Suggested Lesson Plan Ideas


  General References
  Suggested Lesson Plans




     These lessons were designed with Nebraska students in mind.  They are really more suggested ideas than full-fledged lesson plans and can certainly be adapted for classes in other parts of the country.  Nebraska has no fine arts standards as such, so it was necessary to refer to national standards where needed.  Following this introduction you will find a list of these plus various Nebraska standards which pertain to one or more of the topics. They can be invoked as necessary in the creation of formal lesson plans.

     The digitization of these early examples of Nebraska-related sheet music has suggested possible avenues of inquiry for students.  In other words, the music serves as a "jumping-off-place" for research and other learning activities.  Some possible topics include historical events such as wars and political campaigns, cultural movements, famous (and not-so-famous) individuals, and a grasp of the concept of change as demonstrated in such diverse areas as city buildings and entertainment media.

     These suggested plans are also non-traditional in that no grade levels have been indicated.  Groups of students often vary widely in their abilities, and it is our contention that individual teachers are the best judges as to what might be suitable or adaptable for their class.  In addition, we hope that the home-schooling community will find useful ideas here.


     While we are hoping that students will find topics of interest in these suggested questions, we are even more concerned that they learn to access, interpret, evaluate, and act upon the information needed to complete the lessons.  As librarians and teachers, we are reminded daily that people of all ages must develop these abilities in order to become informed citizens.  The information age has arrived in full force, and the avenues of inquiry are broader and far more numerous than in any previous period of human history.  Accordingly, the Information Literacy Standards for Student Learning that have been developed by the American Association of School Librarians take pride of place as the first standards listed here.

Information Literacy Standards for Student Learning - AASL


Standard 1:  The student who is information literate accesses information efficiently and effectively.


  Standard 2:  The student who is information literate evaluates information critically and competently.


  Standard 3:  The student who is information literate uses information accurately and creatively.


 National Standards - Music

NA-M.K-4.9 Understanding Music in Relation to History and Culture

NA-M.5-8.9 Understanding Music in Relation to History and Culture

NA-M.9-12.9 Understanding Music in Relation to History and Culture


Nebraska State Board of Education Social Studies/History Standards

Grades 2 - 4


4.1.1   By the end of fourth grade, students will compare communities and describe how United States and Nebraska communities changed physically and demographically over time.


  4.1.2   By the end of fourth grade, students will describe the contributions from the cultural and ethnic groups that made up our national heritage: Native Americans, Hispanic Americans, African Americans, European Americans, and Asian Americans.


  4.1.3   By the end of fourth grade, students will describe social and economic development of Nebraska in the 20th century.


  4.1.5   By the end of fourth grade, students will describe Nebraska's history, including geographic factors, from European contact to statehood.


  4.1.6   By the end of fourth grade, students will identify significant individuals, historical events and symbols in their community and in Nebraska and explain their importance.


  4.1.7   By the end of fourth grade, students will use higher level thinking processes to evaluate and analyze primary sources and other resources.


Grades 5 - 8

  8.1.7   By the end of eighth grade, students will explain post Civil War changes in the United States, and the role of the United States in world affairs through World War I.



8.1.8   By the end of eighth grade, students will describe key, social, economic and cultural developments from WWI through the Great Depression.


  8.3.3   By the end of eighth grade, students will compare the policy-making process at the local, state, and national levels of government.


  8.3.7   By the end of eighth grade, students will summarize the rights and responsibilities of United States citizens.


  8.4.1   By the end of eighth grade, students will explain the meaning of patriotic slogans and excerpts from notable speeches and documents.


  8.4.2   By the end of eighth grade, students will demonstrate skills for historical analysis.


  8.4.3   By the end of eighth grade, students will develop skills in discussion, debate, and persuasive writing by analyzing historical situations and events.


  8.4.5   By the end of eighth grade, students will interpret economic and political issues as expressed in various visuals.


  8.4.6   By the end of eight grade, students will improve their skills in historical research and geographical analysis.


Grades 9 - 12


12.1.4   By the end of twelfth grade, students will analyze the impact of immigration on American life, identifying factors.


  12.1.11  By the end of twelfth grade, students will demonstrate an understanding of domestic policy issues in contemporary American society.


  12.1.13  By the end of twelfth grade, students will develop skills for historical analysis.


  12.1.14  By the end of twelfth grade, students will demonstrate verbal and written skills that focus on enduring issues, divergent viewpoints, and excerpts from famous speeches and documents in United States history.


  12.3.3   By the end of twelfth grade, students will analyze the significance of amendments to the United States Constitution.


  12.3.5   By the end of twelfth grade, students will analyze the fundamental concepts and challenges to democracy by using writing, discussion, and debate skills.


  12.3.7   By the end of twelfth grade, students will analyze structure and function of Nebraska state and local governments.


  12.3.8   By the end of twelfth grade, students will describe and explain the election process in the national, state, and local governments.


  12.3.9   By the end of twelfth grade, students will explain the rights, freedoms, responsibilities, and benefits of citizenship in the United States.


Nebraska State Board of Education Reading/Writing Standards

Grades 2 - 4 Reading


4.1.4   By the end of the fourth grade, students will identify the resource appropriate for a specific purpose, and use the resource to locate information.


