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The First Fair and "Goldsmith Maid"

This article appeared in the Dayton Daily News, December 28, 1930


Red Letter Dates in Dayton History

The First Fair and “Goldsmith Maid”

By Howard Burba


The boat “Sport” will leave the public landing, Third st., for the Fairgrounds every hour.  Fare 10c.

Entrance gate to Fair on bank of canal.

 Coupon tickets to Fair for sale on boat.

                          WM. Dinsmore, Capt.



It was merely a coincident that at the very first fair held in Montgomery co. a new world record for trotting horses should be established, yet that is exactly what happened.  And there isn’t a well-posted lover of horse flesh in America today who isn’t familiar with this outstanding chapter in racing history.

            Dayton had what she saw fit to call “fairs” and “agricultural expositions” for a number of years prior to the advent of the 70's.  But they were make-shift exhibitions at best.  Usually they were held in a hall, somewhere downtown, and consisted merely in a showing of fancywork fashioned by the nimble fingers of Dayton women, and unusual specimens of pumpkins and apples produced by the land-grubbing resident of the rural districts.

            But the real county fair, an institution that has been rapidly passing into the discard for the past several years, had been born a long time before Montgomery co. citizens became personally interested in it.  In other states, especially those in the eastern part of the country, county fairs were proving the greatest of drawing cards as early as 1850.  Kentucky’s fame as the birthplace of the world’s finest thoroughbreds was being rapidly enhanced through this mode of open-air entertainment.  Every year saw more and more counties organizing agricultural and county fair boards.  By the time the Civil War broke, they were quite numerous and shared interest with the wagon circus, then in the height of its glory as an amusement enterprise.

            Early in 1870 Ohio citizens began glamoring for a “state fair.”  And since it was to be a permanent institution, and one capable of attracting many thousands of outside residents to the city in which it might be held, Dayton was alive to her opportunities and lost no time in presenting her claims.  In fact, public meetings were held at which the subject was discussed, and along about 1873 she went so far as to raise a fund of $15,000 to be used toward defraying the cost of establishing such an institution in the event the state legislature favored this city as a site.

            But the legislature, after leading Dayton citizens to believe they had the inside track, suddenly, and for some unknown reason, changed its mind.  The bill providing for a state fair passed. But the city of Columbus was selected as the site for it, and since the bill provided that the fair should be conducted under state auspices for at least five years, Dayton citizens realized they were “out of the running.”  But they had $15,000, and there was no law against establishing a fair of their own so plans to that end were formulated.

            Throughout the year 1873 actual work progressed on what the outside world was given to understand would be a fairground second to none in America.  A site had been selected well beyond the corporation line on S. Main, and long before the finishing touches were placed upon the work, in the summer of 1874, the opening date had been get for the last two days in September and the first two days in October.  That just as much territory might be embraces as possible without infringement on the state fair title, the Dayton fair was heralded as the Southern Ohio fair.  Charles Harris had been chosen president of the agricultural association that was to operate the institution, and Leonard Moore was made secretry.  The newspapers entered whole-heartedly into the project, and never before nor since has a fair in any county in the United States been marked by a finer job of publicity work than marked this one.  In fact, it is related that by the time the date of the first meeting rolled around the public throughout the middle west had accepted this as the one big fair in Ohio- the Columbus show was secondary in interest. 

            For weeks before the opening date, word had gone out that the management had secured a super-attraction; one that would focus the eyes of the entire horseracing world on the Southern Ohio fair.  All arrangements had been made to have Goldsmith Maid appear on the track in an attempt to lower the world’s trotting record.

            At that time Goldsmith Maid was as widely known and as genuinely popular as Man-o-War of our own day and time.  It seems incredible that Dayton had secured such a stupendous card for its initial fair.  But there it was in newspaper ad, poster and handbill, in black and white-that stamped it as genuine.  Dayton couldn’t afford to announce something on the bills that wouldn’t be in the show.

