April 6, 2011 by Amy Elliott Bragg
Obscura: Who showed what at the first Michigan State Fair
As a reminder to participate in Obscura Day this Saturday, I’d like to share my new favorite obscurity: the 1849-1850 annual report of the State Agricultural Society of Michigan, including an inventory of articles exhibited at the first annual Michigan State Fair.
I know this doesn’t sound like a gripping read. But after delighting in page after page of horse names:
L.H. Merritt, Niles … bay stallion, 3 years old, Grand Sultan
E.Z. Derbyshire, Wheatland … bay stallion, 3 years old, Archer Boy
Thos. C. Sheldon, Detroit … bay stallion, 8 years old, Peacock
J.C. Huntington, Cassopolois … black stallion, 5 years old, Defiance, native
Or the astounding variety of extinct apple breeds, like the “Seeknofurther” and the “Rambo” (!):
E.D. Lay, Ypsilanti … Colvert, Tallman Sweeting, Yellow Newtown Pippin, Autumn Swaar, Esopus Spitzenberg, Steel’s Red Winter, Winter Russet, Rhode Island Greening, Green Sweeting, Queen Ann, Golden Russet, Ortley Pippin, Rambo, Ruckman’s Pearmain, Red Romanite, Winter Pearmain, Bourassa, Green Newtown Pippin, Twenty ounce Apple, Phoenix, Tewksbury Blush, Black Gilliflower, Seeknofurther, Carthouse, Red Colville, Monstrous Pippin, White Bellflower, Roxbury Russet, Dumlow’s seedling, Wellington, Black Virginia Redstreak, White Spitzenberg, Flushing Spitzenberg, English Russet, Cooper’s Russet, Fameuse, Minshalls, Crab Baldwin, Holland Pippin, Hooker, Sweet and Sour
(E.D. Lay also exhibited a number of pears, including a breed called the “Cadillac.”)
And after browsing an excellent selection of “Miscellaneous Articles:”
CC Farran, Romeo: box Clothes Pins
John Farmer,Detroit: Map of Michigan (that’s Silas’s dad!)
Sibley & Trowbridge, Detroit: lot Chinese Tea pots
J.C. Baughman, Detroit: large bird cage containing several varities birds
Andrew Harvie, Detroit: lot, 31 pieces Indian War Implements
And finding familiar names, like Royal Oak’s Orson Starr, who exhibited a lot of cowbells, and Isabella Duffield, who exhibited some domestic wares, and Agricultural Society President / Michigan Governor Epaphroditus Ransom, who submitted 7 ewes.
Well, after all of that, you have to find out who took home a prize, right?
Best and greatest number of varieties of good table apples:
James McDougall, Amherstburgh, C.W.
A beautiful specimen of Stevens’ Genessee pears:
C. Clark, Troy
Six bottles native wine:
A.C. Hubbard, Troy
The committee on miscellaneous articles report the following awards:
G. P. Bennett, Jackson
H. Clay, Detroit
And our friend Orson Starr took home $1 for his cow bells.
I never went to the Michigan State Fair as a kid, and didn’t feel a lot of pain when I found out it would be no more (except as a massive vacant lot behind my house. Great job!). But this pamphlet really makes the historical loss seem pretty keen.
Also, I want to be on a committee of miscellaneous articles.