  4.1.7   By the end of the fourth grade, students will identify and apply knowledge of the text structure and organizational elements to analyze nonfiction or informational text.


Grades 2 - 4 Writing


4.2.1   By the end of the fourth grade, students will write using standard English (conventions) for sentence structure, usage, punctuation, capitalization and spelling.


  4.2.2   By the end of the fourth grade, students will write paragraphs/reports with focus, related ideas, and supporting details.


  4.2.4   By the end of the fourth grade, students will demonstrate the use of multiple forms to write for different audiences and purposes.


  4.2.5   By the end of the fourth grade, students will demonstrate the use of self-generated questions, note taking, and summarizing while learning.


Grades 5 - 8 Reading


8.1.2   By the end of the eighth grade, students will identify, locate, and use multiple resources to access information on an assigned or self-selected topic.


  8.1.3   By the end of the eighth grade, students will identify and classify different types of text.


  8.1.5   By the end of the eighth grade, students will identify and apply knowledge of the text structure and organizational elements to analyze nonfiction or informational text.


  8.1.7   By the end of the eighth grade, students will demonstrate the ability to analyze literary works, nonfiction, films, or media.


Grades 5 - 8 Writing


8.2.1   By the end of the eighth grade students will write using standard English (conventions) for sentence structure, usage, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling.


  8.2.2   By the end of the eighth grade, students will write compositions with focus, related ideas, and supporting details.


  8.2.3   By the end of the eighth grade, students will revise and edit descriptive compositions.


  8.2.4   By the end of the eighth grade, students will demonstrate the use of multiple forms to write for different audiences and purposes.


  8.2.5   By the end of the eighth grade, students will demonstrate the ability to use self-generated questions, note taking, summarizing and outlining while learning.


Grades 9 - 12 Reading


12.1.2  By the end of the twelfth grade, students will locate, evaluate, and use primary and secondary resources for research.


  12.1.3  By the end of the twelfth grade, students will identify and use characteristics to classify different types of text.


  12.1.6 By the end of the twelfth grade, students will identify and apply knowledge of the text structure and organizational elements to analyze non-fiction or informational text.


  12.1.8  By the end of the twelfth grade, students will demonstrate the ability to analyze literary works, nonfiction, films and media.


Grades 9 - 12 Writing


12.2.1  By the end of the twelfth grade, students will write using standard English (conventions) for sentence structure, usage, punctuation, capitalization, and spelling.


  12.2.2  By the end of the twelfth grade, students will write compositions with focus, related ideas, and supporting details.


  12.2.3  By the end of the twelfth grade, students will revise and edit persuasive compositions.


  12.2.4  By the end of the twelfth grade, students will use multiple forms to write for different audiences and purposes.


  12.2.5  By the end of the twelfth grade, students will demonstrate the ability to use self-generated questions, note taking, summarizing, and outlining while learning.


Lincoln Public Schools Music Curriculum Major Objectives (a selection)

While these are not standards in the traditional sense, they do reflect the LPS desire to incorporate music into the curriculum and use it for a variety of purposes and ends.

...Lincoln Public Schools will provide developmentally appropriate curricular opportunities for students to:


     General References

Online Catalogs:

Lincoln City Libraries

University of Nebraska

Library of Congress

Other Online Resources:

Polley Music Library Web Page

Lincoln Journal Star Archives   content/search/index.php?search

E-Books available through Lincoln City Libraries

Nebraska Studies Organization

History of Nebraska (Morton & Watkins, 1918)


Encyclopedia of the Great Plains, David J. Wishart(ed.),  2004

History of Nebraska, James C. Olson and Ronald C. Naugle, 1997

Nebraska Moments: Glimpses of Nebraska's Past, Donald R. Hickey, 1992

Nebraska: A Bicentennial History, Dorothy Weyer Creigh, 1977

Nebraska: An Illustrated History, Frederick C. Luebke, 1995

Lincoln: The Capital City and Lancaster County Nebraska, Andrew J. Sawyer (ed.), 1916

Nebraska, Our Pioneer Heritage, Robert Manley, 1981


Suggested Lesson Plans


Hartley Burr Alexander: Renaissance Man

Trans-Mississippi and International Expo
  Can You Legislate Morality? Death of a Culture
  Community Pageants Nathan K. Griggs
  Black English Lyrics Self-Publishing Then and Now
  I Saw It In The Ads Early Nebraska Bands
  My, How That Street Corner Has Changed! The Sound of Silents
  The Power of Music Football Music
  Music in the Air, Not the Airwaves The Indianist Movement
  William Jennings Bryan Chautauqua
  General John J. Pershing Lincoln City Libraries Then and Now



Hartley Burr Alexander: Renaissance Man

Inquiry:  When Hartley Burr Alexander was inducted into the Nebraska Hall of Fame, he was called "Nebraska's Renaissance Man."   What does that mean?  Why does he qualify? How did he leave a permanent mark on Nebraska?   He was known as something of a troublemaker as a young man.  What can you find out about his student days at the University of Nebraska? He was an outspoken University faculty member during World War I.  What cause did he champion?   How might he have reacted to the current Homeland Security measures?  Why did he leave his faculty position at the University of Nebraska?  Where did he go and what did he do there?   Do you think you would have liked him as a teacher?

