural resources are protected by the Forest Service, Energy Office, Game and Parks Commission, and the Natural Resources Department.

Public assistance, child welfare, medical care for the indigent, and a special program of services for children with disabilities are the responsibility of the Health and Human Service System, which also operates community health services, provides nutritional services, and is responsible for disease control.

The state's huge agricultural industry is aided and monitored by the Department of Agriculture, which is empowered to protect livestock, inspect food-processing areas, conduct research into crop development, and encourage product marketing. The Nebraska Corn Board works to enhance the profitability of the corn producer.


The Nebraska Supreme Court is the state's highest court, which consists of a chief justice and six other justices, all of whom are initially appointed by the governor. They must be elected after serving three years, and every six years thereafter, running unopposed on their own record. Below the Supreme Court are the district courts of which 53 judges serve 21 districts in the state. These are trial courts of general jurisdiction. County courts handle criminal misdemeanors and civil cases involving less than $5,000. In addition, there are a court of industrial relations, a worker's compensation court, two conciliation courts (family courts), two municipal courts (in Omaha and Lincoln), and juvenile courts in three counties.

As of 31 December 2004, a total of 4,130 prisoners were held in Nebraska's state and federal prisons, an increase from 4,040 of 2.2% from the previous year. As of year-end 2004, a total of 369 inmates were female, up from 323 or 14.2% from the year before. Among sentenced prisoners (one year or more), Nebraska had an incarceration rate of 230 per 100,000 population in 2004.

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Nebraska in 2004 had a violent crime rate (murder/nonnegligent manslaughter, forcible rape, robbery, aggravated assault) of 308.7 reported incidents per 100,000 population, or a total of 5,393 reported incidents. Crimes against property (burglary, larceny/theft, and motor vehicle theft) in that same year totaled 61,512 reported incidents or 3,520.6 reported incidents per 100,000 people. Nebraska has a death penalty, of which electrocution is the sole method of execution. From 1976 through 5 May 2006, the state had executed only three people, the most recent of which was in December 1997. As of 1 January 2006, Nebraska had 10 inmates on death row.

In 2003, Nebraska spent $42,004,625 on homeland security, an average of $24 per state resident.


The US military presence in the state is concentrated near Omaha, where Offutt Air Force Base serves as the headquarters of the US Strategic Air Command. In 2004, Nebraska firms were awarded $401.2 million in defense contracts, and defense payroll outlays were $925 million. In the same year, there were 7,332 active-duty military personnel and 3,769 civilian personnel stationed in Nebraska.

A total of 159,487 veterans of US military service resided in Nebraska as of 2003. Of these, 22,241 served in World War II, 20,282 in the Korean conflict, 48,499 in the Vietnam era, and 25,391 during the Persian Gulf War. For the fiscal year 2004, total Veterans Affairs expenditures in Nebraska amounted to $538 million.

As of 31 October 2004, the Nebraska State Patrol employed 498 full-time sworn officers.


The pioneers who settled Nebraska in the 1860s consisted mainly of Civil War veterans from the North and foreign-born immigrants. Some of the settlers migrated from the East and easterly parts of the Midwest, but many came directly from Europe to farm the land. The Union Pacific and Burlington Northern railroads, which sold land to the settlers, actively recruited immigrants in Europe. Germans were the largest group to settle in Nebraska (in 1900, 65,506 residents were German-born), then Czechs from Bohemia, and Scandinavians from Sweden, Denmark, and Norway. The Irish came to work on the railroads in the 1860s and stayed to help build the cities. Another wave of Irish immigrants in the 1880s went to work in the packinghouses of Omaha. The city's stockyards also attracted Polish workers. The 1900 census showed that over one-half of all Nebraskans were either foreign-born or the children of foreign-born parents. For much of the 20th century, Nebraska was in a period of out-migration. From 1930 to 1960, the state suffered a net loss of nearly 500,000 people through migration, with more than one third of the total leaving during the dust-bowl decade, 193040. This trend continued, with Nebraska experiencing a net out-migration of 27,400 for the period 198590. Between 1990 and 1998, the state had net gains of 2,000 in domestic migration and 14,000 in international migration. In 1998, 1,267 foreign immigrants arrived in Nebraska. The state's overall population increased 5.3% between 1990 and 1998. In the period 200005, net international migration was 22,199 and net internal migration was 26,206, for a net loss of 4,007 people.


Nebraska's Commission on Intergovernmental Cooperation represents the state in the Council of State Governments. As an oil-producing state, Nebraska is a member of the Interstate Compact to Conserve Oil and Gas. In addition, the state belongs to several regional commissions. Of particular importance are the Republican River Compact with Colorado and Kansas, the Big Blue River Compact with Kansas, the South Platte River Compact with Colorado, the Ponca Creek Nebraska-South Dakota-Wyoming Water Compact, and the Upper Niobrara River Compact with Wyoming. The Nebraska Boundary Commission was authorized in 1982 to enter into negotiations to more precisely demarcate Nebraska's boundaries with Iowa, South Dakota, and Missouri. Nebraska is also a member of the Central Interstate Low-Level Radioactive Waste Compact, under which Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, and Arkansas have located a suitable disposal site for such waste. Boundary pacts are in effect with Iowa, Missouri, and South Dakota. In fiscal year 2005, the state received $1.893 billion in federal grants, an estimated $1.927 billion in fiscal year 2006, and an estimated $1.994 billion in fiscal year 2007.


Agriculture has historically been the backbone of Nebraska's economy, with cattle, corn, hogs, and soybeans leading the state's list of farm products. However, Nebraska is attempting to diversify its economy and has been successful in attracting new business, in large part because of its location near western coal and oil deposits.

The largest portion of the state's labor force is employed in agriculture, either directly or indirectlyas farm workers, as factory workers in the food-processing and farm-equipment industries, or as providers of related services. The service sector, which includes not only the servicing of equipment but also the high growth areas of health and business services and telemarketing, expanded at an annual rate of 4.4% during the 1980s. The trend intensified in the late 1990s, as general services grew at an average annual rate of 7.7% from 1998 to 2001, and financial services grew at an average rate of 5.7%. Nebraska was not deeply involved in the information technology (IT) boom of the 1990s, and therefore was not deeply affected by its bust in 2001. Coming into the 21st century, the state economy grew a moderate average rate of about 4.1% (1998 to 2000), which fell to 2.4% in 2001. In 2001, declines in manufacturing employment were off-set by increases in the services and government sectors. The job losses became more severe in 2002, by the fourth quarter, the unemployment rate had eased to 3.3%, down from 3.9% in April 2002.

With technological advances in farming and transportation, and consolidation in the agricultural sector, Nebraska's rural counties have been losing population since the 1970s. In 2002, sixty six of Nebraska's 93 counties had lower populations than in the 1970s, and population loss accelerated during the 1990s. Drought conditions in 2002 disrupted cattle production because of shortages of hay and pasture. Drought persisted into the winter of 200203, and the state is likely to face long-term water shortages.

Nebraska's gross state product (GSP) in 2004 was $68.183 billion, of which manufacturing (durable and nondurable goods) accounted for the largest share at $8.305 billion or 12.1% of GSP, fol-lowed by the real estate sector at $5.872 billion (8.6% of GSP), and health care and social assistance at $4.919 billion (7.2% of GSP). In that same year, there were an estimated 151,088 small businesses in Nebraska. Of the 46,161 businesses that had employees, an estimated total of 44,703 or 96.8% were small companies. An estimated 4,849 new businesses were established in the state in 2004, up 12.5% from the year before. Business terminations that same year came to 5,051, unchanged from 2003. There were 207 business bankruptcies in 2004, down 13% from the previous year. In 2005, the state's personal bankruptcy (Chapter 7 and Chapter 13) filing rate was 485 filings per 100,000 people, ranking Nebraska as the 28th highest in the nation.


In 2005 Nebraska had a gross state product (GSP) of $70 billion which accounted for 0.6% of the nation's gross domestic product and placed the state at number 37 in highest GSP among the 50 states and the District of Columbia.

According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, in 2004 Nebraska had a per capita personal income (PCPI) of $32,341. This ranked 21st in the United States and was 98% of the national average of $33,050. The 19942004 average annual growth rate of PCPI was 4.5%. Nebraska had a total personal income (TPI) of $56,523,179,000, which ranked 36th in the United States and reflected an increase of 5.8% from 2003. The 19942004 average annual growth rate of TPI was 5.2%. Earnings of persons employed in Nebraska increased from $41,452,474,000 in 2003 to $43,923,337,000 in 2004, an increase of 6.0%. The 200304 national change was 6.3%.

The US Census Bureau reports that the three-year average median household income for 2002 to 2004 in 2004 dollars was $44,623 compared to a national average of $44,473. During the same period an estimated 9.9% of the population was below the poverty line as compared to 12.4% nationwide.


According to the US Department of Labor's Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), in April 2006 the seasonally adjusted civilian labor force in Nebraska numbered 988,200, with approximately 33,700 workers unemployed, yielding an unemployment rate of 3.4%, compared to the national average of 4.7% for the same period. Preliminary data for the same period placed nonfarm employment at 947,100. Since the beginning of the BLS data series in 1976, the highest unemployment rate recorded in Nebraska was 6.8% in February 1983. The historical low was 2.2% in February 1998. Preliminary nonfarm employment data by occupation for April 2006 showed that approximately 4.9% of the labor force was employed in construction; 10.9% in manufacturing; 21.2% in trade, transportation, and public utilities; 6.9% in financial activities; 10.4% in professional and business services; 13.7% in education and health services; 8.5% in leisure and hospitality services; and 17.1% in government.

