Burgettstown Fair poster, October 1881
Early in 1856, the Union Agricultural Association was formed by agriculturalists in Smith Township and adjoining townships in Allegheny and Beaver counties and the panhandle of West Virginia, for the purpose of holding an agricultural fair. Plans were made for finding a suitable site, preparing grounds, fencing and temporary buildings. The first fair was held on Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 8 and 9, 1856, on a lot owned by Mrs. Freegift Crawford and offered free of charge. In 1860, the fair was moved to 9½ acres owned and leased from B.G. Burgett.
Not only was the purpose of the fair a competition for the best agricultural and domestic products of the community but also an exhibit of improvements in farm implements, agriculture, livestock and domestic manufacturing. An 1865 account of entries lists horses, sheep, cattle, poultry, grains, seeds, flour, fruit, roots and vegetables; also leather work, furniture and carpet and fabric by the yard. Listings from the “Ladies Department” included quilts, coverlets, crochet work, breads, cakes, butter, preserves, plants and flowers. When a grandstand and track were built, horse racing became a popular attraction and in 1936, Alden Miller died from a ruptured liver and kidney, the result of a horse-racing accident.
The Burgettstown Fair and county fairs throughout the country were an important part of cultural life in small country towns, an opportunity to celebrate achievements and enjoy a break from the day-to-day routine. By the 1930s, the depression had nearly wiped out many fairs, and the Burgettstown Fair was reduced to a carnival after 1939.
The poster was donated to the Washington County Historical Society by Robert Trombetta.
Sources include the Fort Vance Historical Society, Burgettstown.
Alice Burroughs is a volunteer for the Washington County Historical Society and a member of the antiquities committee.