California State Fair Beginnings

CA State FairThe first exhibition fair in California was sponsored by a Boston-born horticultural enthusiast lured west by the California Gold Rush.  James L.L. F. Warren’s New England Seed Store in Sacramento was a frame building and nursery yard trading in fruit trees, seeds, agricultural implements, and general provisions. In September 1852, Colonel Warren affixed a prominent banner proclaiming “Agricultural Hall” across the face of his building’s second story. His modestly named “Great Agricultural Fair” offered mineral displays, lectures on various mining and farming topics, and trophy cups and medals for outstanding entries from valley-wide farms and nurseries. His event was so successful that he sponsored another, larger exhibit the following year in San Francisco. Warren tirelessly lobbied California officials until the Legislature, recognizing the potential importance of the state’s agriculture, created the State Agricultural Society in May, 1854.  The Society held its first Agricultural and Horticultural Fair in October that same year, in San Francisco. From that date they sponsored an annual state-wide fair, expanding exhibit categories to include livestock, farm  implements, dairy products, fruits and cereals, preserved foods, needle crafts and fine art, and dozens of other notable California-grown or manufactured items. Over time this agency’s successors became the California State Fair and Exposition.

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