Let’s Go to the Fair!

In Dallas, the arrival of the fall season may or may not deliver cooler temperatures, but one can always count on the State Fair of Texas to bring plenty of pig races, cattle contests, craft exhibits, corn dogs and yet another new way to fry food.

The Dallas Morning News collection, part of the Belo records, holds manuscripts and visual materials related to the publication of Dallas’ longest surviving newspaper. Beginning with its very first issue on October 1, 1885, The Dallas Morning News started chronicling the life of a city that was rapidly growing, and it was common for journalists to cover the planning efforts for the State Fair that would open its doors a year later on October 11, 1886. Not only did the newspaper promote the State Fair in its pages, but it also celebrated it by festively decorating the outside of its building, as this early 1900s photograph attests.


By the 1930s, the State Fair of Texas had been well established as an annual tradition, and the locals anticipated the opening day as illustrated in this September 26, 1930 drawing by cartoonist John F. Knott.


For more than a century, carving has been a staple attraction at state fairs around the country. In addition to the famous butter carving, sculptors used a variety of media to promote their art throughout the time. Take, for example, this replica of the WFAA Radio Station broadcasting plant. Carved out of 7,000 pounds of Ivory Soap, “enough to last a family 170 years,” the sculpture by 15-year-old Mike Owens was one of the most popular exhibits at the 1930 State Fair in Dallas.

Twenty years later, live television brought the fair into people’s living rooms, as pictured in this photograph of a cooking demonstration broadcasted on the WFAA Chanel 8 in 1950.


Dallas has changed in many ways since the 1880s, when both the Texas State Fair and the publishing industry were in their infancy. However, the crowds still fill the fairgrounds today as much as they did then.




Contact Librarian Ada Negraru for more information or assistance accessing the materials in the Belo Corp. records.