Some Suggested Resources


Hartley Burr Alexander: Writer-in-Stone, Margaret Dale Masters, 1992

Manito Masks: Dramatizations, with music, of American Indian Spirit Legends, H. B. Alexander, 1925

God's Drum and Other Cycles From Indian Lore, H. B. Alexander, 1927

Liberty and Democracy: and Other Essays in War-Time, H. B. Alexander, 1918

Nebraska Writers, Alice G. Harvey, 1964

Who's Who in Lincoln, R. M. Baldwin, 1928

Notable Nebraskans, Jean Sanders, 1998


Hartley Burr Alexander, Thematic Consultant, Robert S. Haller, Preservation Association of Lincoln, 1998


"Syracuse Group Honors Writer", Sunday World Herald, June 12, 1988, p. 12-B

"Hartley Alexander as an Undergraduate", by Louise Pound, Prairie Schooner, Vol. 22, Issue 4, Winter 1948,  p. 372

Online Resources:


Can You Legislate Morality?

Inquiry:  Throughout history attempts have been made to pass legislation that would ban certain substances considered by some groups to be harmful to humans and to society in general.  The Temperance Movement in the United States and the later Prohibition laws are early examples of this.  Recently our society has been caught up in the question of Smoking Bans with varying results.

       Have any of these movements been successful?  How do they compare to one another?  Do you think that laws can actually change the behavior of our citizens?  Is there any alternative to legislation that you think might work? 

Some Suggested Resources


Prohibition: America Makes Alcohol Illegal, Daniel Cohen, 1995

A Right to Smoke?, Emma Haughton, 1996

Smoking: Who Has the Right?, Jeffrey and Magda Schaler (editors), 1998

For Your Own Good Health: The Anti-Smoking Crusade and the Tyranny of Public Health, Jacob Sullum, 1998

The Passionate Nonsmoker's Bill of Rights, Steve Allen and Bill Adler, Jr., 1989

The Life and Times of the Late Demon Rum, J. C. Furnas, 1965

The End of the Roaring Twenties: Prohibition and Repeal, Bill Severn, 1969

Battling Demon Rum: The Struggle for a Dry America, 1800-1933, Thomas Pegram, 1998

E-Book   Shaping the Eighteenth Amendment: Temperance Reform, Legal Culture, and the Polity, 1880 - 1920, Richard F. Hamm, 1995

E-Book   Domesticating Drink: Women, Men, and Alcohol in America, 1870-1940, Catherine Gilbert Murdock, 1998


Prohibition: Thirteen Years That Changed America, Marius Brill, A & E Home Video, 1997


"Smoking Ban Aids Efforts To Quit Smoking", by Maggie Stehr, Daily Nebraskan, January 10, 2005

"Smoking Ban Draws Good, Bad Reviews", Lincoln Journal Star, Jan. 10, 2005

"Senator Offers Statewide Smoking Ban", Lincoln Journal Star, Feb. 3, 2005

"Smoking Ban Debate Heats Up", Lincoln Journal Star, Feb. 24, 2005

Online Resources:

Nebraska's Favorite Temperance Rally Songs

Vote Nebraska Dry




Community Pageants

Inquiry: At the turn of the 20th century the United States was caught up in the so-called Pageant Movement.  Communities all over the country called upon their local talent to create presentations that celebrated the history and legends of their respective areas.  These programs were designed to educate the population and to raise the level of civic pride and patriotism.  Nebraska participated whole-heartedly in this movement.  If you read through the scripts and musical scores that remain, you can get an idea of what these programs were like. 

     Do you think there is any place in our modern society for this kind of presentation?  Could you create something like this in your school? How could you modernize the presentation? What topics or stories do you think would be interesting to your classmates and families?  How much time would it take and what sort of materials would you need?

Some Suggested Resources


The Pageant of Lincoln, MCMXVII, "Nebraska": A Semi-centennial masque at the Coliseum, Hartley Burr Alexander, 1917

Pageant of Lincoln, 1916: "The Gate City," a masque of the city of Omaha, Harley Burr Alexander, 1916

The Pageant of Lincoln, Hartley Burr Alexander, 1915

Goldenrod Sprays: Pageants for Schools, Clubs and Civic Groups, Grace Welsh Lutgen, 1943

A Pageant of Wausa, Nebraska, Work Projects Administration in the State of Nebraska, 1940

Lincoln The Capital City, Andrew J. Sayer, 1916


"Feature of the Pageant", Nebraska State Journal, June 4, 1915, p. 30

"Rain Will Not Interfere", Nebraska State Journal, June 5, 1915, p. 8

"Historical Pageant Given", Nebraska State Journal, June 6, 1915, Section 2, p. 4

Online Resources:



Black English Lyrics

Inquiry:  Some of the songs in our Music of Old Nebraska collection have lyrics which can be called Black English.  They were written in the late 19th-century dialect of the black community.   One famous poet who wrote words for these songs was Paul Laurence Dunbar.  He was a gifted writer whose output falls into two styles, namely, poems in dialect and poems in the standard English of the day. 

     Why do you suppose he chose to write in both styles?  Is one kind of English as good as another?  Do you think he meant any disrespect to his own people?  Can non-black writers use Black English as effectively?

     The most recent use of Black English lyrics for songs can be found in Rap music.  These words have caused many people to think in a new way.  Do you understand what the rappers are talking about? Is there a need for explanations of the songs?  How do these new songs compare to the ones written by poets like Dunbar?  Do you think you could write rap lyrics?  How has Black English grown and changed over the years?

