This week’s Clark County Fair has the theme: 70th Fair…Our Legacy Lives On…The Best is Yet to Come.”
That’s kind of a long way of saying the fair has been around a long time at its present location. The fair though has been around a lot longer than seventy years. In fact, the following stories are from the Clark County Fair in Springfield, way back in 1887-1888. Reported on in the Springfield Daily Republic newspaper, those fairs were just as interesting, just as entertaining and just as big on celebrating the community.
Let’s start with a general description of the August, 1887, fair. “The grounds today had the usual festive appearance. There was a vast number of refreshment booths, and quite the usual quantities of side-shows and other amusements. Among these is the ‘Battle of Gettysburg’, which occupies a prominent place north of the art hall. There is ball-throwing ad ring-throwing. There are also present the invariable sounds of an agricultural fair-the cackling of poultry, the lowing of cattle, the squealing of pigs, the neighing of horses, the shouts of vendors of all variety and floating over it all, the excellent music of the Big Six.”
“The grounds are well policed. Officer Fred Mast is chief and has the following assistants: Robert Campbell, Henry Frock, Reuben Eiliott (spelling?), J. L. Dellinger, John White, Chas. Pettey, Al. Hugle, D. Williams, Grant Segrove, W. B. Clark. With all these well trained, the best of order is preserved.”
Today the race track is home to tractor pulls and demolition derbies but back in August, 1888, horses and bicycles ruled the track. Yes, besides great horse races, there were bicycle races, taken very seriously, I might add.
“The half-mile bicycle race was tame. Ed Barnett and Will Coulter, two expert wheelmen, were not allowed to ride, because the others refused to start if they did. The entries were Charles Sells, Charles Osborn, Charles Alban and Irwin Stiles of this city (Springfield) and A. S. Miller of Medway. Miller had the worst of the start, Sells going first, but Miller crawled up to second place at the quarter and about 100 yards past the quarter took first place. He won easily, Sells second, Alban third, Osborn fourth and Stiles fifth. Time: 1:44.
Ed Barnett and Will Coulter rode a half-mile race to see what time they could make. Barnett won in 1:37.
The starters in the two-mile race were Sells, Osborn, Stiles and Alban. Miller (winner of the half-mile) intended to ride a half mile to beat Barnett’s time. He started about 100 yards in the rear of the crowd, then overtook them all at the quarter pole. He then concluded to ride the two miles and took things leisurely until Sells caught him when a mile and a half had been made. He monkeyed with Sells until home stretch was reached on the second mile, when he allowed Sells to close up. About fifty yards from the wire Sells made an unexpected spurt and took the inside, compelling Miller to change his course. Miller was equal to the emergency and won by a foot. Time: 6:52. Sells came in second, Osborn third, Alban fourth.”
This fair of 1888 closed on August 25 and was considered a success. “The Clark County fair closed in a blaze of glory this afternoon and no exhibit on the ground shared in the general brilliancy of the grand finale more than that of R. F. Brandom & Co., Springfield’s only piano dealers. Brandom made a clean, elegant sweep at this fair and came out so far the victor as to make puppets of anybody who fancied they were setting up an opposition. Brandom had a clean drive over the whole “shooting-match”, and naturally feels a little pardonable pride in the way he swept down the home-stretch with all other alleged competition far back in the dusty rear.”
Well, to read that, it sounds like one of the races, but this piece is devoted to how well the merchandise booths did during the fair at winning over customers and making sales.
“It is not hard to account for this result. R. F. Brandom & Co. had a dainty booth, with snowy curtains and the whole furnished as elegantly as a drawing-room. Then the musical instruments he exhibited were of the great, grand makes which have become famous the world over and whose name along is sufficient to make other alleged competition look so bilious as to suggest pills. Mr. Brandom has made numerous actual sales during the fair and planted the seed for a hundred more. His booth was the soul and center of the art hall and music which would not have chagrinned a concert company emanated constantly from between its lacy portieres.”
Probably the most interesting and valuable item to come from the 1887 fair was a new invention by William Thornton, practical machinist. He showed for the first time the buttonhole maker on the New Home sewing machine. It was actually called the Family buttonhole attachment and could make two buttonholes in one minute. It was awarded the First Premium at the fair and was recommended by the committee on fancy work in the fine art hall to all “ladies of Springfield and Clark County as worthy of attention and as being the thing long needed.”
“Elegant and durable buttonholes can be made in about the time it would take to thread an ordinary needle. It renders the sewing machine now complete for the first time for all family work. No dress maker can afford to be without it. This is the last and final improvement in sewing machines. Mr. Thornton repairs all kinds of machines. Keeps on hand a full line of needles, attachments and parts. 86 East Main, Springfield, Ohio.”
From bicycles to buttonholers, fairs of old had it all. Great amusements, great food, great fun. All to celebrate the community-Clark County, Ohio.