Puzzling Times – Omaha 1915 edition #6

Today we have for you the sixth panel in the series of panoramic photos shot by Father Rigge and Alphonse Schmitt. The first half of today’s blog post will conclude the hunt to find the panorama panels. We would like to thank Karl for putting together the write-ups and doing all of the research for these Rigge blogs.

Finding the Panorama Panels: Part 2

Unable to acquire the original negatives of the 1915 panorama series from the Archives we were forced to turn to an alternative source for the images. As with the 1913 series, Fr. Rigge noted in his Memoirs that several of the individual plates from the series had been printed in the Creighton Chronicles. The Archives have made many issues of the Creighton Chronicles available electronically on the Internet Archives. Looking through the back issues between June 1915 when the images were taken and Fr. Rigge’s death in 1927 we were able to find 8 of the 12 images. Unfortunately, the copies of the Chronicles available on the Internet Archive had been compressed for space and this had a noticeably deleterious effect on the quality of the images. So we contacted the same individual in the Archives who had cleaned up the Popular Astronomy images for us to see if they could clean up the images or, failing that, if they could help us find the original issues from the Archives collection so that we could rescan the images. This is where we saw our first stroke of luck as our Archive contact recognized several of the images we had found as images they had encountered previously. Armed with the knowledge that developed plates of at least some of the images must exist within the archives photos collection we met up with our contact at the Archives Annex in the Wareham building in order to start the potentially long process of searching through archival boxes for the missing photographic plates. However, fortune smiled on us once more and in the first box pulled for the search, we found 11 of the 12 plates from the series. Unfortunately, the West facing plate, which would have included the Cathedral and Duchesne Academy, continued to elude us.

Today’s puzzle is a view from the East.


Image A – The McKeen Motor Car Co. building located in the Union Pacific shops. Formed in 1908 the company’s owner William R. McKeen, Jr., who was previously the supervisor of Motive Power for U.P., leased the space for the manufacture of his self-named McKeen Motor Car a passenger rail car with a self-contained gasoline engine that allowed for self-propulsion. Back in the North by Northeast plate we encountered Charles W. Hull who was involved in an interesting dispute Mr. McKeen and his new wife Mary L. McKeen, who had previously been Mary L. Hull. In 1912 C.W. Hull brought a suite against the McKeens seeking to dispute the $91,000 (the equivalent of over $2 million in today’s money) alimony he owed. In response the McKeens hired a Private Detective named H. J. Pickett to acquire information on Hull’s character that could be used in the suit. The resulting 41-page dossier was in ways a who’s who of the intersection of vice and power in 1912 Omaha. Going far beyond Hull’s own actions in various gambling dens, social halls, and brothels of Omaha’s “sporting district” the over 200 interviews with the employees of the various establishments named names on a large cross section of the business elite of Omaha at the time. As more evidence was gathered against him Hull dropped the suit without going to court. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10

Image B – Cow in the City, another glimpse into the daily life of the time. In this case we have a cow or steer of some sort grazing in a field near what would today be the western wing of McGloin Hall.

American Smelting and Refining Co – The series of chimneys visible along the river are the site of the American Smelting and Refining Co. Founded in 1870 as the Omaha and Grant Smelting Works the site processed and refined gold, silver, lead, and other metals. In 1899 it was one of several plants across the nation reorganized and incorporated into American Smelting and Refining Co. also known as ASARCO. In 1915 the smelting plant was the largest lead smelter in the world. Today the site is the location of Lewis and Clark Landing. 1 2 3 4 5 6


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