Date of Award
Master of Arts (MA)
Harl A. Dalstrom
An article by Gregory R. Zieren was brought to my attention as I was completing this study.1 Dealing with recently published works on the packing industry, it critiques books that have been my constant companions over the last two years. Zieren writes,
Despite the local focus [Chicago], none of the works is parochial in its scholarly concerns, and all of them broaden our understanding of the urban and social history of one the nation's quintessential working-class districts.2
Chicago was the environment for the development of the modern industry and, for almost a century, was the world's leading packing center. But other locales such as South Omaha were part of the industry as well . As the refrigerated dressed meat trade gained in importance, this new livestock and packing center on the Missouri River emerged as a major participant in the building of the packers' powerful business empire. While South Omaha's emergence provided a rich and colorful story of local development, it also demonstrated the big packers' all-encompassing presence in the industry.
But little attention has been paid to the packers' role in the early years of this community. Local histories record the activities of Omaha entrepreneurs in establishing SouthOmaha and bringing the packers here. Most rely heavily on the pioneer works of Counsul Butterfield and Alfred Sorenson, while Minnie Ferguson 's 1934 thesis, "South Omaha Packing Industry, " offered an overview of the local topic. But no through study of the packers ' role in this community has been undertaken, and as a result , South Omaha has been neglected by historians of the packing industry. Yet all the big packers were there in some capacity in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Each "carved their piece" out of Nebraska, where they had come to dominate both the local industry and much of the local economy. In the pages that follow, I examine the emergence of South Omaha as a major packing center in the late nineteenth century.
DiDonato, Gina Lorna, "Building the Meat Packing Industry in South Omaha, 1883-1898" (1989). Student Work. 53.
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