How the Moniteau County Fair has changed!

By DAVID A. WILSON

Democrat Staff

In the midst of 147th Annual Moniteau County Fair of 2013, it can be interesting to look back and see how much the event has changed since the 17th fair of 1883.

Actually there is very little that hasn't changed in the last 130 years including the date of the event. In 1883, the four-day fair ran Tuesday, Sept. 18, through Friday, Sept. 21. This year, the six-day fair runs Monday, Aug. 5, through Saturday, Aug. 10. And it could be considered longer, since a few fair-related activities are earlier on Saturday and Sunday, Aug. 3 and 4.

Daily 2013 general admission is $7 each day Monday and Wednesday-Friday, $5 for Saturday, and free on Tuesday. Children under 12 are free.

It was more complicated in 1883. The charges were: Footman-25 cents; Horsemen-35 cents; all one-horse vehicles-25 cents; all two-horse vehicles-30 cents; each person in a vehicle-25 cents; Public Hacks, two horse, per day-$2; and Public Hacks, four horse, per day-$3. Oh yes, children under 12 were 10 cents per day.

A comparison of the different Garden Products to be entered in the Art Hall competition shows several differences.

For example, this year there are three types of squash, one of pumpkins and one of beets, any variety. In 1883, there were four types of beets, including one called Mangel Wurtzel which was used for animal feed. Pumpkins and squash fell under Field Products, along with wheat, barley, peas and tobacco. In those days, no category existed for either Ugly Vegetable or Monster Vegetable.

The current fair book has an Art Hall category called Household Arts, including two groupings for Any Type of Homemade Clothing. Roughly equivalent 130 years ago is a category called Ladies' Fancy Work, with the separate category Articles of Wool, Cotton, Flax, Etc. all to be handmade. Prizes were given for the the best handmade jeans, wool hose, wool socks, wool carpet, feather flowers, hearth rug and lamp mats.

This year, there is a Class called Duct Tape Creation. How things have changed.

In 2013, many events feature motorized vehicles such as a car show, tractor pulling contests, motor cross, demolition derby and tuff truck to name a few.

Horses, on the other hand, show up only in the horse show, trail challenge, horseback team penning and draft horse pull. In 1883, horses were an everyday thing. Farm horses were judged on Tuesday, harness stock and donkeys on Wednesday, mules and saddle stock on Thursday and blooded horses on Friday.

A section for Agricultural Implements had a competition for the best of two-horse wagons, painted and unpainted; two-horse plow, one-horse plow; double-shovel plow; walking cultivator; hay rake; harrow; and, strangely for the modern reader, display crockery ware.

Saddle makers also competed for prizes for the best saddles, bridles, harness and horse collars.

A quick comparison of the advertisers shows some things have not changed in 130 years. Advertisements in both books include law offices, medical services, restaurants, insurance, construction, groceries, pharmacies, barbers and hair dressers. Of course both include stump removal services.

The 2013 fair book advertising not found in the 1883 edition includes ads for heating and air conditioning, auto related items (sales, repair, tires, truck bodies and fuel), tractors and farm equipment, veterinary services and well drilling.

Ads in the 1883 fair book promote blacksmith work, wagons, saddles, harness and whips, marble and stone cutting, dress makers and hat makers, furniture, flour mills, stoneware and drain tile.


Cigars were featured prominently in many 1883 advertisements. They were sometimes sold in specialty stores and sometimes in saloons. It appears there were many saloons.

Although the fair has changed, much of it has been due to increased mobility of society. In 2013, with a population having a lot of cars and trucks, people often drive to the fair for the day. They may attend events for several days.

In 1883, people traveled by foot, horse, wagon or cart, and hack-sort of a horse-drawn taxi. They often attended only one day. Those that did attend more than one day were interested in the hotel advertisements.

Given the changes over the last 130 years, it can only be wondered how much difference fairgoers in 2143 will find when comparing that fair book to the 2013 fair book. Possibly they will check out their digital 277th Annual Moniteau County Fair Book and be amazed the 147th was printed on paper.

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