Russ Gifford
Connecting Regional History with National History... by Telling the Stories of Individuals


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Regional History


People often think of local events as one-way actions. Actions by individuals, and reactions by groups, define history. The following talks will highlight events that occurred locally. But each of these actions wrote a page in the history books and changed the future for far more people that just those in the region! Join historian Russ Gifford as we trace the cascade of actions and reactions across decades and meet the people who made these events happen.


Session 1: Verdicts and Vindication: Taming a Frontier Town
- the 1880s
Click here to watch

Ambushed in the gathering dusk by a back-shooting coward, Rev. George Haddock died alone on a muddy street. But his was not a random shooting, and his death would have consequences in Sioux City, in Iowa, and beyond.

But let's try to see not only the times and the results, but perhaps meet the man that became the martyr. There is much to this story that gets lost in glare of the spotlight of the trial and the backlash following this corruption of justice.


Session 2: Redemption and Recovery, and the Crash
- the 1890s
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By the 1890s, Sioux City's redeeming efforts following the Haddock case had made her a gleaming jewel, attracting investment money and moving forward.

But the financial crash of 1893 put it all in doubt, and big names fled the city, leaving her to the creditors to carve up. Two men stood tall, however - and their names are far less known today in Sioux City - but the town might not exist if they had not stepped in, and stepped up.



Session 3: Battle Lines and Backlash - The fight for  Freedom of Speech, 1910s
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Wallace Short surprised everyone with his election to mayor of Sioux City. In the days when Free Speech was under attack everywhere, Short refused to back down on this vital American principle.

The battle lines were drawn, but order held - until the much-feared (and illegal) labor union, the International Workers of the World, chose Sioux City as the location for their annual convention! Sioux City, home to some of the largest meatpackers in the world!



    1969 - IBP Strike:

1976 - Zenith Offshores Work:

Session 4: Revolt in the Heartland -The Farm Crisis
the 1920s and 1930s
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As the Great Depression worsened, worried pundits predicted uprisings in the eastern cities by unemployed malcontents. Imagine their surprise when the uprising occurred on rural roads led by hard working farmers quoting the patriots of 1776!

Tired of what they saw as the unfair market prices and gouging milk refineries, the Farmer Uprising of 1932 near Sioux City sparked similar events in Wisconsin, New York, and other states. The fuse was lit for a final showdown, and Sioux City was ground zero in this action!


Session 5: Corruption, Contempt, and Bomb Blasts in the Night -
the 1950s
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Sioux City’s anti-regulation attitude toward liquor started the story: Tavern owners, busted for after-hours sales, said what’s the deal? Their protection was paid up!

But this time, the corruption was far more widespread than liquor- and reached into City Hall. When a bomb exploded in a Northside neighborhood in the early 1950s, it blew the lid off a corruption scandal that once again put Sioux City in the national headlines. But not in a favorable light.


Session 6: Strikes, Shutdowns, and the Exodus -
the 1970s and 1980s
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In the days before repetitive motion was understood, and before OSHA had become a reality, old packing plant workers were easy to spot: with their gnarled hands, stooped backs, and other scars, they stood out in a crowd - for $2 an hour.The Union might win round 1, but... 

he times they were a'changing. Business always did a good job getting the ear of Congress. Union power would be broken. Off shoring American businesses could now sell their goods back into the U.S. without tariffs or taxes - meaning they could build TVs where it only cost a few pesos a day, and sell them to Americans.

American manufacturing would never be the same.


Join me for a Century of Sioux City History that had national ties and long term consequences.
We will meet names and characters with fascinating stories that deserve to be remembered. History, indeed, happens here!

For more regional history, Check this page:

For questions, send me a note by clicking here.

Want to see a list of ALL my classes over the years? Click here for class list!

       “His ratings were the highest for our entire season of 12 workshops, and far eclipsed those for the previous season. He created a fantastic class, and people left feeling empowered.” -- Dr. Lynn Barteck, Tri State Graduate Center

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