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Brainerd and Furnas at the Fair

In 1926 journalist and Nebraska press historian Henry Allen Brainerd (1857-1940) recalled his attendance at the Nebraska State Fair in 1886 or 1887 when it was held at Lincoln. Brainerd, a native of Boston, had come to Nebraska in the early 1880s. Staging the fair was the responsibility of the Nebraska State Board of Agriculture, of which Robert W. Furnas was longtime secretary. Brainerd said:

"One instance of that early day is vividly before me and I never enter the fair grounds, and I have attended the most of them since that time, but what it comes to my mind. I went to the fair and entered the office of the secretary, and after a cordial greeting which was always Mr. Furnas' custom, he remarked-'Wait a minute, Brainerd, I want to show you something.' After he had finished with the party to whom he was talking he took his hat and told his clerk, Harry Shaffer, that he would be back in a few minutes. He led me out to the hog shed, and pointing to a hog said, 'Aint that a beaute?'

"I gazed on the hog and answered 'Yes!' but compare that hog with the first prize winner of today [1926]. The hog referred to would not have weighed over 400 pounds, if he did that, [and] he was raw and rangy, but he took the first prize. And so with the horses, the cattle, the sheep, and all the exhibits of this wonderful fair that has just passed, where thousands of people attend, where automobiles bring the guests from all states in the union, where the natives come in trains loaded to the gun'ales; and by auto until there is not room on the grounds to receive them and arrangements are not far distant when greater facilities must be provided for the reception of the guests.

"Monday, it is said, was the banner day in all the history of the fair. 75,500 people and 12,500 automobiles passed the gates. . . . Of course there may have been more, for it would be impossible to get a complete list but this is enough to warrant the fact that Nebraska is going to be advertised the world over as having one of the best states and the state fair of any state in the Union."

In 2008 the Nebraska Legislature enacted LB1116 to transfer the Nebraska State Fair to Grand Island in 2010. The former fairgrounds will become a University of Nebraska research park.

The state fairgrounds, looking south from the Amphitheater, 1888. NSHS RG3356-3


H. A. Brainerd. From Portrait and Biographical Album of Lancaster County, Nebraska (1888).


(August 2009)


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