The BLS reported that in 2005, a total of 69,000 of Nebraska's 830,000 employed wage and salary workers were formal members of a union. This represented 8.3% of those so employed, which was unchanged from 2004, and below the national average of 12%. Overall in 2005, a total of 79,000 workers (9.5%) in Nebraska were covered by a union or employee association contract, which includes those workers who reported no union affiliation. Nebraska is one of 22 states with a right-to-work law.

As of 1 March 2006, Nebraska had a state-mandated minimum wage rate of $5.15 per hour. In 2004, women in the state accounted for 47.1% of the employed civilian labor force.


Territorial Nebraska was settled by homesteaders. Farmers easily adapted to the land and the relatively rainy eastern region, and corn soon became their major crop. In the drier central and western prairie regions, settlers were forced to learn new farming methods to conserve moisture in the ground. Droughts in the 1890s provided impetus for water conservation. Initially, oats and spring wheat were grown along with corn, but by the end of the 19th century, winter wheat became the main wheat crop. The drought and dust storms of the 1930s, which devastated the state's agricultural economy, once again drove home the need for water and soil conservation. In 2002, a total of 7.5 million acres (3 million hectares) were irrigated, a 21% increase from 1992. In 2004, there were 48,300 farms covering 45.9 million acres (18.6 million hectares).

With total cash receipts from farm marketings at over $11.2 billion in 2005, Nebraska ranked fourth among the 50 states. About $7.3 billion of all farm marketings came from livestock production, and $3.9 billion from cash crops (9.9% of US total). In 2004, corn accounted for 22% of farm receipts.

Crop production in 2004 (in bushels) included: corn, 1.3 billion; sorghum grain, 33.6 million; wheat, 61 million; oats, 3.7 million; and barley, 162,000. Hay production was 6.1 million tons and potato production, 9.3 million hundredweight (422 million kg). During 200004, Nebraska ranked third among the states in production of corn for grain and sorghum for grain, and fifth in sorghum for beans.

Farms in Nebraska are major businesses requiring large land holdings to justify investments. The average value of an acre of cropland in 2004 was $1,750. Nebraska farms still tend to be owned by individuals or families rather than by large corporations. The strength of state support for the family farm was reflected in the passage of a 1982 constitutional amendment, initiated by petition, prohibiting the purchase of Nebraska farm and ranch lands by other than a Nebraska family farm corporation.


In 2005, Nebraska ranked third behind Texas and Kansas in the total number of cattle on farms (6.35 million), including 61,000 milk cows. Nebraska farmers had around 2.85 million hogs and pigs, valued at $313.5 million in 2004. During 2003, the state produced an estimated 10.3 million lb (4.7 million kg) of sheep and lambs, which grossed $10.8 million in income for Nebraska farmers. Dairy products included 1.13 billion lb (0.51 billion kg) of milk produced.


Commercial fishing is negligible in Nebraska. The US Fish and Wildlife Service maintains 87 public fishing areas. In 2004, the state had 176,619 fishing license holders. There are five state hatcheries producing a variety of stock fish that includes large-mouth bass, bluegill, black crappie, channel catfish, yellow perch, walleye, trout, and tiger musky.


Arbor Day, now observed throughout the United States, originated in Nebraska in 1872 as a way of encouraging tree planting in the sparsely forested state. Forestland occupies 1,275,000 acres (516,000 hectares), or 2.6% of all Nebraska. Ash, boxelder, hackberry, cottonwood, honey locust, red and bur oaks, walnut, elm, and willow trees are common to eastern and central Nebraska, while ponderosa pine, cottonwood, eastern red cedar, and Rocky Mountain juniper prevail in the west. Lumber production amounted to only 15 million board ft in 2004. The state's two national forestsNebraska and Samuel R. McKelvieare primarily grassland and are managed for livestock grazing. In 2005, the National Forest Service maintained 257,628 acres (104,262 hectares) of forestland.


According to preliminary data from the US Geological Survey (USGS), the estimated value of nonfuel mineral production by Nebraska in 2003 was $94.2 million, a decrease from 2002 of about 4%.

According to the preliminary data for 2003, by value and in descending order, cement (portland and masonry), crushed stone, and construction sand and gravel were the state's top nonfuel minerals.

Preliminary data for 2003 showed crushed stone production totaling 6.9 million metric tons, with a value of $51.1 million, while construction sand and gravel output stood at 12.2 million metric tons, with a value of $42.1 million.

Most clay mining occurs in the southeast region, but sand and gravel mining takes place throughout the state. Industrial sand was used in the production of glass and had some applications outside of construction activities. Nebraska in 2003 was also a producer of common clays and lime.


Nebraska is the only state with an electric power system owned by the public through regional, cooperative, and municipal systems. As of 2003, Nebraska had 162 electrical power service providers, of which 151 were publicly owned, 23 were cooperatives and one was federally operated. As of that same year there were 930,822 retail customers. Of that total, 909,089 received their power from publicly owned service providers. Cooperatives accounted for 21,721 customers and 12 were 48 federal customers.

Total net summer generating capability by the state's electrical generating plants in 2003 stood at 6.685 million kW, with total production that same year at 30.455 billion kWh. Of the total amount generated, 99.7% came from electric utilities, with the remainder coming from independent producers and combined heat and power service providers. The largest portion of all electric power generated, 20.954 billion kWh (68.8%), came from coalfired plants, with nuclear plants in second place at 7.996 billion kWh (26.3%) and hydroelectric plants in third at 980.110 million kWh (3.2%). Other renewable power sources, natural gas fueled plants, and petroleum fired plants accounted for the remainder.

As of 2006, Nebraska had two operating nuclear power plants: the Cooper plant in Brownville and the Fort Calhoun Station near Omaha.

As of 2004, Nebraska had proven crude oil reserves of 15 million barrels, or less than 1% of all proven US reserves, while output that same year averaged 8,000 barrels per day. Including federal offshore domains, the state that year ranked 22nd (21st excluding federal offshore) in proven reserves and 23rd (22nd excluding federal offshore) in production among the 31 producing states. In 2004, Nebraska had 1,639 producing oil wells and accounted for under 1% of all US production. The state has no refineries.

In 2004, Nebraska had 111 producing natural gas and gas condensate wells. In that same year, marketed gas production (all gas produced excluding gas used for repressuring, vented and flared, and nonhydrocarbon gases removed) totaled 1.454 billion cu ft (0.041 billion cu m). There was no data available on the state's proven reserves of natural gas.

Nebraska has no commercial coal industry.


According to the US Census Bureau's Annual Survey of Manufactures (ASM) for 2004, Nebraska's manufacturing sector covered some 15 product subsectors. The shipment value of all products manufactured in the state that same year was $34.433 billion. Of that total, food manufacturing accounted for the largest share at $19.037 billion. It was followed by machinery manufacturing at $2.061 billion, transportation equipment manufacturing at $2.034 billion, chemical manufacturing at $1.904 billion, and miscellaneous manufacturing at $1.623 billion.

In 2004, a total of 99,706 people in Nebraska were employed in the state's manufacturing sector, according to the ASM. Of that total, 76,578 were actual production workers. In terms of total employment, the food manufacturing industry accounted for the largest portion of all manufacturing employees at 36,190, with 29,537 actual production workers. It was followed by machinery manufacturing at 8,590 employees (5,617 actual production workers), fabricated metal product manufacturing at 8,306 employees (6,112 actual production workers), transportation equipment manufacturing at 7,841 employees (6,508 actual production workers), plastics and rubber products manufacturing at 5,159 employees (4,078 actual production workers), and miscellaneous manufacturing with 5,025 employees (4,070 actual production workers).

ASM data for 2004 showed that Nebraska's manufacturing sector paid $3.532 billion in wages. Of that amount, the food manufacturing sector accounted for the largest share at $1.131 billion. It was followed by machinery manufacturing at $350.037 million, fabricated metal product manufacturing at $307.681 million, transport equipment manufacturing at $291.760 million, and plastics and rubber products manufacturing at $184.551 million.

Nebraska has a small but growing manufacturing sector, the largest portion of which is in the Omaha metropolitan area. Other manufacturing centers are located in Lincoln and the Sioux City, Iowa, metropolitan area that is located in Nebraska.


According to the 2002 Census of Wholesale Trade, Nebraska's wholesale trade sector had sales that year totaling $26.1 billion from 2,907 establishments. Wholesalers of durable goods accounted for 1,542 establishments, followed by nondurable goods wholesalers at 1,193 and electronic markets, agents, and brokers accounting for 172 establishments. Sales by durable goods wholesalers in 2002 totaled $6.2 billion, while wholesalers of nondurable goods saw sales of $16.5 billion. Electronic markets, agents, and brokers in the wholesale trade industry had sales of $3.3 billion.

In the 2002 Census of Retail Trade, Nebraska was listed as having 8,157 retail establishments with sales of $20.2 billion. The leading types of retail businesses by number of establishments were: motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts dealers (1,126), gasoline stations (1,116), building material/garden equipment and supplies dealers (1,022), and food and beverage stores (892). In terms of sales, motor vehicle and motor vehicle parts dealers accounted for the largest share of retail sales at $5.07 billion, followed by general merchandise stores at $2.8 billion, food and beverage stores at $2.4 billion, and building material/garden equipment and supplies dealers at $2.1 billion. A total of 105,634 people were employed by the retail sector in Nebraska that year.

Nebraska's exports of goods produced within the state totaled $3 billion in 2005. Major export items included: food, electronic equipment, agricultural crops, transport equipment, and chemicals. The majority of exports went to Japan, Canada, and Mexico.


Nebraska's consumer protection activities are generally the responsibility of the Office of the Attorney General's Consumers Protection Division. The Division also operates a mediation service to help the state's consumers to resolve complaints against business. Consumer protection involving railroads, telephone companies motor transport and other common carriers within the state is the responsibility of the Nebraska Public Service Commission.

