Wednesday, July 4, 2012
I thought this real-photo postcard showing the Trenton Inter-State Fair in the early 1900's would be perfect for today the Fourth of July. Although I believe the Fair was typically held in September, with the big flag waving prominently in the front, it seems to say "patriotism" to me which is apropos for Trenton where so much of our country's early history took place. It's a little hard to date this photo but I believe it to be from the very early 1900's (1900 - 1905) as some of sleeves on the women's dresses look very puffed up on top.
About the Inter-State Fair: According to Grounds for Structure the Fairs were held intermittently in Trenton since 1745 when King George II granted a royal charter for the purpose of buying and selling livestock. This was the first fair in Colonial America. State Legislature banned all fairs in 1797 until 1858 when a revision was sought by the State Agriculture Society. They were held sporadically in the mid-1880's. In 1888 Trenton businessmen organized the State Fair Association and purchased more than 100 acres for a new park.
The Inter-State Fairs were wildly successful, bringing in large crowds to see the horses and other livestock. There were also contests in culinary arts and needlework - I have found newspaper reports in the Trenton Times where my husband's great-great grandmother and great-grandaunts won prizes in these categories. The Midway attractions at the Fair featured daredevil stunts, horse races and special events such as a shooting match between Annie Oakley and Miles Johnson. In the 1890's parachutists jumped from hot air balloons; at the turn of the century pioneers of aerial navigation, including the Wright Brothers, thrilled the crowds with their stunts.
Over the years people lost interest in the Fair and attendance dwindled. In 1980 the land was sold and the last Fair was held that year. For more information on the history of the Interstate Fair visit the Grounds for Sculpture at: http://www.groundsforsculpture.org/fairhist.htm.