Some Suggested Resources


African American English: Structure, History, and Use, Salikoko S. Mufwene (ed.), 1998

Spoken Soul: The Story of Black English, John Russell Rickford, 2000

Black Street Speech: Its History, Structure, and Survival, John Baugh, 1983

Juba to Jive: A Dictionary of African-American Slang, Clarence Major, (ed.), 1994

Droppin' Science: straight Up Talk From Hip Hop's Greatest Voices, Denise L. McIver, 2002

The Rose That Grew From Concrete, Tupac Shakur, 1999

Black Talk: Words and Phrases From the Hood to the Amen Corner, Geneve Smitherman, 2000

The Complete Poems of Paul Laurence, Paul Laurence Dunbar, 1980

Lyrics of the Hearthside, Paul Laurence Dunbar, 1904

Joggin' Erlong, Paul Laurence Dunbar, 1906

Online Resources:

"Sportings of the Wind:  !2 Negro Songs" by Nathan K. Griggs

"Longing" music by Hazel Gertrude Kinscella, lyrics by Paul Laurence Dunbar

"Honey Town" by J. A. Parks




I Saw It In the Ads

Inquiry:  The subtle and not-so-subtle persuasions of advertising have been with us for a very long time.  One might almost be able to make a case for some prehistoric cave paintings as a kind of advertising.  Much later in history, as printing became available, notices and handbills were tacked up on trees and walls and real ads began to appear in written materials meant to be read by the general public. 

     Some of the songs in this Music of Old Nebraska include ads for things other than music.  This doesn't seem to happen any more in musical scores, but, of course, our newspapers and magazines are stuffed with ads, and sometimes seem to be nothing but advertising.

     Take a look at the kinds of goods and services that were advertised in these old sheet music examples.  How do these ads compare to their modern equivalents?  What is advertised there that no longer exists in our society?  Are some of the ads pretty much the same as the ones we have now?  What can you learn about the early town life in Lincoln and Omaha by looking at these ads?  Do you think advertising is a fair indicator of what our culture values? If you don't like ads, how would you change them?

Some Suggested Resources


Accept No Substitutes!: The History of American Advertising, Christina Mierau, 2000

The Mirror Makers: A History of American Advertising and Its Creators, Stephen Fox, 1984

The Mad Old Ads, Dick Sutphen, 1966


Many library systems have microfilm collections of old newspapers and bound collections of old magazines.  These are good sources for early advertising research.

Online Resources:

see ads associated with these pieces of sheet music:

      "Nebraska's Favorite Temperance Rally Songs"

      "Just a Letter From My Mother"

      "He Sang in the Old Church Choir"



My, How That Street Corner Has Changed!

Inquiry:  One of the pieces in the Music of Old Nebraska collection was dedicated to R. W. Johnson, the manager of the old Capital Hotel in Lincoln, Nebraska.  The history of that building is long and interesting.  In 1869 a store foundation was constructed on the southwest corner of 11th and P Streets.  It was built up and became a drugstore. Next, it was converted into a hotel called "Douglas House".  In 1873  it was greatly enlarged and called the "Commercial Hotel".  At that point, it became the political headquarters of the state and a meeting place for politicians, associations, and public affairs.  It changed hands in 1886 and became the "Capital Hotel" which our piece is about.  Since that time it has served as a YMCA headquarters and now is also an apartment building called "Georgian Place".  As you can see, buildings can have long histories.

     There are many wonderful old buildings still standing in Lincoln. Many of them have been preserved as historical sites and you can visit them.  Wouldn't it be interesting to see if you could find out how many different names they have had and what businesses have been housed there?  Another possible activity has to do with buildings that are now no longer standing.  What happened to them?  Why are they gone?  What took their place?  What is there now?  Can you find pictures of the old buildings and maybe take photos of what is there now?  You might want to create a "Then and Now" scrapbook of one or more chosen street corners.

Some Suggested Resources


Lincoln, the Prairie Capital: An Illustrated History, James L. McKee, 1988

Lincoln, A Photographic History, James L. McKee and Arthur Duerschner, 1976

Havelock: A Photo History, James L. McKee, 1993

Views of Lincoln: In and About the Capital City of Nebraska, L. H. Nelson, 1907

New Photos of Old Stuff: Photgraphing Historic Structures, Joel Sartore, 2001

Lincoln City Directory, R. L. Polk (available from 1876 to now at LCL)

Havelock City Directory (available at LCL)

University Place City Directory (available at LCL)

Pen and Sunlight Sketches of Lincoln, Phoenix, 1893

Beautiful Lincoln: Nebraska's Capital City, Woodruff Press, 1912

Capital City of Nebraska: Lincoln, Picturesque and Descriptive, Art Publishing, 1889


The Holy City Nigh Unto Bethany: (University Place/Wesleyan), James L. McKee, Preservation Association of Lincoln, 2002

History of Lincoln's Parking Lots, James L. McKee, Preservation Association of Lincoln, 1999

Rare Remnants: Lincoln's Surviving First Period Homes, Ed Zimmer, Preservation Association of Lincoln, 1998


Downtown Beat, Downtown Lincoln Association (available at LCL)

Online Resources:



The Power Of Music

Inquiry:  Music is powerful!  Through the years it has been used for good and bad purposes.  Many of the songs in the Music of Old Nebraska collection were written and performed in the hopes that they could change peoples' minds about political, patriotic, and religious ideas. Some of them were just meant to make us laugh or put us to sleep.   All of these uses of music are still going on today.  How does music affect your life?  Do you think it has made a difference in how you think about things?  Are you concerned that some people want to control what you listen to?  Does censorship seem right or wrong to you?  As a citizen, what can you do to keep music and composers free to express ideas?  Is that important?

