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The First State Fair
In accordance with the arrangement made at the organization of the Society, the first annual fair was held at Fairfield, commencing October 25th, 1854, and continued three days. The number of people in attendance was estimated at the time at from 7,000 to 8,000. The exhibition was considered a grand success. All portions of the State at that time settled, were represented by visitors.
The fair was held on the grounds which have for many years been occupied as the depot grounds of the Burlington & Missouri River Railroad.
There was a fine display of stock, agricultural implements, farm products, and articles of domestic manufacture.
In the ladies' department there was an attractive exhibit of their handi-work.
The natural history of the State was illustrated by Dr. J. M. Shaffer's collection of reptiles and insects, and by a fine collection of birds shown by Mr. Moore, of Des Moines.
The dairy was well represented, and a cheese weighing three hundred and sixty pounds was presented to Gov. Grimes by his Lee county friends.
The most exciting incident of the fair was the equestrian exhibition by ten ladies. This took place on the afternoon of the second and the forenoon of the third day. The first prize was a gold watch, valued at one hundred dollars. It was awarded by the committee to Miss Turner, of Keokuk. One of the fair contestants was Miss Eliza J. Hodges, then only thirteen years of age. She rode a splendid and high-spirited horse, the property of Dr. J. C. Ware, of Fairfield. The daring style of her riding, and the perfect control of the animal which she maintained, enlisted the favor and sympathy of the throng present in her behalf. The popular verdict would have awarded the prize to Miss Hodges. A purse of $165, and some other presents, were immediately contributed for the "Iowa City girl," as the heroine of the day was called. Provision was also made for her attendance, free of all charge, for three terms, at the Ladies' Seminary at Fairfield, and one term at Mt. Pleasant, all of which she gracefully accepted.
George C. Dixon, of Keokuk, delivered the first annual address. Thomas W. Claggett was re-elected President, and Dr. J. M. Shaffer, Secretary.
The second annual fair was appointed also to be held at Fairfield, commencing on the second Wednesday in October, 1855, and continuing three days. Such is a brief account of the humble beginning, and first exhibition of the Iowa State Agricultural Society, which has since grown to be one of the important institutions of the State, attracting to its annual exhibits many thousands of people, not only from all parts of Iowa, but from other States.
[History of Keokuk County, Iowa, 1880; submitted by cddd]
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