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RG3932.AM:  Carl Petrus Peterson, 1880-1965

Papers:  1906-1965

Polk County and Lincoln, Lancaster County, Neb.:  Attorney, State Legislator, 13th District (1915-1917) and 20th District (1941-1947), State Senator (1919), and Water Reclamation Leader

Size:  1.5 cu.ft.


C. Petrus Peterson, son of A.W. and Matilda Lindstrom Peterson, was born in Polk County, Nebraska, on March 10, 1880. After completing rural school work at sixteen, he worked on the farm of his Swedish-born parents until he was twenty-one. Peterson then attended the Luther Academy in Wahoo, Nebraska. After graduation he enrolled in Augustana College in Rock Island, Illinois, receiving an A.B. in 1906. Three years later, Peterson earned his law degree from the University of Nebraska.

Peterson practiced law in Wahoo, Nebraska from 1909 to 1911. He then moved to Lincoln, Nebraska where he was made a partner in the law firm of Whedon and Peterson. In 1914 he established the law firm of Peterson and Devoe. The following year, Peterson began the first of two terms in the Nebraska House of Representatives, representing the 13th District. During World War I, he was Food Administrator of Lancaster County. Peterson became a state senator in 1919. He also served as a delegate to two constitutional conventions and as Lincoln’s City Attorney from 1915 to 1929.

After a long absence from public office, Peterson was elected to his first of four terms in the Nebraska Unicameral, representing the 20th District. He served as speaker in 1945. In 1944, Peterson was instrumental in the creation of the Nebraska Reclamation Association. After serving as president of the Nebraska association for two years, he was elected president of the National Reclamation Association, a position he held through four terms. Peterson also served on the Nebraska Commission on Inter-Government Cooperation and the Board of Managers of the Council of State Governments. A long association with Bankers Life of Nebraska began in 1919 when Peterson served as their general counsel. He became a vice-president in 1947 and after his retirement, in 1955, he remained as a trustee emeritus.

Peterson won many honors for his work in public service. In 1952 he was the thirteenth nominee to the Reclamation Hall of Fame. The University of Nebraska’s Builders Award was presented to him in 1953. He also received the Kiwanis Club distinguished service medal in 1958.

Carl Petrus Peterson died in 1965. He was survived by his wife of fifty-five years, Vera Melquist Peterson, and three daughters.


This collection consists of one box of manuscript material arranged in five series: 1) Speeches, 1906-1965; 2) Essays; 3) Correspondence, 1911-1965; 4) Certificates; and 5) Miscellany.

This material traces C. Petrus Peterson’s career in public service through speeches, essays, and correspondence relating to his interests. Biographical materials and awards honoring Peterson are also included in this collection.

The bulk of this collection is comprised of the speeches, 1906-1965, of Series 1. These reflect Peterson’s concerns about water reclamation, politics, the Depression, conservation, the insurance business, government and social welfare. These are arranged alphabetically by title. Dates are included when noted on the speech or within the text.

Series 2 contains essays written by C. Petrus Peterson. Of particular interest are autobiographical articles in Folder 1. Other essays, probably written for school courses, are included as well as some written in Swedish.

The correspondence, 1911-1965, of Series 3 includes letters of recommendation, as well as material dealing with his employment with lawyer C.O. Whedon of Lincoln, water reclamation, the allocation of power in the Missouri Basin, his consultant position with the Interior Department, and an amendment to the state constitution to make legislators partisan. Correspondents include Interior Secretary Fred A. Seaton and Senator Carl T. Curtis.

Series 4 consists of certificates honoring C. Petrus Peterson for his academic and public service achievements. The miscellany of Series 5 includes tributes to C. Petrus Peterson, programs for reclamation meetings, and newspaper clippings documenting the honors and awards accorded to Peterson.

Note: For photographs, please see the photo component [RG3932.PH].


Series 1 – Speeches by C. Petrus Peterson, 1906-1965

Box 1


  1. Administrative Absolutism (Walker-Logan Administrative Law Bill)

    The American Dream

    American Junior Chambers of Commerce National Convention, 1937

    The Americanism of George Washington

    Are Luxuries Antagonistic to Public Welfare?

    Area Home Rule-Delivered at Meeting of Missouri River States Committee, 1949

    As a Man Thinks (2 copies)

    The Assignment Route or Beneficiary Route to Life Insurance Trusts

    Banker’s Life Insurance Company, 1945

    Banker’s Life Insurance Companyís 43rd Anniversary

    Banker’s Life Insurance Company Convention, 1956

    The Beginning of Law Practice

  2. The Campaign of 1920

    The Challenge of 1931

    The Challenge to Constitutional Government

    Commencement Address, undated

    Commencement Address, 1956 (3 copies)

    Conservation and Reclamation, 1950

    The Constitution

    The Council of the Indian

    Cooperative Individualism (2 different speeches)

