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Numbers Game at the YORK FAIR

‘Getting Ready For The Fair’ artwork by Cliff Satterthwaite (The Gazette and Daily issue of September 8, 1958)
‘Getting Ready For The Fair’ artwork by Cliff Satterthwaite (The Gazette and Daily issue of September 8, 1958)

Cliff Satterthwaite submitted copies of several pieces of YORK FAIR artwork that he did for The Gazette and Daily. This piece, done during the preparations for the 1958 Fair, is entitled ‘Getting Ready For The Fair.’ The caption continues:

Some of the many preparations for tomorrow’s opening of the 106th annual York Inter-State Fair were caught in this sketch by artist Cliff Satterthwaite for The Gazette and Daily. Preparations end and activities begin tomorrow morning with the traditional children’s day leading off the fair’s five-day run. About 58,000 tickets have been distributed to students and teachers.

The York Fair logo for the 2015 notes, ‘York Fair celebrating 250 Years.’ There is some kind of numbers game going on here; 106th in 1958 versus 250th in 2015, the numbers don’t add up.

I wondered what newspapers wrote about the major milestone 100th anniversary; so counting back 6-years, I looked in 1952 newspapers. Turns out, the 100th anniversary was celebrated in 1951.

Fair1951This article was likely a fair press release, since I saw the exact same text in several South Central Pennsylvania and Maryland newspapers. The September 6, 1951 article shown is from the New Oxford Item of New Oxford, PA.

York Fair Marks 100th Anniversary

The York Inter-State Fair, Pennsylvania’s biggest fair and one of the largest in the nation, will mark its 100th anniversary September 10 through 15 with an event-studded six-day and six-night program.

While the York County Agricultural Society, trading as the York Inter-State Fair, is officially celebrating its centennial, York Fairs actually date back to 1765, when they were first held under a charter granted by Thomas Penn, son of William Penn. They continued for 50 years until 1815, and were not resumed until 1851, when the York County Agricultural Society was formed.

York Fair History—on their Web Site

The York Fair web site notes that the York County Agricultural Society was formed in 1853 with their first fairgrounds established in 1856 (near the southeast corner of King and Queen Streets in York). This disagrees with 1851, a year which formed the basis for the 100th Anniversary Celebration during the 1951 York Fair. Lets see what John Gibson has to say.

Gibson’s History of York County

John Gibson’s 1886 History of York County, PA records the early history of the York County Agricultural Society on page 358:

The project of forming an Agricultural Society in York County, was first considered at a public meeting held in the court house on November 22, 1851, the object of the society being, “to foster and improve agriculture, horticulture and the domestic and household arts.” The first regular meeting of the society was held January 5, 1852, at which officers and managers were elected. The first exhibition was held October 5, 6 and 7, 1853, on the Public Common in the Borough of York, and resulted in a net profit of $3,000. The second exhibition was held in 1854, and resulted in a loss, the receipts not covering expenses by $110.

No exhibition was held in 1855, in which year the present location [near the southeast corner of King and Queen Streets] was purchased, originally containing but seven acres and fifty-one perches, but which has gradually been enlarged by purchase, so that at this time fourteen acres are enclosed. The cost of the original tract was $2,057.24, the value of the present $50,000. Since 1855, with the exception of the years of our Civil War, viz.: 1861, 1862, 1863 and 1864 (during part of which years the grounds were used by the government, and troops were quartered on them), annual exhibitions have been held, up to the present year (1885), which marks the 28th.

Numbers Game Explained

Therefore the 100th Anniversary, in 1951, was celebrated by counting all years from the 1851 founding meeting of the York County Agricultural Society, even through no fairs were held in 1851, 1852, and 1855; plus 1861, 1862, 1863 and 1864 (when fairgrounds were in use by military during Civil War); and finally during 1918 (due to a killer influenza outbreak). As for the 2015 York Fair celebrating 250 Years, there are certainly 250 years between 1765 and 2015; however, by my count, a York Fair was celebrated in only 207 of those years.

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