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Saturday, January 7, 2017

Two Days, Two Posts in a Row?



The sesquicentennial celebration in Nebraska has started! What is a sesquicentennial?  It's just the fancy schmancy term for 150th.  The population of the area exploded with the great westward migrations, pushed by the Homestead Act of 1862. Statehood followed in March of 1867.  It's been moving onward and upwards.

The state has an entire year of events planned. Information can be found here for those that are interested.

The one I am most interested in is the Hildegard Center Bridges project- Sharing Our Past to Enrich Our Future. The Hildegard Center prides itself in using art as a means to not only educate, but to also create dialogue and bring cultures, communities, and people together with a common interest.  As part of the 150th anniversary celebration they invited photographers to submit photos from around the state.  They were looking for images to represent not only each county, but images that would bridge the gap between the past and the present.  In addition to the image itself, a narrative describing the bridge was called to accompany the photo.  This proved quite difficult, as a picture is worth a thousand words, and we were limited to a much lower number to get our point across.

The judges started their daunting task of rating and sorting the photos, over 800 photos of historic landmarks, people, homes, barns, livestock, anything and everything that fit the topic of submission.  Going through all of the submitted photos myself on the Virtual Gallery, I am intrigued and awed by the vision and artistic eyes of my fellow Nebraskans.

Of course in the end, only one photo from each county could go on to the permanent traveling exhibit.  93 photos were printed and framed and put on display at the Great Plains Art Museum in Lincoln Nebraska beginning with the Grand Opening Reception on January 6th at 5pm.  I am quite excited!  Not only will it be an amazing exhibit, but I'm in the show!

I never dreamed my obsession with the history of wherever we live and the fact I have a camera permanently attached to my hand, would pay off.  I am thrilled to show off the digital catalogue of the show for those that are too far away to attend the actual show.  I am Butler County, which is both listed under the County Name, but is also the cover of the Catalog!

The narrative is not accompanying it online but can be found below:

"Homesteaders bravely marching westward from their familiar and relatively easy life east of the Missouri River, took a leap of faith towards a better life for themselves and their families.  While the state of Nebraska is no stranger to large Registered Historic places, it’s the smaller, more private histories that hide along the dirt back roads, along cool deep sloughs, and amongst the overgrown windbreaks that tug at my soul.
 “You can’t know where you’re going until you’ve seen where you’ve been.” Our own homestead overlooks a leg of the Ox-Bow variant of the Mormon Trail.  As local tourists to the area are drawn to the state park and speed by, I cannot help but to think back at those that came before.  I ponder the journey, not the destination.  I tune out the stereos and roaring motorcycle engines, and imagine the lowing oxen, rattling wagon wheels, and voices calling out below - only three weeks into a four month journey.  I wonder where they came from, where they are going, and what they will encounter along the way.  What became of them?
While exploring my newly adopted state, I came across this once proud, well-loved homesteader’s cabin.  Knowing the nearest historic railroad stop was half a day wagon ride, the time and effort that went into this home was evident.  Long abandoned and forgotten by the modern era, I have captured it to save it and a little piece of the family that once called it home."
The last line had to be edited out due to character number restrictions, but it read: "When the howling prairie winds fall silent, if you listen carefully you can hear the snap of the laundry on the line, the rhythmic clucking of the hens in the yard, and the happy laughter of children. I can hear them, can you?"

The photo is posted on my FineArtAmerica.com account as well, should you be interested.  Both the award winner and a cropped version, and the expanded version. Thanks for visiting them.

For those with an interest in history and/or the need for educational materials (4th graders and teachers, I'm looking at you), here is the link to the Bridges Educational materials by county. I have also emailed the Hildegard to share some more links with them to include photos of Butler County Wagon Trail ruts, a Map of the side variants to the main trails, and a digital book of first hand accounts of pioneers that was collected by the Daughters of the American Revolution. (free from the Gutenberg project-an amazing source for out of print books-by the way.) And another copy on Amazon, both free Kindle download, or pay for a print copy.

Now for the most important question, what to wear?!


If it were up to me, I would wear my ratty sweatshirt, rolled up blue jeans, and my yellow Sloggers with the chickens on them.  However, an art gallery opening isn't quite the time and place for that outfit. Nuts.

I COULD wear my little black dress with the all over beading and matching shoes, but while it is the perfect time and place for it, I am just not that kind of person.  I would be miserable all evening, and my ankles, knees, and back would punish me all weekend for the heels.

So what on earth did I come up with?

I am going to wear a homesteading dress, patterned after one from the 1860s! It is Navy calico with small light blue flowers on it.  Although aprons and pinafores were not usually worn by women outside of the home, I will be wearing mine.  It is wedgewood blue.  As it will only be 8'F tonight, I will also be wearing all the appropriate underthings, an under dress, two petticoats (one white, one red), and red stockings with my riding boots, and a shawl.  I also have a calico bonnet, but for such a formal occasion, I needed to come up with something better.

Bonnets were for daily wear and for work, but for church and special events, if you could afford it, you wore a ladies hat.  Where to find a ladies hat from the 1860s in 2016?

For a moment I thought to switch over to my Norwegian gown and cap, a completed outfit that was washed and ready to wear.  But I wasn't in the mood for that either.  I was just going to have to MAKE a hat!

Scouring the interweb, I found many tutorials on how to make a ladies hat.  Most required a form of some kind.  Being in the middle of no where strikes again.  Inspiration part 2 struck, and I headed for my local antique mall, hoping a hat I had seen there two months ago was still there!

To my pure glee, the world's ugliest hat from the 1950s was still there.  I can only imagine that this was some woman's pride and joy in the 50s when she snuck it into the house a-la a Lucy episode, but wow.  It was a Juliet style back cap, wired around the edge to keep its shape.  This was covered in just the oddest color of velvet, not quite burgundy, not quite rust. Across the front edge was a gathered band of satin fabric is Century 21 Mustard yellow, covered in rust, brown, yellow, and red florals and swirls.  If that wasn't enough there was a giant wired bow of the same fabric at the right temple. It had to go.  It all HAD TO GO!

I am kicking myself for NOT taking photos of it when I started, but I really just wanted it apart and was just so grossed out I just started the project without thinking.  I used the old fabric as a pattern for the new black duck cotton.  I cut this oversized and put it into the embroidery machine for a couple of hours and let it work its magic.  I chose a Nordic pattern that compliments the Nordic gown.  An evening of reassembly and hand sewing followed.  It came out fantastically well.
Small remade cap on the left, formal Nordic cap and coif on right.

It is simple enough to count as a ladies cap, generic enough to go with either outfit, added the Nordic Homesteader heritage to the homesteading gown, and covered my updo hair- a married lady must.


The opening was fun.  There were about a dozen of the winning 61 photographers there.  Every one was lovely and fun to talk to.  I'm not sure how many visitors came to the event, but it was at least 250. And everyone wanted to talk, talk, talk.  They enjoyed talking to all the photographers and getting to know the story behind each photo. And the photographers had a ball talking to each other as well. And we all made great connections.  A HUGE THANK YOU to the staff of Hildegard, the Judges, and The Great Plains Art Center!

The outfit was also a hit.  And it was COMFY and WARM even at 0'F outside.  I was good with the petticoats, dress, apron, and shawl!


  1. Congratulations Caryl, a lovely photo and commentary. Good for you going in costume, you must have been a hit! Well done on the hat, a lovely design. It's good that people like you take care of local history.


    You are an amazing girl. Love those hats..