New Exhibit Highlights All Things Omaha

General Crook House at Fort Omaha, location of the new "Straight Out of Omaha" exhibit. (Photo by Jack Williams, NET News)
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May 17, 2019 - 6:45am

From inventing the ski lift to creating the machine that puts the ripples in potato chips, some interesting things and people have come out of Omaha. A new exhibit that opens this weekend highlights cultural influencers from Omaha, and the list is full of surprises. 


Down a narrow set of wooden stairs at the historic General Crook House at Fort Omaha, there’s a treasure trove of Omaha’s history waiting to be explored. The exhibit “Straight Out of Omaha” opens on Sunday, the Douglas County Historical Society’s latest effort to highlight the past and present of Omaha.

Finishing up last minute details, Historical Society Executive Director Kathy Aultz says the exhibit is a way to share the interesting people, places and things that have originated in Omaha.

“Hopefully, whether you’ve lived here your whole life, or you’re just passing through, you’ll learn something and go wow, I had no idea that came out of Omaha and that’s really kind of the idea of what we’re trying to do here,“ Aultz said.

Douglas County Historical Society Executive Director Kathy Aultz. (Photo by Jack Williams, NET News)

From movie icons like Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift and Nick Nolte, to cultural, sports and business giants like Fred Astaire, Warren Buffett, boxer Max Baer and Hall of Fame pitcher Bob Gibson, Omaha has produced a diverse and talented group of people and things. Women’s rights pioneer Doris Stevens was from Omaha and so was Malcolm X, known as Malcolm Little when he was born in Omaha in 1925. And then there are the quirky things that have come out of Omaha.

“The Reuben Sandwich, butter brickle ice cream and Duncan Hines cake mixes and people don’t realize that the ski lift was invented in Omaha,” Aultz said.

That’s right, the ski lift was invented by Union Pacific engineers who wanted a way to get skiers to the top of the slopes in resort towns served by the railroad. The testing for the new lifts was actually done near downtown Omaha in 1936, far from mountains or ski runs.

There are also artifacts from places, people and events in Omaha, including the College World Series and a giant fair held in North Omaha in 1898.

Exhibit curator Pat Pixley. (Photo by Jack Williams, NET News)

“We’ve got some spectacular items from the Trans-Mississippi Exposition that have never been on display,“ Aultz said. “We’ve got some great artwork that we got from the Omaha World-Herald of Warren Buffett that’s never been on display anywhere. So we’ve got a lot of things that are rarely seen or they’ve never been on display, so we’re excited about that.”    

Exhibit curator and consultant Pat Pixley says “Straight Out of Omaha” is about pride in the community and recognizing important cultural contributions.

“I think that people do not realize that the Midwest, and particularly, we’re kind of in the middle, is very creative and that we have a lot of important inventions and events and people that came out of here, but we don’t recognize it and we kind of poo-poo what we’re all about when we should have a great deal of pride about it,”  Pixley said.       

Kathy Aultz says not everything that’s come out of Omaha is going to make headlines.

 “It could be as hokey as something like a wax toilet gasket, which came out of Omaha, so you’ve probably never looked at the back of the box to see where it was manufactured, but hopefully you’ll hear that story and know that story, and so whether it’s a collector of Kewpie dolls or the College World Series, you’ll learn something about it, we hope,” Aultz said.  

The “Straight Out of Omaha” exhibit is in the basement of the General Crook House at Fort Omaha through next April.  

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