Essex County Fair (Massachusetts)

This collection is composed of three broadsides:

Dated September 29 and 30, 1852

Dated September 27 and 28, 1864

Dated September 26 and 27, 1865

In 1818 the Essex Agricultural Society was officially granted a charter on June 12th of that year.  The goal of the fledgling Society, formed by a group of “practical farmers” who first met on February 16, 1818, was “to promote and improve the agricultural interests of farmers and others in Essex County.”

The Essex Agricultural Society Cattle Show began as an annual exhibits/fairs held in various sites around Essex County to showcase agriculture. By 1910 the Topsfield Fair has been held annually at its existing location. The Honorable Timothy Pickering, a 1763 Harvard graduate and Revolutionary War hero with a renowned political background, was elected as the first president of the Society, a position he held for ten years. History speaks of Pickering, who had a small farm in Wenham, as “a scientific and practical farmer” who had earlier assisted in the formation of the Agricultural Society of Philadelphia. During his political career under President George Washington he served as Postmaster General, Secretary of War and Secretary of State. Returning to Massachusetts he was elected United States Senator for two terms and later served in the House of Representatives from 1813 to 1817.

An offshoot of the Massachusetts Society for the Promotion of Agriculture, incorporated in 1792, the Essex Agricultural Society, which now has more than twelve hundred members, was originally established to serve as a clearinghouse for farmers. Its goal was to gather and provide information from progressive farmers and bring that information to every farmer in Essex County.

The Society first brought the needed information to its members by publishing, in pamphlet form, informative information on agriculture. The information ranged from methods used by progressive farmers to new tools that were available and new breeds of animals.

The first pamphlet recorded a paper written by President Pickering and presented on May 5, 1818. The subjects included information on an incredible cow with remarkable butter-making qualities owned by Caleb Oakes of Danvers, and some new root crops. So impressed was Pickering with the new root crops (believed to be carrots) he supplied each member of the Society with a packet of seeds.

The second method of bringing important information to the farmers of Essex County was the Cattle Show that had proved popular in other areas. The fair as it is known today descended from that original event that was held on October 5, 1820 in Topsfield.

The broadsides have been scanned and are available on the Digital Commonwealth.

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