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Fourth Annual Fair of the Saint Louis Agricultural & Mechanical Association.


September 1859

From The Missouri Democrat, Tuesday, September 27, 1859.



Saint Louis

Agricultural & Mechanical



Twenty Thousand People Present!
Immense Display of Fruits, Vegetables, Stock, and Works of Art
Murder–Fatal Accident–Interesting Incidents, &c. &c. &c.

The opening day of the Great Fair, under the auspices of the St. Louis Agricultural and Mechanical Association, yesterday, was a grand affair. The city for a week past has been gradually filling up, and the height has hardly been reached yet.


The St. Louis Agricultural and Mechanical Association as it as present exists, originated in the year 1855, by an act of the Legislature incorporating the Association “for the better development of agricultural and mechanical interests.” A Board of Directors was at once elected, and the purchase of the present grounds effected on the 4th of June, 1856, from Col. John O’Fallon, at a cost of $50,000. The first fair was held on the 13th of October following, and was a great triumph, considering the haste in which everything was prepared, and the magnitude of the enterprise. Thousands flocked to the exhibition, and the pecuniary results were so gratifying that many other additional buildings were erected, and the premium list increased for the second fair upwards of $6,000. It proved a success more decided than the first; and the Fair then became a recognized institution and the presence of thousands of strangers during its progress gave an impetus to every branch of business. The number of contestants for various for various premiums increased wonderfully, and last year the third Fair took place; and the attendance was greater than upon either of the previous years. Twenty thousand pamphlets, giving the list of premiums offered, were scattered throughout the country, and the managers were compelled to turn away parties who came in late with their offerings. Who, that was in the city during its progress, can forget the general excitement and pride among all classes of citizens which it elicited? Not less than twenty-five thousand people were present at various stages of the exhibition, a large proportion of whom were from abroad. The profits of the previous shows have enabled the Association to offer superior inducements for stock raisers, farmers, mechanics and artizans of all classes to compete for prizes, and the present year’s exhibition opens under the most brilliant prospects.


The ground occupied by the Association, and commonly known as the “Fair Grounds,” are situated just outside the city limits, in the western part of St. Louis county, fronting upon Grand avenue. The land was purchased, as stated, from Col. John O’Fallon, and when selected for this purpose was a mere wild wood, diversified by a considerable plain of slightly uneven surface, and requiring an immense deal of improvement to render the site available for an extensive fair. The location is not far from the Water-Works, a fact which had much to do with the selection. It was at once enclosed in a substantial fence nine feet high; and the creation of buildings was speedily commenced. These have been added to from year to year, until at present there are a variety of substantial structures adapted to the use and purposes of the exhibition upon the premises. The immense amphitheater for the exhibition or prize stock is unsurpassed by any similar building upon the American continent, being three hundred and five feet in diameter, or nine hundred and fifteen feet in circumference, while its seats provide for the accommodation of nearly twelve thousand persons.

The arena inside this vast building has a diameter of 225 feet. The Floral Hall is a circular building with a circumference of 223 feet. A new building for the exhibition of textile fabrics has been erected this season; it is 36 feet wide by 100 in depth. The Agricultural show room is 200 feet long by 30 in width. The Mechanical department occupies a building 79 feet long by 32 in width, and the Machinery room, which has steam power sufficient to test all machines that may be brought into competition, is 240 feet by 200. Besides these there are tents and sheds and smaller buildings designed for the purpose of the exhibition. Within the arena enclosure is a fine pagoda 45 feet in height and divided into three stories. Around the western border, six hundred stalls for cattle have been erected , (over one hundred of them during the present season.) There is a bakery; also a gothic cottage containing retiring rooms and saloons for ladies. It is handsomely furnished and highly appreciated by the fair sex. A vast outlay of money has been required to put the grounds in their present order. The gateways are guarded by two towers, and on either side the ticket offices are arranged. There are separate entrances for carriages and pedestrians, so that no danger of accident exists. A course has been laid out for the exercise of stock, and roads lead to all parts of the ground. Underneath the main floor of the amphitheater there are eighty-one booths for the sale of refreshments; and we are pleased to note the prohibition of the sale of intoxicating liquors. Around the principal buildings, a large number of trees give to the grove a rural appearance, and the general effect of the grounds viewed from the heights of the pagoda is unusually fine.