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Front Page News

September 7, 2016


Pittsfield’s Agricultural Fairs Part 3: Pittsfield Fairs 1889-1899 Submitted By Larry Berkson

Parade Of Cattle On Race Track


In 1889, for the first time, the three-day fair was held under the auspices of the new association. It began on October 1 and ran for three days, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, at its new location on the Ferrin Lot. Exhibits of livestock were carried to Pittsfield for free by the Suncook Valley Railroad, and passengers from Manchester and Concord, and all stations along the way, were given greatly reduced rates. Extra trains were run each morning and on Wednesday and Thursday an extra one left town at 6:00 p.m. giving out-of-towners a chance to witness the closing events of both days.


On the first day the fair was attended by Governor David H. Goodale, U. S. Senator Henry W. Blair, former senator James Patterson, future governor Humphrey Moses, and other distinguished guests.


On the second day baseball games were held between the strongest clubs in the state. In addition, there were bicycle, wheel barrow, sack and foot races, and a tug of war between the heavy weights of Pittsfield, Barnstead, and Gilmanton against Loudon, Chichester, and Epsom respectively. Also on Thursday there was a balloon ascension by celebrated balloonist, Professor Rogers, accompanied by a Miss Pattee who made a parachute leap from a mile above the ground.


Liberal premiums were awarded to winners of the best livestock, garden crops, and fruits. There were no entrance fees. Trotting races took place each day.


The fair was held again in 1890 with Governor Goodell and former senator Patterson in attendance. Captain Asa Bartlett was president. Similar events took place as the previous year. The horse racing schedule typified trotting and pacing races during that era of the fair. On the first day, seven racers competed in the 3:00 class for a $100 purse in the first race, and six in the second “free for all” class, again for a $100 purse. The second day also featured two races, 11 in the 2:50 class for a purse of $100, and eight in the 2:40 class for a $150 purse. The third day featured nine entries in the 2:37 class for a purse of $150, and five in a “free for all” race for a purse of $200.


The class a horse raced in was determined by a combination of the amount of prize money made the year before and the times the horse posted. Once several races had been held at the beginning of a new season, a combination of the previous year’s purses and times were the combined with those in recent races to determine the class.


Nothing has been learned about a fair in 1891. In 1892, because private entrepreneurs had been “bleeding” passengers by charging 10¢ to 15¢ to haul passengers from the railroad station to the fairgrounds, the fair management decided to explore the possibility of providing a number of teams to make regular trips for a fare of 5¢. Whether the idea was carried out has not been learned.


That year the exhibits were broken into three major departments: Livestock, 40 classes with prizes ranging from $1.00 to $3.00, Farming and Dairy, 13 classes with prizes from 50 cents to $2.00, and Ladies, 20 classes with prizes of 75¢ to $2.00.


The usual races were held, with a tight rope performance in front of the grandstand in between heats. There was also a balloon ascension, bicycle races, and a tug of war between heavy weights of Pittsfield.


In 1895 the fair was postponed on account of rain and boys carried signs around town notifying people. It was held later in the week but nothing more has been learned about it.


A fair was not held in 1896. In 1897 the exhibits at the fair grounds were so numerous that it was difficult to classify them and find room for their display. By the afternoon of the first day the crowd was estimated to be about 800. There were continuous stage shows, races, and baseball games throughout the days of the fair.


On the second day there was a parade starting on South Main Street at 11:30 a.m., moving through Main, Chestnut, Depot, Carroll, and Main Streets to the Fairgrounds where it circled the track.


In 1898 the exhibits were broken into five categories: Horse, Cattle, Poultry, Farm and Dairy, and Ladies. The monetary prizes for horse racing were decreased to from as low as $15.00 an event to $75.00 an event, probably as a result of financial difficulties. There was no entry fee but 10% was subtracted from winners fees to help pay for the events. 


That year the Association invested over $1,000 in European and American Acts, including artists Rosina Venus, queen of the dancing wire, Monsieur Felix and his Parisian Circus, Vanola, billed as the world’s greatest barrel and foot globe dancer, Mazona and Canalba’s great gymnastic, aerial ladder, trapeze, and clown acrobatic feats, and the Funny Dutchman, of the swinging wire.


In 1899 the Catamount Grange voted to accept the invitation of the Pittsfield Fair Association to help put on the event. However, there were conditions. No liquor could be sold or gambling take place on the premises or in any connection with the fair. Whether the Association accepted the Grange’s conditions has not been learned.


The fair that year, the 10th since the opening of the fairgrounds, was a three-day event held on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday, September 27, 28, and 29. The heads of the various departments were: W. J. Connors, Horses, J. G. Brown, Cattle, Sheep and Swine, H. L. Brown, Poultry, W. E. Smith,  Farm Products, John T. Harvey, Fruit, and M. G. Caswell, Exhibition Building.


Wednesday morning was devoted to setting up the exhibitions. In the afternoon trotting races took place which were hotly contested. The purse for each of two races was $25.00. The time in one race over the half mile track, twice around, was two minutes, 45½ seconds.


In the first heat of the second race there was a collision between two horses and the driver of one, a Mr. Greenleaf, was thrown from his sulky and run over. Fortunately he was not seriously injured and the races continued.


Between heats the crowds were entertained by a variety of vaudeville acts on the stage: a Mrs. Scott on hanging bars and rings, the St. Claire Brothers on horizontal bars, Madame Toscea, a contortionist, and Mosher, a fancy bicycle rider.


On Thursday there was no large parade, which was sorely missed. There was a small procession, however, which left town at 11:00 a.m. for the Fairgrounds led by the Pittsfield Band riding in a decorated wagon. The exhibits were of high quality but there were not as many as in previous years. In the exhibition hall there were a number of goods for sale, but none by Pittsfield merchants.


Races continued on Thursday. On Friday the attendance was very light although admission to the races was free.


A Period Of No Fairs

There were no fairs during 1900-1924. The “Driving Park,” or “Trotting Park,” as it was variously called, was apparently used exclusively for occasional horse racing and other events during this period. For example, in 1915 there was a matched race on Labor Day between “Dan B.,” owned by J. E. Ring of Pittsfield, and “Tirrell,” owned by F. E. Trickey of Northwood. There was a purse of $50.00. Other races began at 2:00 p.m.






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