            There wasn’t a busier man in all this territory than Lawrence Butz, the mayor of Dayton.  He didn’t have as many different kinds of problems to contend with as our present chief executive, but he did have a traffic problem ahead of him equal to anything the automobile has brought.  For weeks before the opening day of the fair he caused this notice to appear in black-face type in the daily papers:

            “All carriages, wagons and other vehicles going south to the fairgrounds must drive straight out Main st.  Returning vehicles must drive over Union st. to Warren, and then in Warren.  Union st. is just a short distance north of the fairgrounds entrance.  Keep to the right at all times, as the law demands.”

            Down at the Phillips House, the leading hotel of that day, every room was reserved weeks in advance.  In fact, one paper relates that the overflow of requests served to fill all the other hotels of the city when the Phillips House management sought to take care of applicants.  IN the billiard room there was a scene of unusual activity; it was headquarters of the sporting element of the city, and Joseph T. Biggs & Co., proprietors, had announced in the newspapers that “Pools will be sold at the Phillips House billiard rooms every morning and evening of the races.”

            Then came the opening day, the 29th of September, 1874.  Let the reporter who covered the big event for one of two dailies then being published here tell you about it in his own words:

            “People came from every point of the compass.  The morning trains on the Short Line brought in 60 carloads of people, and nearly as many on each of the other roads.  All cars were jammed and the platforms covered.  Still thousands were left standing at the depots all along the various lines.  At Miamisburg alone it was estimated that at least 1000 persons were unable to get on the trains.  At the Union and Short Line depots the scene on the arrival of the trains was animated beyond description, but in all the confusion there were no casualties.

            “Main st. was covered with a solid mass of vehicles going to the fairgrounds and Warren st. jammed with those returning.  The street cars and canal boats were crowded and thousands walked.  The stream of human beings continued to pour in at the gates until 2 o’clock in the afternoon, the hour at which the races were to start.”

            So it went the opening day, and so it continued during the entire five days of the exhibition.  The red-letter day, however, was on Friday, Oct. 2-the day on which Goldsmith Maid was scheduled to demonstrate her right to the title by which she was known throughout the world-“Queen of the Turf.”  Describing the scenes on that day, the same newswriter said:

            “Sitting room for even a tithe of the multitude was out of the question, and standing room became a matter of great consequence.  At noon there was a scramble for the seats in the grandstand, but as commodious as it is its seating capacity was a mere bagatelle.  The tops of the cattle stalls and stables were occupied, the weight in several instances causing the roofs to give way and precipitate the occupants down among the cattle.  The enclosure inside the track was filled, and half the track itself was occupied, the police finding it impossible to keep the crowd back.  But the crowd was as good-natured as it was large.  Mounted men rode up and down the line pressing them back, and policemen brandished their clubs threateningly, to all of which they submitted cheerfully, and then returned at the first opportunity to the advanced positions from which they had been driven.  Bud Doble says that it was the largest crowd that ever witnessed Goldsmith Maid make a race.  But the success in the way of numbers was no greater than that of the quality of entertainment provided.”

            Bud Doble and his son had arrived in the city two days earlier with the Maid, coming in a palatial care built especially for transporting her and her racing companions, “Judge Fullerton,” “Gloster” and “Commodore.”  Special stables had been assigned them. And never before or since has there been such a milling about fairgrounds stalls as marked every moment of the stay of the thoroughbreds.  It is related that one man, pushing his way through the immense crowd of curiosity seekers, asked permission of one of the grooms to just touch Goldsmith Maid with a single finger.  Asked why he merely wanted to touch her he replied:

            “I want to go home and tell my wife that I have actually touched the fastest race horse in the world.”

            The day for the big event arrived and all else was forgotten.  For three days hand-running, thousands had trooped through Art hall to see the beautiful white silk comforter that had won first prize for its owner, Mrs. Samuel Craighead; the “log cabin” quilt that brought Miss Belle Stutsman a prize, and the prize-winning silk quilt entered by Miss Hattie Brown, along with the marvelous crochetwork exhibited by Miss Kate McCauley of Germantown.  But these exhibits paled into insignificance on the fourth day- Goldsmith Maid was the hostess.

