Puzzling Times – Omaha 1915 edition #3

Today we have for you the third panel in the series of panoramic photos shot by Father Rigge and Alphonse Schmitt. The first half of today’s blog post will focus on The Rigge Papers Project.

In the fall semester of 2018 the Archives, Rare Books, and Special Collections (Archives) and the Digital Repository and Publishing Services (DRaPS) came together on a project to add the Archives collection of materials produced by Fr. William Rigge, SJ to the Creighton Digital Repository (CDR). While some materials were already available in a digital format, others were only available in bound print collections necessitating a scanning project to convert those materials into a digital format. The project is ongoing as the Archives and DRaPS seek to track down copies of some materials that are only accessible through databases whose licensing prevent the materials from being copied over to the CDR. The Archives and DRaPS  is also processing several large scrapbooks Rigge gathered of newspaper clippings related to his various activities.

The collection that emerged from these efforts has several items of interest. One of the more interesting items is an article Rigge wrote, “Saved by a Shadow,” that recounted the story of a court case he was brought in to consult on. In the case, a man stood accused of a failed bombing attempt on the life of Omaha political boss Tom Dennison. The key prosecution witnesses were two schoolgirls who said they saw the man in the area of the bombing while on their way home from a church function shortly before the bomb was discovered.  Fr. Rigge was brought in by the defense counsel to testify on a photograph of the two girls at the church function they had attended. Using the shadows in the image to calculate the time that the picture was taken Fr. Rigge was able to show that the girls could not have seen the accused at the time they thought, as they were still at their church function. The State would eventually abandon the case. Another item of interest are a series of articles capturing an exchange between Fr. Rigge and a John Dean published in Popular Astronomy from 1908 -1910 debating over the authenticity of a story regarding Haley’s Comet and Pope Callixtus III.

Today’s puzzle is a view from the North.


Karl has identified several points of interest visible in this plate, some of the highlights include:

Image A – One of the more interesting aspects of these panoramic plates are the occasional glimpses that they provide into captured moments of everyday activity. Image A provides two such glimpses. In the foreground we have a horse drawn wagon pulled up to the curb outside of a store front. Behind the wagon we can see a group of men going about the business of moving between the store and the wagon either loading or unloading boxes. Further up the street in the zoomed image we can see a lone figure standing in the street; a street sweeper with his handcart, a sight necessitated in part by the presence of horse drawn conveyances such as the wagon with whom he shares this scene.

Image B – The Sacred Heart Parish located at 22nd. Established in 1890 to serve the growing Catholic population of North Omaha, the land for the church building itself was donated in 1896 by Herman Kountze from whom the surrounding Kountze Place neighborhood takes its name. The land was consecrated the following year and the building we see here was dedicated in 1902. Designed by the prominent local architects Fisher and Lawrie, who would go on to design several of the parish’s other buildings, the church was described at the time as the “finest building erected as a parish church in the city.” The original church building still stands and continues to serve Sacred Heart parish.1 2 3

Image C – The Ak-Sar-Ben Den/Coliseum, identifiable from Baist’s Guide and located at 20th and Burdette. Originally constructed in 1887 to serve as a city auditorium the facility was constructed in 1887 and served as the site of the Populist party’s National Convention in 1892. In 1895 shortly after their founding the Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben took up residence at the facility using it for regular meetings as well as the site of their first Harvest Ball, although sources differ on whether the Knights purchased or merely leased the hall. The location would continue to be a center of Knights of Ak-Sar-Ben activities until it was destroyed in a fire in 1927.1 2 3 4 5

Creighton Observatory – The Creighton Observatory can be seen in the front right of this image. The observatory was constructed in 1885 using funds provided by John A. Creighton following a push by Fr. Joseph Rigge, Fr. William Rigge’s brother, for the university to provide a more appropriate home for the large J.H. Steward and Co. of London telescope Creighton had donated to the university in 1884. Further improvements were made in 1910. The Observatory still stands on the edge of what have become the Jesuit Gardens, although it is not open to the public.1 2 3 4 5 6

New/Old Gym – Directly north of the observatory we see can see the grassy space that had begun to be cleared for the construction the Old Gym, or the New Gym as Fr. Rigge refers to it in his memoirs.


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