Some Suggested Resources


Music As Propaganda: Art to Persuade, Art to Control, Arnold Perris, 1985

The Politics of Rock Music, John M. Orman, 1984

Music and Politics: Collected Writings, 1953 - 81, Hans Werner Henze (trans. by Peter Labanyi), 1982

The Secret Power of Music, David Tame, 1984

Underground Harmonies: Music and Politics in the Subways of New York, Susie J. Tanenbaum, 1995

Voices of Combat: A Century of Liberty and War Songs, 1765 - 1865, Kent A. Bowman, 1987

Parental Advisory: Music Censorship in America, Eric D. Nuzum, 2001

Shoot the Singer!: Music Censorship Today, Marie Korpe (ed.). 2004

Taboo Tunes: A History of Banned Bands & Censored Songs, Peter, Blecha, 2004

Online Resources: ( click on Useful Links and then on  Censorship and Music)



Music in the Air, Not the Airwaves

Inquiry:  We can hardly go anywhere these days without hearing music.  Grocery stores, malls, doctors offices, elevators... (the list is long) bombard our ears with music that we may or may not want to hear.  Not so long ago this wasn't the case.  Until very recent history, the only music available was performed live by amateur and professional musicians.  There was no radio, no TV, no cassette tapes, no CDs, no MP3s...there was no recorded music.  We have come to take music for granted.  It is so easy to pop in a CD and let it run.  It is less easy to shut out the songs wafting over the loud speaker while we shop. 

     What was it like in the early days in Nebraska when there was no recorded music? What kind of music did people hear then? Who played the music and where did they play it?   Is any of this music still available to us and would you be interested in hearing it? 

      Do you think you would like to always be able to choose what you listen to?  Do you think that we are training ourselves not to listen almost in self-defense?  Is the art of focused listening being harmed and is that a problem?

Some Suggested Resources


Music in Lincoln, Nebraska, in the 19th Century: A Study of the Musical Culture of a Frontier Society, Margaret R. Seymour, 1968 (Masters thesis, Univ. of Nebraska)

Elevator Music: A Surreal History of Muzak, Easy-Listening, and Other Moodsong, Joseph Lanza, 1994


The Role of Music in the Life of 19th Century Settlers in Nebraska, Karen Dyer, Citizen Information Center for Lincoln City Libraries, 1985


"Music of the Pioneer Days in Nebraska", by Miriam Stanley Carleton-Squires, Nebraska History Magazine, Vol. XX, Nos. 1 and 2, 1939; Vol. XXI, No. 2, 1940; Vol. XXII, No. 3, 1941; Vol. XXIII, No. 4, 1942

"Theatrical Entertainment in Early Omaha", by Robert D. Harper, Nebraska History Magazine,  Vol. XXXVI, No. 1,

"Music in the Life of 19th-Century Settlers in Nebraska", by Karen M. Dyer, The Nebraska Humanist, Vol. 7, No. 2, Fall, 1984

"Modern Muzak: It's not your parents' elevator music", by David Kushner, New York Times,08/27/98

Online Resources:



William Jennings Bryan

Inquiry: William Jennings Bryan was a leading political figure in this country.  What was his connection to Nebraska?  What were the main causes that he championed? How did music play a part in his attempts to influence people?  What issues in our modern political world might be of interest to him if he were alive today?

Some Suggested Resources


Nebraska Writers, Alice G. Harvey, 1964

William Jennings Bryan, A Profile, Paul W. Glad, 1968

William Jennings Bryan: A Concise But Complete Story of His Life and Services, Harvey E. Newbranch, 1900

William Jennings Bryan: Champion of Democracy, LeRoy Ashby, 1987

Under God: Religion and American Politics, Garry Wills, 1990

Bryan, the Great Commoner, J. C. Long, 1928

The Social and Religious Thought of William Jennings Bryan, Willard H. Smith, 1975


"The William Jennings Bryan Issue", Nebraska History Magazine, 1960

Online Resources:





General John J. Pershing

Inquiry:  General Pershing only lived in Lincoln for four years, but he maintained a life-long connection with this area. Why was he here in the first place?   Why did he keep returning to Nebraska?  He was a very successful military leader but had no success as a politician.  Why do you think that was?  What elements of his personality caused problems for his public image? Are there any current political figures who have similar personality problems?  Would Pershing have been as successful using the warfare techniques of today?