When dealing with consumer protection issues, the state's attorney general's office can initiate civil and criminal proceedings, represent the state before state and federal regulatory agencies, administer consumer protection and education programs, handle formal consumer complaints, and exercise broad subpoena powers. In antitrust actions, the attorney general's office can act on behalf of those consumers who are incapable of acting on their own; initiate damage actions on behalf of the state in state courts; initiate criminal proceedings; and represent counties, cities and other governmental entities in recovering civil damages under state or federal law. However, the state's attorney general's office cannot provide private legal advice.

The offices of the Consumer Protection Division are located in Lincoln, the state capital.


As of June 2005, Nebraska had 262 insured banks, savings and loans, and saving banks, plus 25 state-chartered and 53 federally chartered credit unions (CUs). Excluding the CUs, the Omaha-Council Bluffs market area accounted for the largest portion of the state's financial institutions and deposits in 2004, with 74 institutions and $14.442 billion in deposits. As of June 2005, CUs accounted for 5.3% of all assets held by all financial institutions in the state, or some $2.577 billion. Banks, savings and loans, and savings banks collectively accounted for the remaining 94.7% or $46.120 billion in assets held.

In 2004, the median net interest margin (NIM)the difference between the lower rates offered to savers and the higher rates charged on loanswas 4.18%, down from 4.19% in 2003. In fourth quarter 2005, the median NIM was 4.15%. The median percentage of past-due/nonaccrual loans to total loans in 2004 was 1.68%, down from 1.85% in 2003and was 1.47% in fourth quarter 2005.

Regulation of Nebraska's state-chartered banks and other financial institutions is the responsibility of the Nebraska Department of Banking and Finance.


The insurance industry is important in Nebraska's economy. The major company in the state is Mutual of Omaha. In 2004, there were about 1.2 million individual life insurance policies in force with a total value of over $91.9 billion; total value for all categories of life insurance (individual, group, and credit) was over $145 billion. The average coverage amount is $76,500 per policy holder. Death benefits paid that year totaled at over $399 million.

In 2003, there were 29 life and health and 38 property and casualty insurance companies domiciled in the state. Direct premiums for property and casualty insurance totaled $3 billion in 2004. That year, there were 13,617 flood insurance policies in force in the state, with a total value of $1.49 billion.

In 2004, 57% of state residents held employment-based health insurance policies, 8% held individual policies, and 22% were covered under Medicare and Medicaid; 11% of residents were uninsured. In 2003, employee contributions for employment-based health coverage averaged at 29% for family coverage. The employee contribution for single coverage averaged at 25%, the highest rate in the nation. The state offers a six-month health benefits expansion program for small-firm employees in connection with the Consolidated Omnibus Budget Reconciliation Act (COBRA, 1986), a health insurance program for those who lose employment-based coverage due to termination or reduction of work hours.

In 2003, there were over 1.3 million auto insurance policies in effect for private passenger cars. Required minimum coverage includes bodily injury liability of up to $25,000 per individual and $50,000 for all persons injured in an accident, as well as property damage liability of $25,000. In 2003, the average expenditure per vehicle for insurance coverage was $624.26.


The Bureau of Securities within the Department of Banking and Finance regulates the sale of securities. There are no stock exchanges in the state. In 2005, there were 410 personal financial advisers employed in the state and 1,440 securities, commodities, and financial services sales agents. In 2004, there were over 29 publicly traded companies within the state, with over 11 NASDAQ companies, 9 NYSE listings, and 1 AMEX listing. In 2006, the state had five Fortune 500 companies; Berkshire Hathaway ranked first in the state and 13th in the nation with revenues of over $81.6 billion, followed by ConAgra Foods, Union Pacific, Peter Kiewit Sons', Inc, and Mutual of Omaha Insurance. Peter Kiewit Sons', Inc. is an employee-owned company that does not trade in public stock. The other four companies listed are on the NYSE.


Nebraska's constitution prohibits the state from incurring debt in excess of $100,000. However, there is a provision in the constitution that permits the issuance of revenue bonds for highway and water conservation and management structure construction. There are $10 million of bonds payable by a separate legal entity that has been blended into the financial activity of the state. These bonds do not represent a general obligation of the state and are secured by revenues from the equipment that the debt was incurred to purchase.

NebraskaState Government Finances
(Dollar amounts in thousands. Per capita amounts in dollars.)
Abbreviations and symbols:zero or rounds to zero; (NA) not available; (X) not applicable.
source: U.S. Census Bureau, Governments Division, 2004 Survey of State Government Finances, January 2006.
Total Revenue 8,316,470 4,757.71
  General revenue 7,337,829 4,197.84
   Intergovernmental revenue 2,383,391 1,363.50
   Taxes 3,639,811 2,082.27
     General sales 1,524,591 872.19
     Selective sales 463,487 265.15
     License taxes 201,921 115.52
     Individual income tax 1,242,603 710.87
     Corporate income tax 167,429 95.78
     Other taxes 39,780 22.76
   Current charges 652,712 373.41
   Miscellaneous general revenue 661,915 378.67
  Utility revenue - -
  Liquor store revenue - -
  Insurance trust revenue 978,641 559.86
Total expenditure 6,979,917 3,993.09
  Intergovernmental expenditure 1,695,613 970.03
  Direct expenditure 5,284,304 3,023.06
    Current operation 4,072,878 2,330.02
    Capital outlay 652,374 373.21
    Insurance benefits and repayments 334,290 191.24
    Assistance and subsidies 128,728 73.64
    Interest on debt 96,034 54.94
Exhibit: Salaries and wages 1,827,865 1,045.69
Total expenditure 6,979,917 3,993.09
  General expenditure 6,645,627 3,801.85
   Intergovernmental expenditure 1,695,613 970.03
   Direct expenditure 4,950,014 2,831.82
  General expenditures, by function:
   Education 2,324,444 1,329.77
   Public welfare 1,899,089 1,086.44
   Hospitals 202,775 116.00
   Health 308,713 176.61
   Highways 595,128 340.46
   Police protection 69,651 39.85
   Correction 188,457 107.81
   Natural resources 146,969 84.08
   Parks and recreation 30,384 17.38
   Government administration 178,182 101.93
   Interest on general debt 96,034 54.94
   Other and unallocable 605,801 346.57
  Utility expenditure - -
  Liquor store expenditure - -
  Insurance trust expenditure 334,290 191.24
Debt at end of fiscal year 1,949,654 1,115.36
Cash and security holdings 10,272,986 5,876.99

The constitution also authorizes the Board of Regents of the University of Nebraska, the Board of Trustees of the Nebraska State Colleges, and the State Board of Education to issue revenue bonds to construct, purchase, or remodel educational buildings and facilities. The payment of these bonds is generally made from revenue collected from use of the buildings and facilities. The legislature has authorized the creation of two financing authorities that are not subject to state constitutional restrictions on the incurrence of debt. These financing authorities were organized to assist in providing funds for the construction of capital improvement projects at the colleges and the University. Although the state has no legal responsibility for the debt of these financing authorities, they are considered part of the reporting entity.

The Nebraska state budget is prepared by the Budget Division of the Department of Administrative Services and is submitted annually by the governor to the legislature. The fiscal year runs from 1 July to 30 June.

Fiscal year 2006 general funds were estimated at $3.3 billion for resources and $2.9 billion for expenditures. In fiscal year 2004, federal government grants to Nebraska were $2.5 billion.

In the fiscal year 2007 federal budget, Nebraska was slated to receive $5 million to co-locate the Terminal Radar Approach Control (TRACON) in Lincoln with the TRACON in Omaha.


In 2005, Nebraska collected $3,797 million in tax revenues or $2,158 per capita, which placed it 24th among the 50 states in per capita tax burden. The national average was $2,192 per capita. Property taxes accounted for 0.1% of the total, sales taxes 39.9%, selective sales taxes 12.0%, individual income taxes 36.7%, corporate income taxes 5.2%, and other taxes 6.0%.

As of 1 January 2006, Nebraska had four individual income tax brackets ranging from 2.56 to 6.84%. The state taxes corporations at rates ranging from 5.58 to 7.81% depending on tax bracket.

In 2004, state and local property taxes amounted to $2,007,118,000 or $1,148 per capita. The per capita amount ranks the state 16th highest nationally. Local governments collected $2,004,782,000 of the total and the state government $2,336,000.

Nebraska taxes retail sales at a rate of 5.5%. In addition to the state tax, local taxes on retail sales can reach as much as 1.5%, making for a potential total tax on retail sales of 7%. Food purchased for consumption off-premises is tax exempt. The tax on cigarettes is 64 cents per pack, which ranks 30th among the 50 states and the District of Columbia. Nebraska taxes gasoline at 27 cents per gallon. This is in addition to the 18.4 cents per gallon federal tax on gasoline.

According to the Tax Foundation, for every federal tax dollar sent to Washington in 2004, Nebraska citizens received $1.07 in federal spending.


The Department of Economic Development (DED) was created in 1967 to plan, promote, and develop the economy of the state. Nebraska offers loans for businesses which create or maintain employment for persons of low and moderate income. It provides tax credits to companies which increase investment and add jobs. The Bio Nebraska Life Sciences Association was formed in 2005 to coordinate and expand life sciences in the state. Grow Nebras-ka is a nonprofit marketing program whose mission is to expand the state's arts and craft industry. The Nebraska "Edge" programs are rural entrepreneurial training programs that are hosted by local communities, organizations and associations. The Nebraska Investment Finance Authority provides tax-exempt bond financing and technical assistance for agriculture, business, housing, and community development. In 2006, the US Chamber of Commerce ranked all 50 states on legal fairness towards business. The chamber found Nebraska to be one of five states with the best legal environment for business. The other four were Iowa, Virginia, Connecticut, and Delaware.


