Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Dr. Harl A. Dalstrom


The first decade of the twentieth century marked Columbus, Nebraska’s transition from a frontier town to a small midwestem city. During those ten years, the population increased from 3,522 to 5,014, the labor force composition changed, and residents, goaded by Columbus Weekly Telegram editor Edgar Howard, began to think more about the appearance and sanitary condition of the town. The rapidly growing community was soon hard-pressed to provide its citizens with fuel and electrical power to operate an expanding residential and street lighting system. Promoters tried to harness the Loup River’s current to provide that power, but economic conditions did not favor the project. The electric light station could not provide enough power for the streetlights and business and residential lighting. Residents began taking exception to the poor condition of the city’s streets and sidewalks, and those issues reached crisis points when Columbus qualified for free city mail delivery. Automobile enthusiasts began adding their voices to the demand for good roads at mid-decade, but in doing so, created new forms of safety hazards. Along with the automobile, increased usage of the telephone during the decade gave people more opportunities for interaction, and began to change the way people, especially those living in the rural areas, conducted their business. Although these devices were lauded as means to end the isolation of rural people, during the first years after their introduction, they were enjoyed far more frequently by town-dwellers.


A Thesis Presented to the Department of History and the Faculty of the Graduate College University of Nebraska In Partial Fulfillment of the Requirements for the Degree Master of Arts University of Nebraska at Omaha. Copyright 1999, Lori Brdicko

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