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My Memories of the Fair and Researching Its History – Part 2 – Henry Drexler

Part 2: My Memories of the Fair and Researching Its History - Henry Drexler

You know, moving on, some of the things that stand out in my mind about the Fair are the introduction of different inventions as they came along because they would all show up at the Fair in one way or another. And a couple of them that stood out in my mind was first, the balloon aeronauts. The year that started to appear, I’m not sure of the exact date right off the top of my head, but let’s say around 1875, thereabouts, and some of the incidences that arose around those balloon ascensions. One day, the balloonist was getting ready to launch his balloon and fired a gun to signal his assistant to release the balloon. And the gun hit a woman in the crowd and it’s actually loaded. And that as you can imagine, caused quite a scene. Fortunately, the woman it hit did not die.

On another instance, there was a female balloonist and she was, her big deal was to go up in her balloon, and parachute her dog out of the balloon. And unfortunately, that day, the parachute didn’t open and her dog crashed to the ground.

Then there are the accounts of the so-called “hoochie coochie” tent at the Fair, and the arrest of individuals who were there may be displaying more of their bodies than they were allowed to by the Fair Association and all the brouhaha that surrounded that.

I’ve also been intrigued by the, looking at the different types of premiums offered at the Fair over the years and the earliest Fair in the 1840s – did I say 1847, the first Fair was in 1846, I got to correct myself on that. At that Fair, they exhibited cattle, just a cow or a bull. They didn’t describe it as being any particular breed of animal. And then, a few years after that, they would have Durhams and Devons, and I had to look those up because I’d never heard of Durhams or Devons, I grew up on with Holsteins, Guernseys, Jerseys, Brown Swiss, and Ayrshires as being the five dominant breeds of cattle. And so this was news to me.

But over time, starting around 1875, Holsteins showed up at the Fair. And they hadn’t showed up before because Holsteins weren’t even a breed in the United States much prior to that. And so they were just being introduced into Chenango county at that time. And the other breeds were shown as well.

With regard to sheep, they started out with Merinos and Shropshires, and “lie-shetz” – if, I’m probably not pronouncing this right, “Leicesters.” And at the time of the early fair, there was some 235,000 sheep in Chenango County. And I was surprised to discover that the premium winners from that first County Fair, about 10 years later, less than 10 years later, in 1855, none of them had any sheep on their farms. And the population of sheep in the county had crashed from 230,000 some down to 36,000 sheep. Why? I’m not exactly sure, talking with the county agent recently, he suggested that the price of wool had fallen drastically and that may have been a major cause of that drop-off in the sheep population.

Then I found it was interesting to look at the way the premiums, the different types of premiums increased over time. So at the first Fair, we had oxen, we had the cattle, we had horses, sheep, swine, and poultry. By the time you get to 18 or 1917, the category of poultry had expanded it colluded peacocks, guinea fowl, a whole range of chickens, like the likes of which I’d never heard of. And then rabbits and carries and weasels and, one of those little marmots or something, that furry things, and birds, canaries, cats and dogs of all different breeds, and so on and so on it went.

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