Wayne County Agricultural Society and Fair Beginnings
Agricultural societies have existed in the United States for centuries. After the American Revolution, farmers returned to their lands, much of which had declined in quality because they were neglected. Societies began to come up during this time to ensure that farms would continue to develop, and more experienced farmers could teach important skills to newer members of the craft.1 The Wayne County Agricultural Society (WCAS) was established in 1833, and is one of the oldest existing agricultural societies in the country.2 Much like other societies of the time, the organization’s aim was for the betterment of agricultural practice in Wayne County,3 which was then an area with an economy mostly reliant agriculture. While the group disbanded for a number of years, the Act of 1846 made the society able to reorganize in 1849. The WCAS immediately realized it needed a way to bring in additional revenue, and like other agricultural societies may have also predicted that the local economic landscape was going to change as the population grew. Also like their contemporaries, the WCAS was concerned about a sense of identity during these changes, and felt there needed to be a solid way for locals and tourists to understand the area’s agricultural heritage.4 Realizing all of this, they took three hundred dollars and set up the first ever Wayne County Fair, which took place a year later on October 10th and 11th, 1850.56 The fair’s agricultural roots could be seen especially in the early days, as agricultural products would often be awarded based on quality, setting a standard for agriculture in the area that had not been seen previously. The requirement that exhibitioners detail the methods for producing such high-quality products fostered a sense of communal farming that allowed all area farmers to maximize the profit potential of their ever-lucrative agricultural trades.
1 Leslie Prosterman, Ordinary Life, Festival Days: Aesthetics in the Midwestern County Fair (Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1995), 49.
2 “County Fair Successful From Start, 100 Years Ago,” The Wooster Daily Record, September 6, 1949, 2.
3 Ordinary Life, Festival Days, 54.
4 Michael T. Marsden, "The County Fair as Celebration and Cultural Text," The Journal of American Culture 33, no. 1 (March 22, 2010): 24, accessed June 13, 2017, doi:10.1111/j.1542-734X.2010.00727.x.
5 Ohio Agricultural Report: Report of the Wayne County Agricultural Society, 1850.
6 “County Fair Successful From Start”