The Polk Progress was a Nebraska treasure that ceased publication in late 1989 after 82 years as a weekly newspaper. From 1955 until its last issue, the editor and publisher was the late Norris Alfred. In its last few months, the Progress had 900 subscribers in 45 states. Alfred was a remarkable Nebraskan with an uncanny eye for connecting the present with the future. Prairie Fire has collaborated with the Alfred family, the University of Nebraska School of Journalism and the Nebraska State Historical Society to locate and archive many of Norris's writings. We are capitalizing on our good fortune to present many of the Norris Alfred writings to our readership. We believe that his observations are as fresh and relevant to today's world as they were when originally written.
“When his painting had to take a backseat to publishing the Polk Progress, [Norris Alfred] began to express his humorous side with his ‘Whatzits.’ These are simple line drawings with color often added that took on a more abstract and whimsical nature. …They are very similar to the work of another artist that Norris admired, the Swiss Surrealist Paul Klee (1879–1940). Look again and you’ll see dainty representations of creatures found in nature, Josephine Martins, [assistant curator of the Museum of Nebraska Art], believes these works are key to understanding Norris. Within these abstract worlds Norris has created, the merry animals seem to be blocked in by the edges and lines.”
—Program, “Butterfly Against the Gale, Paintings and Drawings by Norris Alfred,” Museum of Nebraska Art, Sept. 9–Dec. 3, 2000