Tuesday, March 22, 2011

100 years ago

I still subscribe to the local newspaper—the one printed on actual newsprint. There are few things more enjoyable than an hour in the living room with the Sunday edition of the Lincoln Journal Star, just after sunrise with the light streaming in our northeast-facing windows. 

One of my favorite Sunday columns is called 140 Years Ago.  It summarizes the big story in Nebraska or Lincoln during the same week, decade by decade, beginning in 1871. This past Sunday, the blurb for a century ago was from a 1911 article in the Omaha Bee, noting that in the previous 22 months there had been 31 murders in Omaha. 

I grabbed my iPad and looked up the 1910 census.  Omaha’s population was 124,096.  A little math yielded an annual murder rate of 13.7 per 100,000 population during 1910-1911.  A quick check of OPDs statistics revealed that there were 34 murders in Omaha last year, and the new 2010 census data pegs Omaha’s population at 408,958.  So the 2010 murder rate in Omaha was 8.3 per 100,000 population.

Here’s a few things that were in short supply in 1911:  meth labs, oppositional defiant disorder, semi-automatic weapons, ectasy, horror movies, post-traumatic stress disorder, violent video games, hip-hop music, oxycontin, high-capacity magazines, crack babies, heavy metal bands, welfare, television, rocket propelled grenades, porn sites.  Yet, the murder rate in Omaha was 65% greater 100 years ago than it is today.


Rory Dunne said...

Hi Chief,

Interesting. I wonder what the officer to population figures looked like then too....

Anonymous said...

Chief-I didn't know what ODD was so I checked it out. Thanks for bringing it to my attention as I believe I may have had it one time when I was younger. Then my Dad whacked me a few times and it went away. Kind of 1950's psychotherapy.


M1911 said...

There was no federal law barring private ownership of the full auto Mauser broomhandle pistol. Dozens of semi-auto models were available at any hardware store. Cocaine or heroin did not require a prescription and were sold over the counter in every small town.

Tango Juliet said...

I am loathe to blame inanimate objects for human shortcomings.

In 1911, we had a lot less gun control too. MUCH less.

Those evil semi-automatic and yes, even fully automatic weapons were available for sale to the general public with no questions asked. These types of firearms are nothing new contrary to popular belief.

Nah, it's continued cultural decline that's to blame. Traditional family values are no longer valued.

That's the problem, not those evil guns.

Tom Casady said...

M1911 and Tango Juliet-

That's my point. Life was not entirely rosy when grandma was a little tyke. We tend to think that the world has gone to heck, and that all these horrible artifacts of modern life have created a culture of unparalleled violence, whereas the late-horse-and-buggy period is remembered as a bucolic scene from a Norman Rockwell painting. Sometimes history is a slap in the face.

Anonymous said...

You are right Chief, being around antiques I realized a long time ago that those were some rough days. The Victorian era was rough stuff. Many gentlemen and ladies carried purse guns, cane guns, derringers. To a much greater degree than the CCW resurgance we see today.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the Journal Star... the read about the Romantix / Gourlay buildings demo is interesting. Was there ever an investigation as to the cause of the fire? Was this an arson? Does anybody know?

Anonymous said...

Opium was around long before 1911, heroin had been around since 1874. In 1911, if a person sustained a minor infection, they might easily die from it, because there were no antibiotics available. Clean that scratch, and keep it clean. Get the flu? Get a little mucus in your lungs and get a lung infection? Pneumonia, and no antibiotics were available to fix it; many died from the flu, or more correctly, from the resulting pneumonia - again, no antibiotics.

Horses were still commonplace, so the streets smelled like a stable from all the road apples.

Ah, the good old days.

Anonymous said...

In 1911, there were no ATMs! I wonder if this was the crow-bar-the-ATM guy from the previous night.

Jodi said...

I moved from Lincoln to Kansas City almost three years ago, and when I started reading the Kansas City Star, it was full of murder, carjacking, etc. Shook me up, especially since I came from Grand Island back when that meant safe, small "city" with virtually no violent non-domestic crime. (We used to think Omaha's news was scary because it always had a shooting as the lead-off story.)

I did a quick calculation and discovered that the population of the KC metro is not quite 10 times that of Lincoln, and that the shooting deaths are proportionally similar. That was reassuring (though I still made sure to find out what parts of town to avoid!)

Anonymous said...


Remember this guy?


Tom Casady said...


Oh yes, quite well.

Anonymous said...

...is known to wear body armor to prevent police from using taser on him...

