Fair History in Pictures

The Ohio State Fair has been a tradition since 1850. Revisit some highlights in Fair history with pictures from the Ohio Historical Society’s photographic archives.

The Fair was not always held in Columbus. The first Fair was held in Cincinnati, and then it moved to cities throughout the state, including Columbus (1851, 1855, 1864, 1865), Cleveland (1852, 1856, 1862, 1863), Cincinnati again in 1857, Dayton (1853, 1860, 1861, 1866, 1867), Sandusky (1858), Zanesville (1859), Springfield (1870, 1871), Toledo (1868, 1869), and Mansfield (1872, 1873). Columbus became the permanent home of the Fair in 1874 and the current fairgrounds were completed in 1886.

View of the Farm Implements barn at the Ohio State Fair in Zanesville, Ohio, September 21, 1859.

Illustration depicting the Ohio State Fair in Cleveland, 1860s.

Rides have entertained Fair goers for over 100 years.

Ferris wheel at the Ohio State Fair in Columbus, Ohio, ca. 1900-1905.

The fairgrounds was once home to the small cabin in which President Ulysses S. Grant was born. The cabin was returned to its original location in Point Pleasant in 1936.

House at the Ohio State Fairgrounds in Columbus protecting the log cabin in which Ulysses S. Grant was born.

The All Ohio Marching Band was once the All Ohio Boys Marching Band. Girls did not join the band until the 1970s.

All Ohio Boys Marching Band in 1946.

Not all features of the Fair stay with us forever. The Ohio gate entrance pictured here was put up in 1966 and taken down on January 31, 2002.

Fair goers passing through the Ohio Gate, circa 1960s.

Do you remember Smokey the Bear? He debuted at the Fair in 1944 and stood 14.5 feet tall.

Ohio State Fair visitors ‘talking’ to Smokey Bear in 1969.

Most governors visit the Fair to meet and greet voters, but four term Ohio Governor James Rhodes was always known to be one of the Fair’s biggest fans.

Governor James Rhodes playing a game on the midway at the Ohio State Fair, Columbus, Ohio, August 27, 1976.

1976 marked the U.S. Bicentennial and record breaking crowds at the Fair. 

The Fair had record breaking attendance in 1976.

Do you remember Shivo the Clown? Shivo, also known as Virgil Shivers, was at the Fair from the 1970s until 1993. “”

Shivo the Clown shares information with a young girl visiting the Fair in 1984.

To see more photographs of the Ohio State Fair check out the Ohio Memory digital library. 

Posted July 28, 2011
Topics: Daily Life

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