Exhibiting the possibilities : the Montana State Fair
Edwards, Douglas Michael
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This thesis analyzes the history of the Montana State Fair between 1903, its inaugural season, and 1917, the last season before the First World War altered the institution's mission. It begins by looking at the origins of the event, calling attention to early agricultural fairs in Montana then emphasizing the influence of the state's participation in several nineteenth-century world's fairs. The growth of the fair and its utilization as a promotional vehicle is discussed in detail. In the process, the improvement of the grounds and the rising popularity of the event are explored. Then the thesis highlights the role of the fair as an educational institution designed to guide the course of Montana's agricultural development. Particular attention is given to the manner in which the event served to encourage Montanans to embrace the emerging social and economic order of an incorporated America. The final chapter discusses the declining influence and eventual death of the state fair in 1933. In sum, this thesis argues that for a decade and a half the Montana State Fair existed as a central state institution, one that fostered the development of the state's natural resources and familiarized Montanans with the mass of inventions and ideas profoundly altering American society at the turn of the century. In the process it challenges popular images of so-called agricultural fairs and illuminates a side of these events not heretofore unveiled by scholars.