            There had been a slight rain the afternoon before.  And while it was falling, thousands of prayers were ascending that it would not prove sufficient to necessitate a change in the program.  Nor was it.  The day dawned bright and fair and by 2 o’clock, the hour set for the exhibition by the Maid, the track, used this week for the first time, was reported to be in perfect condition.

            There was a craning of necks and wild cheering that could be heard for miles, when Bud Doble, dear to every race fan then and held in sacred memory today wherever horses are known, came driving Goldsmith Maid onto the track.  Slowly he paraded her before the stands, and louder and louder arose the thundering applause.

            Her running-mate on that memorable occasion was St. Clair’s “Nellie Grim,” and the rider was W. H. Doble, jr.  Announcement was made that the exhibition was to be an honest one, and that every effort would be made by goldsmith Maid to lower the world’s trotting record for a half-mile track.  She was wheeled to the front of the judge’s stand, then driven up the track a few paces, and a second later she was thundering past, through two solid lanes of humanity, on the first heat of what was to prove a never-to-be-forgotten exhibition. 

            The Maid trotted the first half-mile in 1:101/2, and accomplished the heat, a full mile, in 2:21.

            In the second heat, she made the first half-mile in 1:083/4 and the mile in 2:18, the fastest time ever to be recorded by a trotting horse in the history of the world on a half-mile track, up to that time.  And that record stood for years.

            The crowd surged in and overwhelmed Doble in its anxiety to pay him a fitting tribute.  So enthusiastic was the demonstration that a detachment of special deputies had to be called to open a line wide enough to permit Doble and Goldsmith Maid to reach the stable.  A magnificent bouquet of flowers, from the conservatory at the Soldiers’ Home, was presented driver and horse in a brief address of appreciation by Frank Mundt.

            The judges on this historic occasion were S. R. Harris of Cincinnati; Fielding Loury and Richard Anderson of Dayton.  The timing judges were M. S. Forbes and James Bugher of Cincinnati.

            The announcement of the result occasioned such a demonstration as few derby days in old Kentucky have witnessed.  There were 60,000 people saw and cheered that exhibition, and that it went down into trotting horse history in letters of fire.

            It was the making of the fair.  That one event served to call the attention of the entire world to the Dayton track.  Goldsmith Maid had brought fame not alone to herself but to the citizenship of Montgomery co., and the publicity that resulted from it was worth more than all the advertising the fair board did for 20 years following.

            On Saturday, when the gates at the fairgrounds were closed on the first meeting, the records showed a paid attendance for the five days of 125,000 people.  Estimates placed the number witnessing the chief attraction on Friday at 75,000.  More than 4000 entries were on display, some of them decidedly elaborate for that age.  Everyone appeared to have a personal interest in making the fair a success.  No better proof of that can be had then in reprinting this brief paragraph from one of the local papers of that day.  It says:

            “Dayton undertakers have on hand a display of burial cackets and all the paraphernalia of funerals, so exquisite in design and finish that one contemplates the final hour with complacency.”

            It had been a wonderful week for Dayton, and one void of any untoward event.  The big day of the meeting, when Goldsmith Maid appeared, however, was a field day for pickpockets.  They had anticipated an enormous crowd.  By some unexplained second sense, of which pickpockets of those days as well as the present seem possessed, they reckoned on rich pickings.  Chief among the light-fingered gentry to show up was “Red Leary,” one of the most noted in his time.  He traveled out of New York city.  On the occasion of his Dayton visit he was accompanied by something like a score of “dips,” most of them women.

            “Red Leary” was recognized before he had been long in the city, and sought to quit the scene before being nabbed by the police.  In this he was unsuccessful.  He was arrested at the union depot while waiting for an eastbound train, held over until Monday and then fined on a loitering charge, the police being unable to connect him directly with any of the scores of cases of pickpocketing reported during the progress of the fair.

            Minor losses suffered at the hands of pickpockets, however, were of little moment.  Dayton was happy, citizens of Montgomery co. were happy; they had staged their first fair, And so successfully did they do so that for 56 years it has served as a yardstick by which all succeeding events of its kind have been measured.