The infant mortality rate in October 2005 was estimated at 5.7 per 1,000 live births. The birth rate in 2003 was 14.9 per 1,000 population. The abortion rate stood at 11.6 per 1,000 women in 2000. In 2003, about 83.4% of pregnant woman received prenatal care beginning in the first trimester. In 2004, approximately 82% of children received routine immunizations before the age of three.

The crude death rate in 2003 was 8.9 deaths per 1,000 population. As of 2002, the death rates for major causes of death (per 100,000 resident population) were: heart disease, 245.3; cancer, 189.5; cerebrovascular diseases, 63.8; chronic lower respiratory diseases, 54; and diabetes, 22.7. The mortality rate from HIV infection was 1.2 per 100,000 population. In 2004, the reported AIDS case rate was at about 3.9 per 100,000 population. In 2002, about 57% of the population was considered overweight or obese. As of 2004, about 20.2% of state residents were smokers.

University Hospital and University of Nebraska Medical Center are in Omaha. In 2003, Nebraska had 85 community hospitals with about 7,500 beds. There were about 212,000 patient admissions that year and 3.7 million outpatient visits. The average daily inpatient census was about 4,400 patients. The average cost per day for hospital care was $1,043. Also in 2003, there were about 228 certified nursing facilities in the state with 16,378 beds and an overall occupancy rate of about 83%. In 2004, it was estimated that about 75.3% of all state residents had received some type of dental care within the year. Nebraska had 243 physicians per 100,000 resident population in 2004 and 936 nurses per 100,000 in 2005. In 2004, there were a total of 1,114 dentists in the state.

About 15% of state residents were enrolled in Medicaid programs in 2003; 15% were enrolled in Medicare programs in 2004. Approximately 11% of the state population was uninsured in 2004. In 2003, state health care expenditures totaled $2.1 million.


In 2004, about 43,000 people received unemployment benefits, with the average weekly unemployment benefit at $220. In fiscal year 2005, the estimated average monthly participation in the food stamp program included about 117,415 persons (46,948 households); the average monthly benefit was about $84.83 per person. That year, the total of benefits paid through the state for the food stamp program was about $119.5 million.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the system of federal welfare assistance that officially replaced Aid to Families with Dependent Children (AFDC) in 1997, was reauthorized through the Deficit Reduction Act of 2005. TANF is funded through federal block grants that are divided among the states based on an equation involving the number of recipients in each state. Nebraska's TANF program is called Employment First. In 2004, the state program had 27,000 recipients; state and federal expenditures on this TANF program totaled $59 million in fiscal year 2003.

In December 2004, Social Security benefits were paid to 290,580 Nebraska residents. This number included 190,650 retired workers, 29,720 widows and widowers, 31,910 disabled workers, 18,070 spouses, and 20,230 children. Social Security beneficiaries represented 16.6% of the total state population and 94.3% of the state's population age 65 and older. Retired workers received an average monthly payment of $937; widows and widowers, $927; disabled workers, $847; and spouses, $475. Payments for children of retired workers averaged $510 per month; children of deceased workers, $648; and children of disabled workers, $240. Federal Supplemental Security Income payments in December 2004 went to 22,100 Nebraska residents, averaging $368 a month. An additional $519,000 of state-administered supplemental payments were distributed to 5,574 residents.


In 2004, there were an estimated 757,743 housing units in Nebraska, 687,456 of which were occupied; 68.4% were owner-occupied. About 73.8% of all units were single-family, detached homes. Utility gas and electricity were the most common heating energy sources. It was estimated that 35,566 units lacked telephone service, 1,426 lacked complete plumbing facilities, and 3,513 lacked complete kitchen facilities. The average household had 2.47 members.

In 2004, 10,900 new privately owned units were authorized for construction. The median home value was $106,656. The median monthly cost for mortgage owners was $1,051. Renters paid a median of $547 per month. In 2006, the state received over $12.3 million in community development block grants from the US Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD).


In 2004, 91.3% of Nebraskans age 25 and older were high school graduates, exceeding the national average of 84%. Some 24.8% had obtained a bachelor's degree or higher, lower than the national average of 26%.

The total enrollment for fall 2002 in Nebraska's public schools stood at 285,000. Of these, 195,000 attended schools from kindergarten through grade eight, and 90,000 attended high school. Approximately 79.5% of the students were white, 7.1% were black, 10.1% were Hispanic, 1.7% were Asian/Pacific Islander, and 1.6% were American Indian/Alaskan Native. Total enrollment was estimated at 282,000 in fall 2003 and expected to be 285,000 by fall 2014, a decline of 0.2% during the period 2002 to 2014. there were 39,454 students enrolled in 242 private schools in fall 2003. Expenditures for public education in 2003/04 were estimated at $2.6 billion. Since 1969, the National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) has tested public school students nationwide. The resulting report, The Nation's Report Card, stated that in 2005 eighth graders in Nebraska scored 284 out of 500 in mathematics compared with the national average of 278.

As of fall 2002, there were 116,737 students enrolled in college or graduate school; minority students comprised 9.8% of total post-secondary enrollment. In 2005, Nebraska had 39 degree-granting institutions, including 7 public four-year schools, 8 public two-year schools, and 16 nonprofit, private four-year institutions. The University of Nebraska is the state's largest postsecondary institution, with campuses in Kearney, Lincoln, and Omaha.


The 15-member Nebraska Arts Council (NAC), appointed by the governor, is empowered to receive federal and state funds and to plan and administer statewide and special programs in all the arts. Funds are available for arts education, organizational support, multicultural arts projects, special arts-related programs, touring, and fellowships. Affiliation with the Mid-America Arts Alliance allows the council to help sponsor national and regional events. In 2005, the NAC and other Nebraska arts organizations received nine grants totaling $747,800 from the National Endowment for the Arts.

The Nebraska Humanities Council, founded in 1972, sponsors two annual festivals: The Great Plains Chautauqua and the Nebraska Book Festival. The Nebraska Book Festival celebrates local writers and books, but also emphasizes the importance of reading and writing worldwide; the 2005 theme "Local Wonders" featured US Poet Laureate and 2005 Pulitzer Prize winner, Ted Kooser, and his title, Local Wonders: Seasons in the Bohemian Alps. In 2005, the National Endowment for the Humanities contributed $782,580 to seven programs in the state.

The Omaha Theater Company for Young People sponsors a number of theatrical performances as well as the Omaha Theater Ballet Company. The Omaha Symphony was founded in 1921, and Opera Omaha was founded in 1958. In their 2006/07 season, the Omaha Symphony hosted special guest performances by pop and Christian music artist, Amy Grant, and Tony-Award winning actress, Bernadette Peters.

The Lied Center for Performing Arts in Lincoln was created in 1990 and sponsors a wide variety of dance, theater, and musical programs. The facility brings major regional, national, and international events to the state and works with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, providing opportunities in teaching and training in the performing arts departments. Offering a wide variety of events, in 2006, performances included Cuban-American recording artist, Maria Del Rey and the musical Sweeney Todd performed by local musical company, TADA.


For the fiscal year ending in December 2001, Nebraska had 272 public library systems, with 289 libraries, of which 17 were branches. In that same year, there was a total of 6,004,000 volumes of books and serial publications in the public library system, while total circulation was 11,366,000. The system also had 209,000 audio and 175,000 video items, 15,000 electronic format items (CD-ROMs, magnetic tapes, and disks), and nine bookmobiles. In fiscal year 2001, operating income for the state's public library system came to $37,036,000 and included $289,000 in federal grants and $511,000 in state grants. The Omaha public library system had 916,560 books and 2,471 periodical subscriptions in nine branches.

The Joslyn Art Museum in Omaha is the state's leading museum. Other important museums include the Nebraska State Museum of History, the University of Nebraska State Museum (natural history), and the Sheldon Memorial Art Gallery, all in Lincoln; the Western Heritage Museum in Omaha; the Stuhr Museum of the Prairie Pioneer in Grand Island; and the Hastings Museum in Hastings. In all, the state had 107 museums in 2000. The Agate Fossil Beds National Monument in northwestern Nebraska features mammal fossils from the Miocene era and a library of pale-ontological and geologic material.


Telephone service is regulated by the Public Service Commission. About 95.7% of the state's occupied housing units had telephones in 2004. Additionally, by June of that same year there were 984,355 mobile wireless telephone subscribers. In 2003, 66.1% of Nebraska households had a computer and 55.4% had Internet access. By June 2005, there were 253,974 high-speed lines in Nebraska, 228,965 residential and 25,009 for business. In 2005, 52 major FM stations and 19 major AM stations were operating. There were 8 major network TV stations. A total of 23,752 Internet domain names were registered in the state in 2000.


In 2005, Nebraska had 6 morning dailies, 12 evening dailies, and 6 Sunday newspapers. The leading newspaper is the Omaha World-Herald, with a daily circulation in 2005 of 192,607 and a Sunday circulation of 242,964. The Lincoln Journal-Star had a daily circulation of 74,893 and a Sunday circulation of 84,149.


In 2006, there were over 2,835 nonprofit organizations registered within the state, of which about 1,874 were registered as charitable, educational, or religious organizations. Among the national organizations based in Nebraska are the Great Plains Council at the University of Nebraska (Lincoln), the American Shorthorn Society (Omaha), the Morse Telegraph Club (Lincoln), Girls and Boys Town (Boys Town), Wellness Councils of America (Omaha), USA Roller Sports (Lincoln), and the National Arbor Day Foundation (Nebraska City). The state's arts, culture, and history are represented in part by the Nebraska Humanities Council and the Nebraska State Historical Society. Special interest and hobbyist associations include the Antique Barbed Wire Society based in Kearney and the Centennial Model T Club of Omaha.


Tourism is Nebraska's third-largest source of outside revenue (after agriculture and manufacturing). In 2004, the state hosted some 19.6 million travelers. Out-of-state visitors were primarily from Kansas, Iowa, Colorado, Missouri, South Dakota, Illinois, and Minnesota. Total travel expenditures were at $2.9 billion. The industry supports nearly 43,000 jobs.