Some Suggested Resources


Black Jack: The Life and Times of John J. Pershing, Frank E. Vandiver, 1977

A Great American: A Tribute to General John Joseph Pershing, Pershing Memorial Commission, Lincoln, Nebraska 1941

Pershing, General of the Armies, Donald Smythe, 1986

Pipe Clay & Drill: John J. Pershing, the Classic American Soldier, Richard Goldhurst, 1977

History of the Military Department, University of Nebraska, 1876 - 1941, Federal Writers' Project Nebraska

My Experiences in the World War, John J. Pershing, 1931


"John J. Pershing" (cover story), by Gerald Parshall, U. S. News & World Report, 03/16/1998

"Echoes of an Era: Pershing Was Here", by James Brooke, New York Times, 1/27/2002, p. 14

"Pershing's Map", by Victoria  Dawson, Smithsonian, March 2003

Online Resources:





The Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition

Inquiry:  In 1898, Omaha was the site of the great Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition.  It was inspired by the 1893 Chicago Fair and was designed as a way to revitalize the regional economy and help it to recover from the financial panic of the early 1890's.  It was built on 184 acres of land just north of Omaha; the elaborate buildings and scenic areas were only temporary, and nothing remains of them today.

     What did this exposition look like? Who attended it? Was it meant to educate, to entertain, or both?  Was it successful?  Would you like to go to something like it today?  Are there any events or places that are similar to it in our country now?  Do you think there is a need for expositions and world fairs today? 

     The modern Nebraska State Fair is currently going through a number of changes.  Do you think it would help the directors of the fair to study the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition and use some of the ideas that came from it?

Some Suggested Resources


History of the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition of 1898, James B. Haynes, 1910

Loving Memories: Trans-Mississippi 1898 and Greater America 1899, (cookbook), 1999

Westward the Empire: Omaha's World Fair of 1898, Liz Cajka, 1998

Views of the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition Held at Omaha , Nebraska, June 14 to November 1st, 1989, F. A. Rinehart, 1898

Official Catalogue of the Fine Arts Exhibit, Klopp and Bartlett, 1898

AAC Color Photographs of the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition Held at Omaha, Nebraska, June 14 to November 1st, 1898, F. A. Rinehart, 1898


Westward the Empire: Omaha's World Fair of 1898, UNO Television, 1998


"The Trans-Mississippi Exposition", by Octave Thanet, The Cosmopolitan, Vol, 25, No. 6, October, 1898

"Trans-Mississippi Exposition, 1898, Dates and Number of Visitors", Nebraska History, Vol. 18

"Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition of 1898", Nebraska History, Vol. 52, No. 1

"Triumph of the West: The Trans-Mississippi Exposition", Nebraska History, Vol, 53

Online Resources:

"The Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition March and Two-Step"




Death of a Culture

Inquiry:  After years of bitter struggle, the Native Americans were finally subdued by the dominant white European culture.  In an attempt to control what was left of the tribes, the conquered people were placed on so-called reservations and their young were sent to government-controlled schools.  The schools were designed to eradicate what was left of the Native American culture, and they nearly succeeded in doing so.  Students were forbidden to speak their own languages, wear their traditional clothing, sing their old songs, and observe any of their own religious ceremonies.  Fortunately for all of us, a few individuals  like Alice Fletcher, Francis LaFlesche, and Thurlow Lieurance  set about to preserve elements of the Native American culture by interviewing tribal members, photographing them, and recording their songs and chants.  Some of the songs in our Music of Old Nebraska collection have Native American lyrics and are based on their old stories and legends.

     How do you think you would feel if you were told you could no longer speak your own language, wear your own style of clothing, worship within your own religion, or enjoy the music that you had grown up with?  How would you react?

     Louise Erdrich, the modern poet and novelist, wrote a set of poems called Jacklight. Some of them portray the conflict between the Native American and white cultures.  There is some very interesting background information about the Indian boarding schools she refers to in her poetry. You can access it through web pages and books.   How do you feel about the treatment the students received in those schools?  Was it harmful to them or "for their own good"?  What is your reaction to the before and after photographs of some of the students?  How were they transformed?  Do you think they really changed inside as well?

Some Suggested Resources


Children of the Indian Boarding Schools, Holly Littlefield, 2001

The Enduring Indians of Kansas: A Century and a Half of Acculturation, Joseph B. Herring, 1990

Indian School: Teaching the White Man's Way, Michael L. Cooper, 1999

They Called it Prairie Light: The Story of Chilocco Indian School, Tsianina K. Lomawaima, 1994

The Rapid City Indian School, 1898 - 1933, Scott Riney, 1999


In the White Man's Image, PBS Video, 1991

Online Resources:

"O'er the Indian Cradle"





Nathan K. Griggs

Inquiry:  Nathan Griggs was a 19th-century lawyer and politician in Nebraska.  He was very successful in his legal and political career, and also served as a United States consul to Chemnitz, Germany.  He discovered in his later years that he had a very real talent as a composer and lyricist.  Many of the songs in the Music of Old Nebraska collection were written by this man.  In fact, he actually told people that he would prefer to be remembered as a poet and musician rather than as a lawyer and politician.

     Do you know anyone who has discovered hidden talents within themselves?  Did they do anything with the newly-found abilities?  Do you suspect that you have hidden talents?  How can you find out what you might be able to do?  Does it take special courage to try new things?  Do you think you would like to be a creative person?  What have you already made that is new and different?

