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From the desk of Alison Gibson, Director
We were looking through some of our reels of microfilm to refresh our memories as to what was available. Trust us, this is a ‘dangerous’ thing to do, as time flies by as you scroll through the reels. One of the pamphlets that has been filmed from the Western Reserve Historical Society collection was the 1877 premium list for Ripley’s 20th annual Industrial Association fair. (think Brown County Fair). As expected, it listed the classes for best vegetables, best cake, best sheep, best horse—all the things that you would expect. But…what caught us off-guard was a full-page listing for a baby show. We thought baby shows were a more 20th century event, but it was a big deal here, and the categories were amazingly detailed. ‘Handsomest Blue-eyed baby under 1 year old’, Handsomest Red-headed Baby under 1 year old’ , ‘Prettiest pair of twins over 6 and under 12 months old’ etc. Prizes were listed, cap, ring, necklace, cloak, sash and more. It also said the judges will be selected on the day of exhibition and will be challenged off, if known to be related to, or interested in the babies on exhibition. No charge for the entries.
We had to delve into this phenomenon of baby shows—it appears that Ohio can take credit for having the first organized baby show in 1854 at the Clark County Fair. They had 127 entries! Baby shows took off after that, going nationwide. Atlantic City had baby shows on the boardwalk long before the Miss America pageants. The 1854 show was to bring in a larger audience to the fairgrounds and apparently it worked, and gained popularity at both rural and urban events. Some people didn’t like them, saying babies shouldn’t be exhibited like the livestock, but it didn’t stop the growth of the baby show concept. Alas, we do not have the Ripley Bee that would have listed the winners of the fair for 1877, so we don’t know how popular this part of the fair was, or if this was the first the Industrial Fair had a baby show. Not serious research, but fun to think about.
Just a reminder–Ripley Friends of the Library Trunk or Treat Monday, October 31st from 6-7:30 p.m.–food, fun and friends! This will be the Friends 4th Trunk or Treat, and the first time in a lovely resurfaced parking lot. We are expecting a rich mix of individuals and organizations setting up to hand out treats, along with some of Ripley’s emergency vehicles such as a fire engine for kids to explore and learn more about what our organizations do. We still have a few slots open if you want to be on the giving end–give us a call if you are interested.