The 8 state parks, 9 state historical parks, 12 federal areas, and 55 recreational areas are main tourist attractions; fishing, swimming, picnicking, and sightseeing are the principal activities. The most attended Nebraska attractions in 2002 were: Omaha's Henry Doorly Zoo (1,420,556 visitors), Cabela's in Sidney (1,025,000), Eugene T. Mahoney State Park (1,100,000), Lake McConaughy State Recreation Area (859,624), Fort Robinson State Park (357,932), Joslyn Art Museum (186,646), Strategic Air and Space Museum (173,889), the Great Platte River Road Archway Monument (163,000), University of Nebraska State Museum (133,343), and Scotts Bluff National Monument (111,293). There is a Lewis and Clark Discovery Center in Crofton. An unusual exhibit, called Carhenge is a re-creation of Stonehenge made with wrecked cars.


There are no major professional sports teams in Nebraska. Minor league baseball's Omaha Royals play in the Triple-A Pacific Coast League. The most popular spectator sport is college football. Equestrian activities, including racing and rodeos, are popular. Major annual sporting events are the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) College Baseball World Series at Rosenblatt Stadium and the River City Roundup and Rodeo, both held in Omaha. Pari-mutuel racing is licensed by the state.

The University of Nebraska Cornhuskers compete in the Big Twelve Conference. The football team often places high in national rankings and was named National Champion in 1970 (with Texas), 1971, 1994, 1995, and 1997. The Cornhuskers won the Orange Bowl in 1964, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1983, 1995, 1997, and 1998; the Cotton Bowl in 1974 (January); the Sugar Bowl in 1974 (December), 1985, and 1987; the Alamo Bowl in 2001; and the Fiesta Bowl in 1996 and 2000. The basketball team won the National Invitational Tournament in 1996.


Nebraska was the birthplace of only one US president, Gerald R. Ford (Leslie King Jr., b.1913). When Spiro Agnew resigned the vice presidency in October 1973, President Richard M. Nixon appointed Ford, then a US representative from Michigan, to the post. Upon Nixon's resignation on 9 August 1974, Ford became the first nonelected president in US history.

Four native and adoptive Nebraskans have served in the presidential cabinet. J. Sterling Morton (b.New York, 18321902), who originated Arbor Day, was secretary of agriculture under Grover Cleveland. William Jennings Bryan (b.Illinois, 18601925), a US representative from Nebraska, served as secretary of state and was three times the unsuccessful Democratic candidate for president. Frederick A. Seaton (b.Washington, 190974) was Dwight Eisen-hower's secretary of the interior, and Melvin Laird (b.1922) was Richard Nixon's secretary of defense.

George W. Norris (b.Ohio, 18611944), the "fighting liberal," served 10 years in the US House of Representatives and 30 years in the Senate. Norris's greatest contributions were in rural electrification (his efforts led to the creation of the Tennessee Valley Authority), farm relief, and labor reform; he also promoted the unicameral form of government in Nebraska. Theodore C. Sorensen (b.1928) was an adviser to President John F. Kennedy.

Indian leaders important in Nebraska history include Oglala Sioux chiefs Red Cloud (18221909) and Crazy Horse (1849?77). Moses Kinkaid (b.West Virginia, 18541920) served in the US House and was the author of the Kinkaid Act, which encouraged homesteading in Nebraska. Educator and legal scholar Roscoe Pound (18701964) was also a Nebraskan. In agricultural science, Samuel Aughey (b.Pennsylvania, 18311912) and Hardy W. Campbell (b.Vermont, 18501937) developed dry-land farming techniques. Botanist Charles E. Bessey (b.Ohio, 18451915) encouraged forestation. Father Edward Joseph Flanagan (b.Ireland, 18861948) was the founder of Boys Town, a home for underprivileged youth. Two native Nebraskans became Nobel laureates in 1980: Lawrence R. Klein (b.1920) in economics and Val L. Fitch (b.1923) in physics.

Writers associated with Nebraska include Willa Cather (b.Virginia, 18731947), who used the Nebraska frontier setting of her childhood in many of her writings and won a Pulitzer Prize in 1922; author and poet John G. Neihardt (b.Illinois, 18811973), who incorporated Indian mythology and history in his work; Mari Sandoz (190166), who wrote of her native Great Plains; writer-photographer Wright Morris (191098); and author Tillie Olsen (b.1912). Rollin Kirby (18751952) won three Pulitzer Prizes for political cartooning. Composer-conductor Howard Hanson (18961982), born in Wahoo, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1944.

Nebraskans important in entertainment include actor-dancer Fred Astaire (Fred Austerlitz, 18991984); actors Harold Lloyd (18941971), Henry Fonda (190582), Robert Taylor (Spangler Arlington Brugh, (191169), Marlon Brando (19242004), and Sandy Dennis (193793); television stars Johnny Carson (b.Iowa, 19252005) and Dick Cavett (b.1936); and motion-picture producer Darryl F. Zanuck (190279).


Calloway, Bertha W., and Alonzo N. Smith. Visions of Freedom on the Great Plains: An Illustrated History of African Americans in Nebraska. Virginia Beach, Va.: Donning Co., 1998.

Council of State Governments. The Book of the States, 2006 Edition. Lexington, Ky.: Council of State Governments, 2006.

Iowa Nebraska Travel-Smart. Santa Fe: John Muir Publications, 2000.

Luebke, Frederick C. Nebraska: An Illustrated History. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.

McArthur, Debra. The Kansas-Nebraska Act and "Bleeding Kansas" in American History. Berkeley Heights, N.J.: Enslow, 2003.

Mobil Travel Guide. Great Plains 2006: Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma. Lincolnwood, Ill.: ExxonMobil Travel Publications, 2006.

Olson, James C., and Ronald C. Naugle. History of Nebraska. 3rd ed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997.

Preston, Thomas. Great Plains: North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Oklahoma, and Texas. Vol. 4 in The Double Eagle Guide to 1,000 Great Western Recreation Destinations. Billings, Mont.: Discovery Publications, 2003.

State of Nebraska. Department of Economic Development. Nebraska Statistical Handbook, 19931994. Lincoln, 1994.

US Department of Commerce, Economics and Statistics Administration, US Census Bureau. Nebraska, 2000. Summary Social, Economic, and Housing Characteristics: 2000 Census of Population and Housing. Washington, D.C.: US Government Printing Office, 2003.

Wishart, David J. An Unspeakable Sadness: The Dispossession of the Nebraska Indians. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994.

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NEBRASKA looks like a diesel locomotive facing eastward. When it became a territory of the United States in 1854, its northern border extended all the way to Canada and its western border extended deep into the Rocky Mountains, but between 1854 and statehood in 1867, it was whittled down by Congress to please its various constituencies. It is now bounded to the north by South Dakota. The Missouri River flows southeastward out of South Dakota, forming part of Nebraska's border with South Dakota and its eastern border with Iowa and then northwest Missouri. Nebraska's southern border forms Kansas's northern border, meets Colorado, makes a sharp corner northward to southeast of Ogallala, Nebraska, and then turns sharply westward along Colorado's border until meeting Wyoming. The border then goes north until meeting South Dakota, where it turns sharply eastward.

The climate and land of Nebraska can be divided into four parts. The eastern part of Nebraska, along the Missouri, is part of the Central Lowlands of the Missouri River region. It is usually moist, prone to flooding, and rich for agriculture. West of the Lowlands, in south central Nebraska, are the Loess Hills. Loess is fine-grained silt deposited on the land by winds. The Loess Hills region has many rivers that have carved the land into hills and valleys; it is prone to drought, and even the rivers may go dry. The Sand Hills are in the western part of the state. In the early era of Nebraska's settlement, they were often mistakenly thought to be just part of the High Plains farther to the west because of their vast expanses of sand dunes, the third largest expanse of sand dunes in the world, behind only the Sahara Desert and the Arabian Desert. Yet the Sand Hills harbor lakes and streams that

enabled those who knew about them to farm and survive even during droughts. The High Plains fill the far western part of Nebraska and are highlands that begin the continent's westward rise into the Rocky Mountains. The High Plains have Nebraska's highest spot, Panorama Point, at 5,424 feet above sea level. This is part of a steady westward rise from 480 feet above sea level at the Missouri River, meaning that Nebraska is tilted. The High Plains tend to be dry and windy, but irrigation and pumping water from underground aquifers have made it good land for raising cattle.


There have been several significant migrations from northeast Asia into North America, the first probably occurring over 100,000 years ago. There is evidence that people were on the land that is now Nebraska 25,000 years ago, probably migratory people who did not settle in one place. When the last glacial era was ending around 11,000 b.c., nomads known as Paleo-Indians, likely a mix of several cultures, judging by the distinct varieties of their spearheads, lived in or migrated through the Nebraska area. These people hunted the big game that was abundant in the Great Plains of the time.

The region of Nebraska gradually warmed, and a great forest grew. About 7000 b.c., new cultures were evolving; archaeologists call the people of those cultures Archaic Indians. These people moved into and off of the land over several thousand years. Most of the really big game had disappeared. Thus the Archaic Indians hunted small game as well as what big game they could find, such as deer, and they foraged for fruits and vegetables. They made advancements in technology that made their survival easier.

About 2000 b.c., a revolution in how people lived in Nebraska began with the migration into the area of people who had lived east of the Missouri River, sometimes called the "Plains Woodland" culture. Perhaps originally attracted by Nebraska's woodlands, they adjusted to a climate change that diminished the forest and generated open grasslands. One of their important contributions to life in the region was the development of pottery, especially vessels in which food or water could be stored. Some large vessels were used for cooking. They probably moved encampments with the seasons, but they were a fairly settled people who built dwellings and even villages that they would return to as the seasons dictated. Some evidence indicates that near the end of their era, the Plains Woodlanders were experimenting with agriculture. Burial mounds from this era indicate a society that was becoming larger and more complex.