Some Suggested Resources


Lyrics of the Lariat/ Poems with Notes, Nathan K. Griggs, 1893

Five Addresses and Devotional Poems, Nathan K. Griggs, 1911

Who Was Who In America, Vol. 1, 1897 - 1942, A. N. Marquis  Co., 1943


"Nathan K. Griggs, Consul to Chemnitz, Germany, 1876 - 1882", by Ruth Moore Stanley, Nebraska History, Vol. 57, No. 4

"N. K. Griggs and the Nebraska Constitutional convention of 1871", by Ruth Moore Stanley, Vol, 46, p. 39-65

Online Resources:

Nathan K. Griggs (in Music of Old Nebraska Authors Catalog)




Self-Publishing Then and Now

Inquiry:  Many of the songs in the Music of Old Nebraska collection were published by the composers and lyricists themselves rather than by publishing companies.  That is called "self-publishing" and it was quite popular in the early 20th century.  As time went on, writers and composers found that it was sometimes better to have their work published by big companies rather than try to do so by themselves.  Today, there is a new opportunity for writers to self-publish on the Internet, and many of them are doing so.  How does today's self-publishing compare with the earlier methods? Is it better or worse? Do you think this new publishing method will do away with traditional publishing?  Would you try publishing something on the Internet?  What kind of problems might you encounter? 

Some Suggested Resources


Electronic Books and Epublishing: A Practical Guide for Authors, Harold Henke, 2001

And That's The Way It Will Be: News and Information in a Digital World, Christopher Harper, 1998

How to Publish and Promote Online, M. J. Rose and Angela Adair-Hoy, 2001

The Self-Publishing Manual: How to Write, Print and Sell Your Own Book, Dan Poynter, 1997


"Untangling Self-Publishing Options", by Marilyn Ross, Writer, June 2004

"Stories Make Their Way From Audio to Print", by Sydelle Pearl, Writer, December, 2004

"Self-Publishing", by Cal Orey, Writer, February, 2005

Online Resources:



Early Nebraska Bands

Inquiry:  Municipal, school, military, and dance bands have played a huge part in the history of Nebraska.  Many early Nebraska towns, both small and large, felt it necessary to support a community band.  Why do you suppose they were so popular?  What kinds of music did they play?  Did the bands help to preserve any of the culture of the European immigrants to this area?  What were the "territory bands"?  Do we have any bands in Nebraska today?  What kind of music do they play?  Do you think it is important for our culture to have bands?  What different purposes do they serve?

Some Suggested Resources


Encyclopedia of the Great Plains, David Wishart (ed.), 2004

Pride of the Cornhuskers, Gary R. Steffens, 1981

The Big Band Era: The Contribution of a Small Midwestern Town, "Lincoln, Nebraska," to 20s, 30s, 40s; A Pictorial Memoir, J. C. "Johnny" Cox, 1977

Gleanings From the First Century of Nebraska Bands 1867 - 1967: Programs, Pictures, and Some Recollections, Donald A. Lentz and Walter R. Olsen, 1979

40th Year Celebration: A Pictorial Look Over the Past 40 Years of Bobby Layne's Musical Career, Bobby Layne, 1993

Seems Like Old Times: The Big Bands of the Midwest, Loren B. Belker, 1992


"Lincoln's Musical Roots Begin", by Jim McKee, Lincoln Journal Star, January 12, 1997

"Babich's Boys Band Sets Goal of Attaining Sousa's Niche in Musical World", Lincoln Sunday Journal and Star, May 28, 1933

Online Resources:



The Sound of Silents

Inquiry:  Several of the composers represented in our Music of Old Nebraska collection wrote music for the silent films or played piano or organ or in the theatre orchestras in Lincoln and Omaha.  Have you ever seen a silent movie?  How do you think the musicians new what to play while the movie was being shown?  Was the music different or used in a different way than music in modern sound films?

     You might like to try your hand at adding sounds to a film.  You don't need to write music yourself, but it might be fun to choose already recorded songs to go along with the shows.   Select a short portion of a movie on a tape or DVD, turn down the sound track, and try adding your own music, sound effects, and spoken lines.  How will you cue your sounds so they coordinate with the picture?  Do your sounds have to be like the original movie soundtrack, or can you think of something different that might go along with the story?  Try performing this in real-time (that is, live)  in front of your class or family.  It will give you an idea of the kinds of problems the early theatre musicians experienced.

Some Suggested Resources


Film Music: A Neglected Art: a Critical Study of Music in Films, Roy M. Prendergast, 1977

Listening to Movies: The Film Lover's Guide to Film Music, Fred Karlin, 1994

Music and the Silent Film: Contexts and Case Studies, 1895 - 1924, Martin Miller Marks, 1997

Motion Pictures: The Development of An Art from Silent Films to the Age of Television, A.R. Fulton, 1960

Early American Cinema, Anthony Slide, 1970

American Silent Film, William K. Everson, 1978

Twenty Years of Silents, 1908 - 1928, John T. Weaver, 1971


"The Sounds of Silence", by Barbara Wickens, Maclean's, 3/13/95

"Silent Treatment", by Maria Cukor and Michael Callahan, , New Jersey Monthly, July, 1996

"Getting a Bang (or Crash) Out of Silent Movies", by M. K. Terrell, Christian Science Monitor, 5/12/1999

"In a Silent Way", by Peter Phillips, Spectator, 04/14/2001

Online Resources:




Football Music

Inquiry:  Have you ever been to a football game or watched one on TV where there was no music?  Can you imagine how strange it would be if no band played when your team made a touchdown?  Some of the songs in the Music of Old Nebraska collection were written to be played during football games.  You can listen to some short excerpts of football music on the Internet.  Do you think that music is important at football games and other sporting events?  Does it add to the excitement of the game?  Does it help the team play better?  Do you think sports music should be changed in any way?  What kind of music would you like to hear at games?

