An important hand letterpress printer of literature, especially poetry, Duncan lived in Omaha from 1972 until his death in 1997. His career as a hand printer began in 1939 at the Cummington School of Arts in Cummington, Massachusetts. He would print Robert Lowell's first volume of poetry, and works by many famous authors, including William Carlos Williams, Wallace Stevens, and Tennessee Williams. He was considered the founder of the post-World War II "private," or small craft-based (as opposed to commercial) press movement, reviving a tradition that goes back to William Morris and the Kelmscott Press. His book, Doors of Perception, is about the lessons he learned about typography and design as he mastered his craft.
He accepted the University of Nebraska at Omaha's offer in 1972 because it would allow him to print full time. He published under both Cummington Press and Abbatoir imprints. His spouse was Omaha actress and theatrical director Nancy Duncan.
Alexander was born in Lincoln and received his bachelor's degree from the University of Nebraska in 1897. After study elsewhere, Alexander would serve as dean and professor of philosophy at the University from 1908 to 1928. He taught philosophy at a time when that subject was conceived much more broadly than it is now. His interests encompassed philosophy, anthropology, art and art history, and religion. He had a special interest in the culture of Native Americans. His students included Helen Blish, who introduced Amos Bad Heart Bull's ledger drawings to scholars.
When the second state capitol building began to decay, Alexander persuaded the citizens of Nebraska of their need for a new capitol building and worked with the architect, Bertram Goodhue, who eventually gave Alexander the task of designing the program of symbolism in artwork and the inscriptions on the building, including "The salvation of the state is watchfulness in the citizen."
He designed the symbolism and inscriptions on the University of Nebraska Football Stadium (famously, "Not the victory but the action; Not the goal but the game; in the deed the glory."), the Rockefeller Center in New York City, the Department of Justice Edifice in Washington D.C., the Oregon State Capitol, and the Los Angeles Public Library. The Syracuse Foundation purchased and renovated the former home of Alexander for both a repository of Alexander's works and artifacts as well as the Nebraska Writers Hall of Fame (1988).
A bust of Hartley Burr Alexander in the Nebraska State Capitol was created by bronze sculptor Tom Palmerton of Brownville.
German born Drath was a published and performed playwright and an English interpreter for American forces in Germany right after World War II. She met and married U.S. Army Lt. Col. Francis Drath, then serving as deputy military governor of Bavaria. The couple returned to Colonel Drath's native Nebraska in the late 1940s, where Viola pursued a master's degree in philosophy and German literature and contributed articles to Prairie Schooner. Viola edited a German language Omaha immigrant newspaper and was a commentator for KUON-TV (NETV predecessor) and wrote for other publications, including German ones. In the late 1960s the Draths moved to Washington, D.C., where Viola continued to work as a journalist, promoted good German-American relations, and held various minor diplomatic offices, consular in nature, mostly for the Republic of Cyprus. Her official and unofficial roles reflected success as a Washington insider. In time, she became a well-known socialite and Washington insider gossip columnist. She was a foreign policy adviser for the 1988 Bush campaign.
After the death of her first husband in 1986, Viola married Albrecht Gero Muth, a German national then serving an unpaid Washington internship. Muth was 44 years Viola's junior and variously promoted himself as a German count and an Iraqi general. Muth abused and eventually murdered his wife in 2011.