In about a.d. 1000, the climate seems to have become drier. The Native Americans in Nebraska of that era often were farmers. Maize had been imported from the southwest, probably along an ancient trading route that extended all the way into Mexico, and it was cultivated along with varieties of squash and beans. Hunting and foraging for wild food plants was still very important for survival. Probably most of the native Nebraskans of the time lived in villages, in rectangular lodges with wooden frames, wattle-and-daub walls, and roofs plastered with mud and covered by grass and tree branches. The pottery became varied and was often simply decorated by carved incisions made before firing.

By the time Europeans were taking an interest in the area of Nebraska, the Native Americans there were in flux, rapidly moving in and out of the area in response to wars and invasions. The Pawnees were in the middle of what became Nebraska; they were settled farmers who probably had been there longer than any of their neighbors. The Poncas occupied the northeast part of modern Nebraska; the Cheyennes were moving in from the west; the Otos had recently settled into the southeast corner; and the Arapahos were hanging onto lands to the southwest. Wars far to the north were sending refugees southward, and the Brule and Oglala Dakota (aka Lakota) Sioux tribes had been forced into northern Nebraska from the other side of the Missouri River by the Chippewas. The Dakotas were violent nomads who raided the villages of the settled peoples of Nebraska; they were very suspicious of outsiders. In addition, the Apaches were following the herds of bison and were pressing the Arapahos and some Pawnees out of their homes.


In 1682, René Robert Cavalier, Sieur de La Salle, led a French expedition down the Mississippi River to the Gulf of Mexico, claiming for France all the land that drained water into the Mississippi, which included the territory that became Nebraska. The region was named "Louisiana" for Louis XIV. At the time, Spain had already laid claim to most of the same land, including Nebraska. Many French trappers and traders visited the Nebraska region without arousing much interest until 1714, when Étienne Veniard de Bourgmont, something of a reprobate adventurer, traveled to the Platte River, which flowed through the middle of what is now Nebraska. Alarmed by this, Spain sent a military expedition north to drive out the French, but there were no French to be found. A couple of years later, in 1720, another Spanish expedition was sent, led by Pedro de Villasur, with forty or so Spanish soldiers and about sixty Native American warriors. They found no French, but they managed to thoroughly antagonize the local population, including the Pawnees, who were on a war footing because of their conflicts with the Dakotas; the Pawnees attacked the Spanish and only thirteen members of the Spanish expedition survived to return south.

In 1739, the French explorers Paul and Pierre Mallet named the Platte River and traveled its length westward and beyond, past the western border of modern Nebraska. French traders continued to visit Nebraska's tribes. In 1800, France forced Spain to surrender its claims to Louisiana, and in 1803 the United States purchased Louisiana from France. In 1804, the Lewis and Clark Expedition stopped briefly in Nebraska while traveling up the Missouri River, gathered some local tribesmen, and offered American friendship; the tribesmen listened patiently, but they had no authority—the leaders who could have made a pact with the explorers were away on other business. In 1812, trader Manuel Lisa established a trading post near the same spot. Robert Stuart led an expedition that trekked eastward from Oregon, reaching the Platte River in 1813 and following the river to the Missouri; his route became the Oregon Trail on which hundreds of thousands of people traveled through Nebraska to the Far West. Major Stephen Long led an expedition into the Great Plains in 1820, and what he saw seemed "barren and uncongenial" to him. He therefore called it a "Great Desert."

Even so, in 1823, Americans established the town of Bellevue across the Missouri River from Council Bluffs in Iowa. It was the first permanent American settlement in the future Nebraska. In 1834, the United States Congress passed the Indian Intercourse Act, forbidding Americans from settling in Nebraska's lands and providing that the United States Army would remove people who violated the law. The Native Americans of the area also reached an agreement whereby they would be compensated annually for Americans using roads and establishing forts in their territory. Beginning with Moses and Eliza Merrill in

1833, missionaries came to live with the Native Americans. In the 1830s, two trails in addition to the Oregon Trail became important in the mass migration of Americans to the West: the Mormon Trail that followed the north bank of the Platte River, and the Denver Trail, which followed the Blue River and the Platte River and then went to Denver.

The Oto name for the Platte River was Nebrathka, which meant "flat water," because even though very long, the Platte River was shallow and easy to cross on foot in many places. Explorer Lieutenant John C. Frémont referred to the river as the Nebraska in a report in 1842, and in 1844 Secretary of War William Wilkins said that given the river's importance, either Nebraska or Platte should be the official name of the region. An effort in Congress on 17 December 1844 to recognize Nebraska as a territory failed, but on 30 May 1854 Nebraska was recognized as an American territory in the Kansas-Nebraska Act. In the Missouri Compromise of 6 March 1820, all lands from Kansas northward were supposed to become free states—no slavery allowed; the Kansas-Nebraska Act repealed the Missouri Compromise and left it up to the citizens of the Kansas and Nebraska to decide whether to be free or slave states.

The Kansas-Nebraska Act gave Nebraska a vast territory, from Kansas to Canada, from the Missouri River into the Rocky Mountains. A census in 1854 found 2,732 Americans living in Nebraska. The citizens of Bellevue and much of southern Nebraska were upset when Omaha was chosen to be the territorial capital instead of Bellevue. In 1863, Congress divided the territory into smaller ones, leaving Nebraska close to its modern form. The Civil War (1861–1865) was going on at the time, but Nebraska felt the effect primarily in the 3,000 troops it contributed to the Union. From 1865 to 1867, the Union Pacific Railroad built a line out from Omaha, westward past the Nebraska border.

In 1866, Nebraska submitted a proposal for a state constitution to Congress. It included a clause that said only white males could vote, which outraged a Congress controlled by the Radical Republicans, who opposed racial discrimination. The offending clause had to be eliminated in order for the constitution to be acceptable; the change was made, allowing Nebraska to become the thirty-seventh state in the Union on 1 March 1867. The new state government resolved to build a new city for its capital, naming it "Lincoln" because it was unlikely that anyone would complain about the name of the martyred President. In 1875, a new state constitution was approved to replace the first one, because the first one had been put together in haste and had not provided a clear framework for laws.

Early Statehood

Although Arbor Day was begun by Nebraska on 10 April 1872, the 1870s were difficult times, with droughts and plagues of locusts between 1874 and 1877. The 1880s, however, saw a boom in the economy. During that decade, the population increased from 453,402 to 1,062,656, an amazing jump in ten years. By 1885, the bison of Nebraska had been exterminated. The 1890s saw a severe reversal of fortune because the United States was hit by a depression that lasted most of the decade. Land prices plummeted, crop prices dropped, and water was scarce. The population only increased to 1,066,300 during the decade. During the 1890s and 1900s, dry land farming techniques and irrigation opened the High Plains to farming, but growing crops there proved to be too difficult for farmers, and thus much of the land became pasture for cattle. Congress's Reclamation Act of 1902 proved especially helpful to Nebraska by providing funds for the development of state water projects.

During the 1890s, one of Nebraska's most famous public figures rose in prominence: William Jennings Bryan, "the Boy Orator of the Platte," from Lincoln. He served Nebraska in the House of Representatives from 1890 to 1894. In 1896, 1900, and 1908, he won the Democrats' presidential nomination. His public speaking was galvanizing, thrilling his listeners. He advocated farmers' rights, and in his best-known speech, he declared that farmers should not be crucified "on a cross of gold."

In the 1920s, Nebraska had another boom. Like that of the 1880s, it was cut down by a depression, the Great Depression that lasted until America entered World War II (1939–1945). In the 1930s, a drought dried the land in most of Nebraska. The soil was composed of fine grains from decades of tilling, and high winds out of the southwest would pick it up and blow tons of it into the sky, blotting out the sun and penetrating everything from clothing to stored food. This was the era of the dust bowl. During Nebraska's worst year, 1935, Congress passed the Tri-County Pact, a federal irrigation project designed to help Nebraskans. By 1954, 1,300,000 acres were irrigated.

In 1937, Nebraska revised its constitution to create a unicameral legislature. Until 1937, Nebraska had a bicameral legislature, meaning it had two houses, a senate and a house of representatives, but the new unicameral legislature had only one house, the Senate. The constitution was further amended to make the Senate nonpartisan. The idea was to streamline the process of making laws and to minimize partisan bickering. The amendment became law partly because Nebraska's very popular United States Senator George W. Norris supported it. He went so far as to leave the Republican Party and run as an independent for reelection to the United States Senate, winning a fifth term.

Modern Era

In 1944, near the end of World War II, the Pick-Sloan Missouri Basin Project was passed by Congress, authorizing hydroelectric plants and reservoirs in states along the Missouri River. This contributed to the expansion of irrigation in Nebraska and to a boom in the 1950s that managed to defy another drought. This boom attracted investors, and corporations began buying farms, with farm sizes nearly doubling from 1950 to 2000, while the number of farms dropped by about 40 percent. People who had worked on farms moved to cities to work in manufacturing plants. In 1960, 54.3 percent of the population of 1,411,921 lived in cities, the first time a census recorded more Nebraskans living in urban areas than in rural areas. African Americans in Nebraskan cities began civil rights protests in 1963. The nationally recognized civil rights leader Malcolm X was born in Omaha.

In 1966, the state property tax seemed too much of a burden for small farmers, and Nebraska was trying to discourage out-of-staters from owning farms in the state and to encourage family ownership of farms. Thus, it revamped its tax structure, eliminating the state property tax while beginning an income tax and a sales tax to finance the state government.