Some Suggested Resources


Pride of the Cornhuskers, Gary R. Steffens, 1981


" 'The Cornhusker ' Will Be Sung at Saturday's Game", Lincoln Star, Sept. 29, 1950

Online Resources:

"The Cornhusker"

"University of Nebraska Songbook"




The Indianist Movement

Inquiry:  The Indianist Movement was an artistic and musical phenomenon that occurred in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century.  American composers used Native American melodies and legends as a basis for their own compositions.  This was partly an attempt on their part to create a truly "American" music and to try to get away from the European traditions that dominated the music that was being written in this country at that time.  It was also an attempt to revitalize their compositions.

     There have been other examples in history of artists and musicians turning to primitive or folk art and music to generate new creative ideas.  The Cubist movement of the early 20th century is another instance of this.  How do these two movements compare?  Were the artists and composers successful when they used the tribal and folk elements?  Do you think it was proper for them to do this?  Did it show proper respect for the original material?  Is there anything like these movements going on in the world of music and art today?

Some Suggested Resources


The Cambridge History of American Music, David Nicholls (ed.), 1998

A Stranger in Her Native Land: Alice Fletcher and the American Indians, Joan T. Mark, 1998

Cubism, Linda Bolton, 2000

The Cubist Epoch, Douglas Cooper, 1971

Cubism, Paul Waldo Schwartz, 1971


"Breathing the Indian Spirit: Thoughts on Musical Borrowing and the 'Indianist' Movement in American Music", by Tara Browner, American Music, Vol. 15, No. 3, Fall, 1997

"The Musical Soul of the American Indian", by Thurlow Lieurance, The Etude, Oct., 1920

Online Resources:

Indianist Music ( in Music of Old Nebraska Subjects Catalog)





Inquiry:  Chautauqua grew out of a summer training program at Lake Chautauqua for Sunday School teachers.  It became a vast national cultural movement.   What were the Chautauqua shows like?  Who went to them?  What purpose did they serve?  why did their popularity come to an end?  Recently there have been  some attempts to revive the old tent shows. Do you think there is a place in our modern world for programs like these?  Do they compare in some ways to such things as television evangelists, infomercials, televised political debates, and so-called town hall meetings?  Would you go to a Chautauqua show if one came to your community? Why or why not?

Some Suggested Resources


Culture Under Canvas: The Story of Tent Chautauqua, Harry P. Harrison, 1958

Theatre In A Tent: The Development of a Provincial Entertainment, William Lawrence Slout, 1972

The Story of Chautauqua, Jesse Lyman Hurlbut, 1921


"The Chautauqua Moment", Wilson Quarterly, Autumn 2001, Vol. 25, Issue 4

"Under the Big Top", by Lynn Fabian Lasner, Humanities, July/August 2002

"Before Radio, Citizenry Got Culture, Politics From Traveling Troupes", by Cynthia Crossen, Wall Street Journal - Eastern Edition, 7/7/2004

Online Resources:




Lincoln City Libraries Then and Now

Inquiry:  The Lincoln City Libraries system was founded over 125 years ago.  Throughout this time it has served the community as a place where people could go to find information or look for a good book to read. Even now the long range plan for downtown Lincoln includes a new main library building.

     Who was the first public librarian in Lincoln?  Where was the first public library located?  Early in its history it suffered a terrible fire.  When was that?  How many books were left in the collection and what protected some of them? 

     In 1902 Andrew Carnegie, a famous industrialist, donated money and materials to the city of Lincoln to build a new library.  "The Scotch Laddie", one of the pieces in the Music of Old  Nebraska collection, was written for the dedication of the Carnegie Library.  Where was this building located?  Can you find a picture of it?  Did Lincoln have other Carnegie libraries?  Normally, communities only received a single library from Carnegie.  Why did Lincoln have more?  When was the old main library torn down?  What took its place?  Are there any remaining Carnegie library buildings in Lincoln?  Are they still being used as libraries or have they been put to other uses?

Some Suggested Resources


Lincoln: The Capital City and Lancaster County Nebraska, Andrew J. Sawyer (ed.), 1916

Catalogue of Books of the Lincoln Public Library and Reading Room, Nellie M. Ormsbee, Librarian, between 1877 and 1887

Highlights in the History of Lincoln City Libraries, Lincoln, Nebraska, Pat Kean and Dave Pribyl, 1980

Andrew Carnegie, Joseph Frazier Wall, 1970

Andrew Carnegie: Builder of Libraries, Charnan Simon, 1997

Carnegie Libraries: Their History and Impact on American Public Library Development, George S. Bobinski, 1969

A Book of Carnegie Libraries, Theodore Wesley Koch, 1907


"Library's Annual Report", Nebraska State Journal, June 14, 1898

"The Lincoln Public Library, 1875 - 1892", by Mrs. S. B. Pound, Nebraska State Historical Society Publications, No. 5, 1893

Online Resources:



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