Wednesday, October 14, 2020

1918 State Fair Canceled

Ferris Wheel at Louisiana State Fair in Shreveport
c 1910s.  Beulah Findley Colelction: 1997.054.064.
Recently the Louisiana State Fair announced that the 114th annual fair for this fall is canceled, but it is has been rescheduled for next spring. This means there will be two fairs in 2021, the 114th in the spring and the 115th in the fall. This year is only the second time in the history of this annual festival to be canceled.

The last cancellation was of the 13th annual fair in 1918 during the Spanish flu (H1N1) pandemic. W.R. Hirsch, regretfully, made the official announcement based on the following telegram from state health officer Dr. Oscar Dowling:

“Supplementing wire. After conference with Corput, public health service, concluded best postpone under existing conditions.” Dr. Corput was the federal health official, stationed at New Orleans, in charge of the influenza fight in this territory.

According to Hirsch, “In my opinion, which is based on the records in our headquarters, the 1918 fair would have been record-breaking, both in attractions, including the mammoth lot of exhibits, and also in attendance. We had promise of exhibits filling every exhibit building and barn, with indications that tents would have been necessary to accommodate a big overflow.”

Advertisement for the 13th annual Louisiana State Fair, 1918.

Before the cancellation, Hirsch had announced, “A dozen aviators, all in the aerial service of Uncle Sam, and most of them home boys, will fly over Shreveport during the seven days of the State Fair.” That year, Oct. 31st was designated as General Pershing Day and Soldiers’ and Sailors’ Day. Special arrangements were made to have as many of the aviators fly on that day as possible. All military, including allied nations and confederate veterans, were to receive free entry into the fair.

With WWI going on, there was a lot of focus on the war and the military. Plans included a 9,000 square foot United States government war exhibit, which included a gas mask used at that time to protect American soldiers from German gases. We were one of four southern fairs scheduled to receive this exhibit. The mask was made in a factory on Long Island, where 27,000 masks were manufactured daily.

“The fireworks spectacle, ‘World’s War,’ reproducing scenes from the world war, would have been another great attraction.” There was also promise of a great war exhibit by the Canadian government.

“We are the only State Fair announcing that Herbert C. Hoover, national food administrator, would be present and deliver an address to its visitors. We are also the only State Fair with promise of an address by a member of the congressional party that recently returned from a visit to the battle fronts of western Europe, Congressman J.B. Aswell having accepted our invitation to deliver an address on his experience on that thrilling trip to the war zones.”

All culinary articles were to be hooverized products, the premiums offered were to encourage economy in cooking, and with assigned space for an exhibit of food conservation work. The word hooverize originated in 1917 and, by definition, means “to be sparing in the use of something especially food,” which Herbert C. Hoover promoted. He was the head of the U.S. Food Administration during WWI, and he encouraged citizens to eat less and save food for soldiers. Common slogans were “save the food, win the war,” and “food will win the war.”

Chambers, C. E. (1917) Food will win the war - You came here seeking freedom, now you must help to preserve it -Wheat is needed for the allies - waste nothing / C. E. Chambers. United States, 1917. [New York: Rusling Wood, Litho] [Photograph] Retrieved from the Library of Congress,

Miss Elizabeth Dombourajian was another special guest scheduled for that year. She was a native Armenian who was to speak on the life of the people of her native land, where the Turks have massacred many thousands of Christians. Other plans included an automobile show, horse races, musical guests, the fancy rifle, revolver, pistol shooting by Tom P. Parker, and many other attractions.

To learn more about the history of local festivals, visit the Bossier Parish Libraries History Center at 2206 Beckett St., Bossier City.

By: Amy Robertson

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