Beef State

Air Date: 08/11/2009

When most Americans think about firmly-fleshed roasts or juicy steaks, they are thinking about beef.

During the 1950s and '60s, Nebraska's license plates carried the nickname "The Beef State." And with good reason, the beef industry is Nebraska's single largest industry, driving much of the state's economy.

The story of the cattle industry in Nebraska began more than a century ago with the state's clean, plentiful water and vast grasslands perfect for its advancement and success.

The hour-long program tells a tale of economic, ecological and cultural upheaval, as well as the personal stories of victory, loss and true grit that made Nebraska the Beef State. It weaves together historical background and human determination into a fascinating saga that takes viewers on a panoramic sweep through a century of American history.

It follows the first cattle drives into Nebraska and traces the impact of the industry on Nebraska through the state's settlement and homesteading eras, and the rise of cattle barons such as Bartlett Richards. The story continues with the evolution of the modern ranch, following the growth of the beef industry through two world wars, the blizzard of 1949 and the rise and fall of the Omaha Stockyards.

Providing historical background and insightful commentary are NSHS senior research folklorist John Carter; David Wishart, University of Nebraska-Lincoln professor of anthropology and geography; and educators Moni Nation Hourt (Sioux County) and Gary Kastrick (Omaha).

Several contemporary Nebraska cattlemen are also featured, including Jack and John Maddux, Maddux Cattle Company (Chase County); Melvin Nation, foreman of the Coffee Ranch (Sioux County); and John Sibbitt, Sibbitt Cattle Company (Grant County).

Bassett Livestock Auction Photos

Omaha Stockyards Photos

Blizzard of 1948-49 Photos