During the 1970s, times were generally good, but in the 1980s, Nebraska went into a recession. Many people lost their farms. The Family Farm Preservation Act of 1982 passed by Nebraska's legislature was intended to help the small farmers with low-interest loans and tax breaks. In 1987, the legislature passed tax incentives to encourage more manufacturing in the state, hoping to create jobs. In 1986, Nebraska's race for governor featured for the first time two female nominees for the Republican and Democratic Parties, with Republican Kay Orr winning over Helen Boosalis.

In the 1990s, Nebraska slowly pulled out of its recession. Advances in farm equipment made it easier for a few people to manage a large farm or ranch, and investments in expensive new equipment were being paid off in an average of three years. This brought with it a significant increase in population, from 1,578,417 in 1990 to 1,713,235 in 2002.


Andreas, A. T. History of Nebraska. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society, 1976 (circa 1882).

Creigh, Dorothy Weyer. Nebraska: A Bicentennial History. New York: Norton, 1977.

Johnson, J. R. Representative Nebraskans. Lincoln, Nebr.: Johnsen Publishing, 1954.

Mattes, Merrill J. The Great Platte River Road: The Covered Wagon Mainline Via Fort Kearney to Fort Laramie. Lincoln: Nebraska State Historical Society, 1969. About the Overland Trail.

McNair, Sylvia. Nebraska. New York: Children's Press, 1999.

Nebraska State Historical Society. Home page at

Olson, James C. History of Nebraska. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1955.

Wills, Charles A. A Historical Album of Nebraska. Brookfield, Conn.: Millbrook Press, 1994.

Kirk H.Beetz

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Nebraska (nəbrăs´kə), Great Plains state of the central United States. It is bordered by Iowa and Missouri, across the Missouri River (E), Kansas (S), Colorado (SW), Wyoming (NW), and South Dakota (N).

Facts and Figures

Area, 77,227 sq mi (200,018 sq km). Pop. (2010) 1,826,341, a 6.7% increase since the 2000 census. Capital, Lincoln. Largest city, Omaha. Statehood, Mar. 1, 1867 (37th state). Highest pt., 5,426 ft (1,655 m), Kimball Co.; lowest pt., 840 ft (256 m), SE corner of state. Nickname, Cornhusker State. Motto, Equality before the Law. State bird, Western meadowlark. State flower, goldenrod. State tree, cottonwood. Abbr., Nebr.; NE


Nebraska is roughly rectangular, except in the northeast and the east where the border is formed by the irregular course of the Missouri River and in the southwest where the state of Colorado cuts out a squared corner. The land rises more or less gradually from 840 ft (256 m) in the east to 5,300 ft (1,615 m) in the west. The great but shallow Platte River, formed in W Nebraska by the junction of the North Platte and the South Platte, flows across the state from west to east to join the Missouri S of Omaha. The Platte and the Missouri, together with their tributaries, give Nebraska all-important water sources that are essential to farming in this agrarian state. Underground water sources are also widely used for irrigation. The river valleys have long provided routes westward, and today the transcontinental railroads and highways follow the valleys.

From the Missouri westward over about half the state stretch undulating farm lands, where the fertile silt is underlaid by deep loess soil. Nebraska's population is concentrated there; many are farmers who produce grains for the consumer market or for feeding hogs and dairy cattle. In this region also lie Nebraska's two major cities—Lincoln, the capital and an important insurance center, and Omaha, the state's largest city and an important meat and grain distribution center—as well as many of the state's larger towns.

To the west and northwest the Sand Hills of Nebraska fan out, their wind-eroded contours now more or less stabilized by grass coverage. Cattle graze on the slopes and tablelands, protected in the severe winters by the sand bluffs and the valleys. The climate is severely continental throughout Nebraska; a low of -40°F (-40°C) in the winter is not unusual, and during the short intense summers temperatures may easily reach 110°F (43°C). Rainfall is almost twice as heavy in the east as in the west. Yet in the west along the river valleys the mixture of silt and sand is watered enough to yield abundantly to cultivation, even under semiarid conditions. In the far west the land rises to the foothills of the Rocky Mts. and displays spectacular bedrock foundations.

Hundreds of fresh and alkali lakes in the state attract sportsmen and campers. The pioneers' migration west over the Oregon Trail is commemorated by the Scotts Bluff National Monument and the Chimney Rock National Historic Site. Other points of interest to the traveler include Father Flanagan's Boys Town, near Omaha; the Fort Niobrara National Wildlife Refuge, near Valentine; and the Homestead National Monument, near Beatrice.


Agriculture is Nebraska's dominant occupational pursuit. The state's chief farm products are cattle, corn, hogs, soybeans, and wheat. Nebraska ranked second among the states in cattle production in 1997. Wheat farming flourishes on the southwest plateaus, while irrigation along the Platte and its tributaries has increased the sugar-beet crop. The Univ. of Nebraska maintains agricultural experiment stations throughout the state. A program of soil conservation includes a shelter belt running across the state to check the effect of wind erosion, and dryland-farming techniques have been encouraged. Forest conservation is stressed, and the state (the birthplace of Arbor Day) has been very active in planting forests.

Nebraska's largest industry is food processing, notably including beef production. The state has diversified its industries since World War II, and the manufacture of electrical machinery, primary metals, and transportation equipment is also important. Deposits of oil (discovered in Cheyenne co. in 1949–50) contribute to the state's economy. Omaha and Lincoln are centers for insurance and telecommunications industries, and Offutt Air Force Base, near Omaha, was the cold-war center of the Strategic Air Command.

Government and Higher Education

Nebraska's constitution was adopted in 1875. It was amended in 1982 to ensure that rangeland and farmland could be sold only to a Nebraska family-farm corporation. The executive branch is headed by a governor elected for a four-year term. By constitutional amendment in 1934 the legislature was made unicameral (it is unique in the United States), with 49 members elected on a nonpartisan basis for terms of four years. The state elects three representatives and two senators to the U.S. Congress and has five electoral votes in presidential elections. In 1986, Nebraska's Kay A. Orr became the first Republican woman to be elected governor of a state. E. Benjamin Nelson, a Democrat elected governor in 1990 and 1994, was succeeded by Mike Johanns, a Republican elected in 1998 and 2002. Johanns resigned in 2005 to become U.S. secretary of education, and was succeeded by fellow Republican Dave Heineman, who won election to the governorship in 2006 and reelection in 2010. Pete Ricketts, a Republican, won in 2014.

The state's leading institution of higher education is the Univ. of Nebraska, at Lincoln, Omaha, and Kearney. Creighton Univ. is at Omaha.


Hunters, Explorers, and Fur Traders

Nebraska's soil has been farmed since prehistoric times, but the Native Americans of the plains—notably the Pawnee—devoted themselves more to hunting the buffalo than to farming, since buffalo, as well as the pronghorn antelope and smaller animals, were then abundant in the area. The Spanish explorer Francisco Vásquez de Coronado and his men were the first Europeans to visit the region. They probably passed through Nebraska in 1541.

The French also came and in the 18th cent. engaged in fur trading, but development began only after the area passed from France to the United States in the Louisiana Purchase of 1803. The Lewis and Clark expedition (1804) and the explorations of Zebulon M. Pike (1806) increased knowledge of the country, but the activities of the fur traders were more immediately valuable in terms of settlement. Manuel Lisa, a fur trader, probably established the first trading post in the Nebraska area in 1813. Bellevue, the first permanent settlement in Nebraska, first developed as a trading post.

Steamboats and Wagon Trains

Steamboating on the Missouri River, initiated in 1819, brought business to the river ports of Omaha and Brownville. The natural highway formed by the Platte valley was used extensively by pioneers going west over the Oregon Trail and also the California Trail and the Mormon Trail. Nebraska settlers made money supplying the wagon trains with fresh mounts and pack animals as well as food.

Nebraska became a territory after passage of the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854. The territory, which initially extended from lat. 40°N to the Canadian border, was firmly Northern and Republican in sympathy during the Civil War. In 1863 the territory was reduced to its present-day size by the creation of the territories of Dakota and Colorado. Congress passed an enabling act for statehood in 1864, but the original provision in the state constitution limiting the franchise to whites delayed statehood until 1867.

Railroads, Ranches, and the Growth of Populism

In 1867 the Union Pacific RR was built across the state, and the land boom, already vigorous, became a rush. Farmers settled on free land obtained under the Homestead Act of 1862, and E Nebraska took on a settled look. The population rose from 28,841 in 1860 to 122,993 in 1870. The Pawnee were defeated in 1859, and by 1880 war with the Sioux and other Native American resistance was over. With the coming of the railroads, cow towns, such as Ogallala and Schuyler, were built up as shipping points on overland cattle trails. Buffalo Bill's Wild West Shows opened in Nebraska in 1882.

Farmers had long been staking out homestead claims across the Sand Hills to the high plains, but ranches also prospered in the state. The ranchers, trying to preserve the open range, ruthlessly opposed the encroachment of the farmers, but the persistent farmers won. Many conservationists believe that much of the land that was plowed under should have been left with grass cover to prevent erosion in later dust storms.

Nature was seldom kind to the people of Nebraska. Ranching was especially hard hit by the ruinous cold of the winter of 1880–81, and farmers were plagued by insect hordes from 1856 to 1875, by prairie fires, and by the recurrent droughts of the 1890s. Many farmers joined the Granger movement in the lean 1870s and the Farmers' Alliances of the 1880s. In the 1890s many beleaguered farmers, faced with ruin and angry at the monopolistic practices of the railroads and the financiers, formed marketing and stock cooperatives and showed their discontent by joining the Populist party. The first national convention of the Populist party was held at Omaha in 1892, and Nebraska's most famous son, William Jennings Bryan, headed the Populist and Democratic tickets in the presidential election of 1896. Populists held the governorship of the state from 1895 to 1901.

