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The Johnson County Fair 100 Years Ago

Courtesy of Johnson County Historical Society

What was the Johnson County Fair like a hundred years ago?  A peak at the Premium List book of 1910 gives us some insight.

The fair was Aug. 31, Sept. 1 – 3: Wednesday through Saturday.  There were several categories of prices:

 Rules were quaint but severe:

“Any exhibitor who shall in any ungentlemanly manner take exceptions to the judgment of any awarding committee or judge, shall be prohibited by the Executive Committee from competing for any premiums, and shall be required to take his exhibit from the grounds of the Association and shall not be paid any premiums that may have been awarded him until he shall have made an apology and been reinstated by a majority vote of the Board of Directors, such prohibition to remain in force until such apology is made and penalty abated the Board of Directors. 

“The Association will keep an efficient police force on the grounds day and night to take charge of articles on exhibition and to preserve order generally.

“No species of intoxicating liquors will be allowed to be sold or drunk on the grounds or adjoining the same. Nor will gambling of any species or kind or other obnoxious games be allowed on or near the grounds during the days of the Fair.” 

Horse races took place every day. There were altogether 10 events, including one just for Johnson County horses, called the Gents’ Road Race. Regulations for it stipulated that it was “for horses that have never been trained for speed, half-mile heats, best three of five. Horses to be driven to four-wheeled buggies. Professional drivers barred.” Purses for each race ranged from $50 to $300 to be divided among the owners of the top four horses.

Fair entries were not dissimilar from today’s guides, only geared to early 20th century sensibilities, with men entering mules and “jacks” for judging as well as “all kinds of vehicles — farm, road and track, all kinds of farm implements, engines, mills, all kinds of road machinery, iron and wood workers’ tools, displays of hardware, pumps, fences, fence machines, etc.”

Women’s entries included the usual canning and preserving, cooking, sewing and art work, but especially detailed were the categories of handwork listed: point lace collar, point lace kerchief, nine different specimens of lace (Battenburg, Duchess, Honiton, Flemish, etc.) English eyelet, Cable scrim, coronation braid, Oriental darning, Mexican drawn work.

National 4-H began in 1914, so there were no 4-H entries in 1910. However, categories for children’s entries were available, including collections, penmanship, paper mats, baskets, beadwork, flowers, embroidery, cookies, jellies, candy and “Saratoga chips. 

The State Fair apparently was not the culmination of all county fairs, as it is now. In 1910, the State Fair was Sept. 12-16. However, there were 10 county fairs in Indiana in the 1910 Johnson County Premium Book which were scheduled after the state fair.

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