The Gilded Age Plains City

The Great Sheedy Murder Trial and the Booster Ethos of Lincoln, Nebraska


Explore the City

Spatial Narratives

Interpretation and Narrative

Working Class

As a railroad town, Lincoln's working class was rooted in thousands of men and women who worked on the Burlington and Missouri River Railroad system as well as the other railroads that entered and operated in Lincoln. Havelock, a few miles up the track to the northeast of Lincoln, was established as a site of the Burlington body and repair shops; it developed as a working class suburb of Lincoln.

Manual laborers who worked for the city government, the University, businesses, hotels, and mercantile houses, or for small industry broadened the range and impact of Lincoln's working class. The elite among them joined fraternal organizations, and took part in spectator sports, civic parades, as well as Civil War reunions; the city had several chapters of traditional workingmen's organizations like the Independent Order of Odd Fellows (I.O.O.F.). A few unions also existed, although the city was not otherwise considered a union town and was not much affected by national and regional strikes in 1877, the mid 1880s, or 1893-94.

The saloons, taverns, and meeting houses along the tracks and in the Tenderloin district formed the primary public space of working class neighborhoods. Workers patronized these areas and apparently, except for those who worked there, only occasionally went up into the Uptown district. They lived down along the tracks in an area both north and south of the depot district called the "Bottoms" because of its proximity to the flood plain of Salt Creek. Germans from Russia eventually settled this area giving it the name the "Russian Bottoms." Gradually working class neighborhoods south of downtown pushed east past south Tenth and Eleventh streets and infiltrated the edge of middle class neighborhoods to the west. In response, middle class residents moved further east and south.

University of Nebraska-Lincoln

Directed by Timothy R. Mahoney, Plains Humanities Alliance, in collaboration with the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities.
Funded by the Center for Digital Research in the Humanities, the Nebraska Humanities Council, and the Plains Humanities Alliance.
© 2007–2008, University of Nebraska–Lincoln