Twentieth-Century Changes

Improved conditions in the early 1900s caused Populism to decline in the state, and the return of prosperous days was marked by progressive legislation, the building of highways, and conservation measures. The flush of prosperity, largely caused by the demand for foodstuffs during World War I, was almost feverish. Overexpansion of credits and overconfidence made the depression of the 1920s and 30s all the more disastrous (see Great Depression). Many farmers were left destitute, and many others were able to survive only because of the moratorium on farm debts in 1932. They received federal aid in the desperate years of drought in the 1930s.

Better weather and the huge food demands of World War II renewed prosperity in Nebraska. After the war, efforts continued to make the best use of the water supply, notably in such federal plans as the Missouri River basin project, a vast dam and water-diversion scheme.

Recent attempts to diversify Nebraska's economic base to reduce dependence on meat processing and agriculture have made Lincoln, where state government and the Univ. of Nebraska generate many jobs, a business center, along with Omaha. Among noted Nebraskans have been the pioneer and historian Julius Sterling Morton, who originated Arbor Day, and authors Willa Cather, Mari Sandoz, John G. Neihardt, Loren Eisley, and Wright Morris, all of whom have vividly described the state.


See J. C. Olson, History of Nebraska (2d ed. 1966, repr. 1974); M. P. Lawson and R. E. Lonsdale, Economic Atlas of Nebraska (1977); D. W. Creigh, Nebraska: A History (1977); Nebraska (1985), "Geographies of the United States" series.

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Lincoln . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 385

Omaha . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 397

The State in Brief

Nickname: Cornhusker State

Motto: Equality before the law

Flower: Goldenrod

Bird: Western meadowlark

Area: 77,353 square miles (2000; U.S. rank: 16th)

Elevation: Ranges from 840 feet to 5,426 feet above sea level

Climate: Continental, with wide variations of temperature: intensely hot summers, and severely cold winters. Rainfall twice as heavy in east as in west

Admitted to Union: March 1, 1867

Capital: Lincoln

Head Official: Governor David Heineman (R) (until 2007)


1980: 1,570,000

1990: 1,578,385

2000: 1,711,263

2004 estimate: 1,747,214

Percent change, 19902000: 8.4%

U.S. rank in 2004: 38th

Percent of residents born in state: 67.1% (2000)

Density: 22.3 people per square mile (2000)

2002 FBI Crime Index Total: 73,606

Racial and Ethnic Characteristics (2000)

White: 1,533,261

Black or African American: 68,541

American Indian and Alaska Native: 14,896

Asian: 21,931

Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander: 836

Hispanic or Latino (may be of any race): 94,425

Other: 47,845

Age Characteristics (2000)

Population under 5 years old: 117,048

Population 5 to 19 years old: 387,288

Percent of population 65 years and over: 13.6%

Median age: 35.3 years (2000)

Vital Statistics

Total number of births (2003): 25,760

Total number of deaths (2003): 15,444 (infant deaths, 145)

AIDS cases reported through 2003: 598


Major industries: Finance, insurance, and real estate; trade; agriculture; manufacturing; services

Unemployment rate: 3.9% (April 2005)

Per capita income: $30,331 (2003; U.S. rank: 24)

Median household income: $44,357 (3-year average, 2001-2003)

Percentage of persons below poverty level: 9.9% (3-year average, 2001-2003)

Income tax rate: Graduated from 2.56% to 6.84% (2000; rate set yearly by state legislature)

Sales tax rate: 5.5%

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Admitted to the Union as the thirty-seventh state on March 1, 1867, Nebraska is located in the western north-central United States, midway between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. Nebraska shares boundaries with South Dakota in the north, Kansas in the south, Iowa, Missouri, and the Missouri River in the east, and Wyoming and Colorado in the west. Nebraska is spread across 77,335 square miles, making it the sixteenth largest state. Its population of approximately 1.6 million people ranks thirty-sixth among the fifty states. Omaha is the state's most populous city, while Lincoln is its capital.

Nebraska was acquired by the United States in 1803 as part of the Louisiana Purchase. In 1804 the federal government commissioned Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to map the newly acquired territory, catalog its wildlife, and establish relations with local inhabitants. Lewis and Clark's expedition took them along Nebraska's eastern border. Two years later Zebulon Pike crossed southern Nebraska during his own expedition. These expeditions stimulated fur trade in the region, and the U.S. Army built a fort in Nebraska to protect traders from hostile Native Americans.

Native Americans grew more hostile as white settlers began encroaching upon their lands. The Indian Removal Act of 1830 opened land for white settlement in the Atlantic states by authorizing federal troops to relocate Native Americans from the southeastern United States to the so-called Indian Territory comprised of land in Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma. Thousands of Native Americans suffered great hardships as they were forcibly uprooted from their homelands and driven westward in what has become known as the Trail of Tears.

Native Americans were next forced to cede land for white settlement within the Indian Territory. In 1854 most Native Americans were excluded from eastern Nebraska, while the Sioux and the Cheyenne peoples remained in the western half. Skirmishes between the two tribes and federal troops broke out when the U.S. Army opened a trail to Montana that crossed Sioux and Cheyenne hunting grounds in the west. In 1869 Congress ratified a treaty agreeing to abandon the trail in exchange for the Sioux's promise to leave Nebraska and relocate their peoples to a reservation in what is now South Dakota.

But many Sioux refused to move, arguing that the federal government had deceived them into signing the treaty. Fighting resumed between U.S. troops and the two tribes. On June 25, 1876, General George Armstrong Custer (18391876) led a Seventh Cavalry attack against the Sioux camps of Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse on the banks of Little Bighorn in Montana. Custer and most of his cavalry were killed during the attack. However the army chased down Crazy Horse in northwestern Nebraska, where the Sioux leader surrendered. All but approximately 12,000 Native Americans were ultimately removed from Nebraska, with small numbers of Santee Sioux, Omaha, and Winnebago tribes remaining.

Nebraska also played a role in the events preceeding the American Civil War (18611865). The 1854 Kansas-Nebraska Act created the territories of Kansas and Nebraska, and allowed the residents of each territory to decide for themselves whether to permit slavery. The act repealed the Missouri Compromise of 1820, which had outlawed slavery in the North. But following the act's passage Nebraska showed little interest in establishing slavery. However violence erupted in Kansas between slavery proponents and abolitionists. The slavery debate eventually divided the nation as a whole, leading eleven southern states to secede from the Union.

Nebraska voters rejected statehood during the Civil War, but narrowly approved a state constitution in 1866. In 1867 Congress admitted Nebraska to the Union over the veto of President Andrew Johnson (18291837), who contended that the state's admission process was unconstitutional. Two federal laws attracted settlers to the new state. The Homestead Act of 1862 gave 160 acres of land to families that resided in the state for five years and paid a nominal fee. The 1862 Pacific Railroad Act authorized construction of a transcontinental railroad passing through Nebraska. Huge tracts of land along the proposed railway were sold to settlers. The Union Pacific Railroad debuted in 1869 with an eastern terminus at Omaha. Nebraska's population swelled from 30,000 in 1860 to almost a million by 1890.

Most of the families that settled in Nebraska during this period were of European descent. Throngs of immigrants from Germany, Czechoslovakia, Ireland, and Italy made Nebraska their home in the late 1800s. A century later little had changed in the state's demographics. The 1990 census revealed that approximately 90 percent of Nebraska residents identified themselves as white persons descending from German, Irish, Czech, Swedish, or Danish ancestry. For the most part these ethnic groups have acclimated well within the state; they have formed closely-knit, thriving communities. However, during World War I (19141918) a number of German Americans in Nebraska had their loyalty and patriotism questioned by state officials who feared they might be spies or saboteurs.

Once primarily a rural state, nearly two-thirds of Nebraska residents now live in urban areas. Yet 95 percent of the state's land is used for agricultural purposes, and close to one-half of the state's labor force work in farm-related fields. Known as the Cornhusker State, Nebraska produces 4 billion bushels of corn each year, second only to Iowa. It is also a leading cattle-raising state. But Nebraska's strong economy is bolstered by non-agricultural businesses as well. The state's tourism industry generates about $2 billion a year in gross revenue, while the insurance, telecommunications, real-estate, and healthcare sectors help keep Nebraska's unemployment rate among the nation's lowest.

In terms of political institutions, the Cornhusker State's most distinctive feature may be the government's unicameral legislature, the only one of its kind in the United States. The single house has 49 senators who are elected in even-numbered years to serve four-year terms without designation of political party. The state maintained a bicameral legislature for 68 years before amending its constitution in 1934. Voters hoped the amendment would rein in governmental spending during the Great Depression (19291939).

See also: Kansas-Nebraska Act, Missouri Compromise, Railroad Industry


Federal Writer's Project. 1993. Nebraska: A Guide to the Cornhusker State, Reprint, New York: Somerset, n.d.

Luebke, Frederick C. Nebraska: An Illustrated History. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1995.

Olson, James C., and Ronald C. Naugle. History of Nebraska, 3d ed. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997.

State of Nebraska. Department of Economic Development. Nebraska Statistical Handbook, 1993-1994. Lincoln, 1994.

Wishart, Davis J. An Unspeakable Sadness: The Disposition of the Nebraska Indians. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1994.

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Nebraska State in w central USA, in the Great Plains; the capital is Lincoln. Omaha is the largest city. The region was acquired under the Louisiana Purchase of 1803 and was unexplored until the Lewis and Clark Expedition (1804). The territory of Nebraska was created in 1854. Nebraska was admitted to the union in 1867. The land rises gradually from the e to the foothills of the Rocky Mountains in the w, and is drained chiefly by the Platte River, a tributary of the Missouri. The e half of the state is farmland, where farmers grow grain and raise cattle and pigs. Nebraska's economy is overwhelmingly agricultural. Industries: food processing, oil, and sand, gravel and stone quarrying. Area: 199,113sq km (76,878sq mi). Pop. (2000) 1,711,263.

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