The I guess he prefers LTL beanbag rounds targeted at the thighs. They do a great job running bears out of populated areas in many states. Most LE officers in bear country have a box of them in their vehicle.

Steve said...

Off subject, but since I was victim last night, any ideas on how to stop the BB gun vandals? Have you ever caught any of the more recent multiple-victim a**holes we've read about a number of times over the last few years?

Anonymous said...

Weren't his dreads blond is his last booking photo? His prophet instincts must have told him to go all natural.

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how you'd stop BB gun vandals, but you can lessen your chances of having your windows shot out, or your car otherwise broken into/vandalized.

Don't park in the street, if you can, and park as far up in the driveway as possible (don't park close to the street so your spouse/GF/BF/kid/parent can get out without their spouse/GF/BF/kid/parent having to move their vehicle. Lock your doors, and don't leave any swag visible (remove your aftermarket head unit's removeable faceplate, hide your phone charger, etc).

If you have a garage, put your vehicle in there (close and lock all dors to the garage while you're at it), not in the driveway. If your garage has too much junk in it to get your vehicle in there - clean out your garage; you probably haven't used much of that stuff in years.

Some have no driveway, or no garage stall, but if you can put it in the driveway or garage, do it.

Anonymous said...

ya chief none of those pesky semi-automatic weapons or high-capacity magazines we used by any one, I mean its not like one of the most recognised and arguably best handgun designs of all times was adopted by the US Army (Automatic Pistol, Caliber .45, M1911)

And no one was allowed to own a machine guns (National Firearms Act of 1934)

And your local law enforcement would not have harassed a an upstanding citizen for protecting himself and others from armed criminals with deadly force. (Harry McCullough and the city of Omaha)

Tom Casady said...


So tell me, just how many Omahans do you suppose were sporting this Colt 1911s and Mauser boom handles around town in 1910-11? None, that's how many--or pretty close thereto. Those 31 murders were committed with hands and feet, knives, staves, rocks, single-action revolvers and break-top .32s--not with stacked-magazine Brownings Hi-Powers.

Apparently the entire theme of my post passed you by, so I will simplify: there is a whole lot of hand-wringing about the rise in violent crime in the U.S., from both the right and left: "It'is the proliferation of assault weapons!", "It's the decline in family values! ". It's not the right-wing extremists, the illegal immigrants, the drug trade, the violence In popular culture, the militias, the hip-hop music, the survivalists, the rappers, the gun-nuts, the Muslims, the Christian Identity, the liberals, the semi-automatic weapons, the divorce rate or anything else.

Despite the relative "lack" of all these things a centuruy ago, the murder rate in Omaha was considerably higher than it is today. Our belief that things have gone to heck is unsupported by the facts.

The lens of history clarifies the present reality.

Anonymous said...

Here's one thing that was different back then: In 1911, once diagnosed, people with psychotic personalities were far less likely to be mainstreamed with medications that they could choose to stop taking ("I feel OK, so I don't see why I need to take these damn pills"). On the contrary, they were generally institutionalized, and the patient choosing to stop their treatment regimen was almost never an allowed option.

It was much more rare to see a mass shooter in a mall, school, and so forth, because they were almost always already locked up.

Suzie Ivy said...

This blog site is awesome! I can't get my Chief involved in any kind of social networking. Can I come work for you?

Anonymous said...

Chief-So what you're saying,proven by statistics, is that once Nebraska got a concealed carry law, crime rates went down, as compared to 1911.

Just wanted to make you smile. Have a nice weekend.


Anonymous said...


"The Lincoln Police Department is currently hiring Nebraska Certified Police Officers for Lateral Entry positions"


Steve said...


I knew someone would bring up CHP's relationship to the crime rates. Didn't think it would be you. :)

2:55 pm

I don't dispute your recommendations, but they don't always work. I was in my driveway, as far from the street as possible when my truck window was shot. I'd like to use my garage, but it was built in the days when vehicles were much smaller. It is also my work shop. Probably not a good idea to put all my shop equipment outside over night. :(

I'm leaning toward surveillance cameras. Perhaps I can't prevent damage, but maybe I can catch the perps and exact justice (or revenge). :)

Fly Tyer said...

Chief, not a great stat. Look who controlled the police in 1911, Tom Dennison. Essentially a mob boss. Got so bad, that when a racist mob attacked "Greek Town" in South O, the Omaha police walked away and let the mob burn the area to the ground. So, not a really good comparison to make to your current force.