    The Dammed Missouri

    Dedication of Mural by Willard Sheets

    Deficiency Judgments

    The Doctrine of Overruling Necessity

  3. Education Under Majority Rule


    The Essentials of Leadership


    The Evolution of Consumer Credit, ca. 1963

    Face to the Wind, 1932

    Federal and State Relations in Water Use and Development-Delivered to the Interstate Conference on Water Problems, 1959 (2 copies)

    Fifty Years of Progress, 1937

    Financing the Capitol Setting

    The First Concession

    Four Concession

    Four Decades, 1946

    Freedom of Conscience and the Public School Curriculum

    From the Idol to the Ideal (plus notes)

  4. George Washington and the New Ideal

    Giant Power in Nebraska, 1927

    The Glory of the Unfinished (2 different speeches)

    Hell’s Canyon

    Home Rule

    How Large Is a Big Company, 1947

    Ideals of Bankers Life

    Ideals of Bankers Life or the Dream of the Pioneers

    Initiative and Referendum


    Insurance-Cooperative Individualism

    Insurance Estates (2 copies)

    Is the Accumulation of Large Amounts of Capital in Private Ownership Essential to Social Progress

  5. Key to the West (Nebraska)

    Kiwanis Club Award, 1958

    Law – The Ultimate National Reserve

    Leadership, 1940

    Legislative Post-War Problems, 1943

    Life Insurance Deals in the Future

    Life Insurance in a Changing World, 1952

    Lincoln as a Citizen

    Lincoln Day Speech (2 copies)

    Liquor Control After Prohibition

    A Look Ahead

  6. M.V.A.

    M.V.A., 1945 (3 copies)

    Manpower (2 copies)

    Masters of Environment

    The Mayflower Compact

    Mental Health Clinic

    Missouri Basin Survey Commission Statement, 1952


    The Municipal Coal Yard

    National Reclamation Association Address, undated

    National Reclamation Association Address, 1952

    National Reclamation Association Annual Report, 1955 (2 copies)

    Nationalization of Industry

    New Models

  7. The One House Legislature (2 copies)

    Our City Government

    Our Federal Lands, 1960

    Our One House Legislature, 1964 or 1965

    Our Public Power Development

    Our Valley, 1947 or 1948

  8. The Palace

    Pick-Sloan Plan of Water Diversion, 1947

    Political Crossroads and Blind Alleys

    Post-War Problems Facing the State Legislatures, 1943

    The Preservation of American Democracy, 1950

    The Preservation of American Democracy in the Light of the Present World Trend, 1950

    President’s Message (Reclamation), 1953

    The Primary Law

    Private Enterprise

    Professional Men’s Club

    Progress Toward Security

    Project of the Agrarian Reform Law

    Proposals for Wilderness Areas

    Prosperity Under Two Presidents, ca. 1930

  9. Radio Talk, Campaign of 1928

    Reclamation, 1947

    Reclamation Program, 1951

    The Regulation of Insurance: An Opportunity for the States (2 copies)

    Representation in Industry, 1920

    Republican Speech

    Seventy-Five Years

    Social Security (3 different speeches; 2 copies of 1 of the speeches)

    Some Municipal Problems

    South Dakota Life Underwriters Speech, 1932

  10. The Spirit of Adventure (2 different speeches; 2 copies of 1 of the speeches)

    The Spirit of Life Insurance, ca. 1940

    The Spirit of Nebraska (2 different speeches)

    A State Plan, 1945

    Sunday Shows

    Sundials and Clocks, ca. 1926

    Tort in Life Insurance

    Town and Gown Club, 1950

  11. The Unicameral Experiment

    Unimportant Decisions of Important Consequences

    Utilizing Nebraska’s Water Resources

    Valedictory-Live and Help Live, 1906

    Water Rights Under Our Federal System, ca. 1958

    C.O. Whedon

    Who Decides Educational Policy in Democracy, ca. 1948

    The Year 1918

Series 2 – Essays by C. Petrus Peterson

Box 1


  1. Reminiscences, Family History, and Autobiography

  2. Gustavus Adolphus: The Lion of the North

    Pre-Columbian Discoverers Lead the Way North and West

    Sartor Resartus by Thomas Carlyle

    The University of Nebraska

    The Scyld (Lore) Mystery and Its Meaning

  3. Essays written in Swedish

    Fragments of Essays

Series 3 – Correspondence, 1911-1965

Box 1


  1. 1911, 1913, 1927, 1946 and 1958-1959

  2. 1960-1965 and undated

Series 4 – Certificates

Box 1


  1. Academic, Religious, Public Service, and Fraternal awards (see also oversize)

Series 5 – Miscellany

Box 1


  1. Tributes and Programs including Kiwanis Club Award Tribute and Program, 1958; Reclamation Programs

  2. Newspaper Clippings and Loose Papers



Conservation — Nebraska

Curtis, Carl Thomas, 1905-2000

Irrigation — Nebraska

Lawyers — Nebraska

Legislative bodies — Nebraska

National Reclamation Association

Nebraska Reclamation Association

Peterson, Carl Petrus, 1880-1965

Reclamation of land

Seaton, Frederick Andrew, 1909-1974

Water — Laws and legislation

Water resources


08-06-2007   Revised TMM