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Ralph Bradley and the Ak-Sar-Ben Junior City Crew

By Natalie Kammerer

This week, we wanted to do another highlight of an object in our collection, because it’s a great example of how one item can lead to a whole story with various levels of historical significance.

Ralph H. Bradley was born in Missouri but spent the majority of his life in Omaha. He graduated from Benson High school (class of 1942) and enrolled at the University of Nebraska. World War II had of course already begun, and he enlisted in the Reserves in the winter of 1942. He ultimately served as a B-17 bombardier, completing 31 missions and receiving several medals for service and valor. He retired as a Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force Reserve, where he was also President of the 100th Bomb Group.

Left: Ralph Bradley in WWII uniform, c. 1943. Image source:

Right: Ralph Bradley’s senior photo, Benson High yearbook, 1942. Courtesy of Douglas County Historical Society.

Upon his return from the war, Bradley graduated from Creighton University and began a successful career in journalism and communications. He worked for newspapers in Iowa and Wyoming and was the editor of the Sun newspapers in Omaha. He worked in communications for both the University of Nebraska-Omaha and the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and then served as Director of Public Information for the Omaha Public Schools until his retirement.[1]

The Douglas County Historical Society received a number of objects from the Ralph and Barbara Bradley estate, including elements of Bradley’s Air Force uniform and a red and green Ak-Sar-Ben jacket. In addition to his impressive military service, Bradley had also been part of an interesting little slice of Omaha history called the Ak-Sar-Ben Junior City. At first glance, it looks like a team jacket or a high school letter jacket, but it’s actually something much more unique.

Ralph Bradley posing with his jacket in 2002. Omaha World-Herald, March 20, 2002. Courtesy of Douglas County Historical Society.

Growing up in the neighborhood near Ak-Sar-Ben Field, Bradley, and his friends were constantly sneaking into shows, circuses, and sporting events on the grounds. As he later recalled: “We knew the gaps under the fence; we knew which doors could be easily opened; we knew which windows had no locks (although climbing walls to get to them was dangerous); we knew how to slip in when all of the old ways were barred.”[2]

But one night, the field police caught a group of the boys and were ready to arrest them. Luckily for them, the executive director Jake Isaacson stepped in in the hope of finding another solution. In order to keep the boys out of trouble and allow them free admission to the shows, he gave them a job to do: help protect the field from “toughs from other parts of town.” As Bradley remembered it, Isaacson said, “Many of the men who are running Ak-Sar-Ben Field were once boys doing the same things you are doing. And someday you may be some of the men running Ak-Sar-Ben. You will be protecting property that really belongs to the people of this community.”[3] And with that, the Ak-Sar-Ben Junior City Club was formed. In hindsight, Bradley noted that “the privileges…far outweighed the duties:” Jake Isaacson ended up taking the club’s 25 or so members under his wing, giving them a clubhouse to take care of and hold meetings in. They worked out and enforced their own rules. They had their own baseball team. And Jake Isaacson bought them all matching club jackets that they wore to identify themselves at Ak-Sar-Ben events.

About 25 years later, Bradley noted with pride that all of the boys (with the reported exception of one who moved out of the neighborhood and “away from the influence of the club”) grew up to be upstanding members of the community as florists, military men, engineers, artists, and more.[4]

Though the club came to an end in 1941 as many of the boys were graduating high school, both Bradley and Isaacson expressed the sentiment that, though the club likely didn’t prevent any kind of damage to the field, its existence did help the boys “learn a sense of values and a sense of responsibility.”[5]

Photo of Jake Isaacson (left) and Ralph Bradley (right) taken at a Kiwanis event honoring Isaacson for his contribution to youth in Nebraska. Sun Newspaper, March 14, 1963. Courtesy of Douglas County Historical Society.

Yet another layer of local history: those Ak-Sar-Ben Junior City jackets were made locally by Omaha company Wright and Wilhelmy, the subject of one of last month’s blogs:!

Interior of Ralph Bradley’s Ak-Sar-Ben Junior City jacket, 1930s. Courtesy of Douglas County Historical Society.

[1] “Ralph H. Bradley.” Omaha World-Herald Obituary. June 29, 2010.

[2] Bradley, Ralph. “Jake Isaacson Had His Own Method With Boys.” Omaha Sun Newspaper. March 14, 1963. p. 21A.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

Nebraska Suffrage 101: Rheta Louise Childe Dorr

The next phase of Nebraska’s women’s suffrage story has a direct causal link to the wave of support shown for the cause in the 1860s through the 1880s.

Rheta Childe Dorr was born in Omaha in about 1868 to Edward Payson Child and Lucille Mitchell, who at the time lived at the International Hotel on 11th and Dodge.[1] She grew up amidst the high-profile speeches, parades, and conventions that were so common in Nebraska leading up to the 1882 vote for women’s suffrage. When she was twelve years old, she famously snuck out of her house one night to attend a speech given by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton. Her name soon appeared in the newspaper as a new member of the National Woman Suffrage Association, having spent her only silver dollar to pay the dues.[2]

She would soon go on to study journalism at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, staying active in women’s suffrage and other progressive causes. After two years in Lincoln, she moved to New York City to pursue a career in newspaper. She married John Pixley Dorr and briefly moved to Seattle, but when their marriage dissolved, she returned to New York City and became an investigative reported for the New York Evening Post. After leaving the Post in 1906, she traveled through Europe and began focusing more on the issue of suffrage, writing several pieces voicing the plight of working-class women. In 1910, these articles were assembled and published as a volume entitled What Eight Million Women Want.

Rheta Childe Dorr (right) and British suffragette Emmeline Pankhurst, ca. 1910. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

In 1913, she became the first editor of the new newspaper The Suffragist. This publication, founded by Alice Paul, provided national documentation of protests and arrests and also featured editorials and cartoons that depicted trends within the movement and brought women’s suffrage to an even wider audience.

Rheta Childe Dorr. Image courtesy of the Library of Congress.

A 1917 issue of The Suffragist. Image courtesy

And because this year is an election year, you can show your appreciation for Rheta Childe Dorr’s work toward voting equality by making sure you’re registered to vote!

[1] Collins’ Omaha City Directory. Compiled by Charles Collins, July 4, 1868.

[2] Turning Point Suffragist Memorial, “Rheta Childe Dorr”, 2020.

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