Sandburg's Hometown

July 21, 2014

Knox County (IL) Fairgrounds, 1910.

The Knox County Fair

by Barbara Schock

Between 1879 and 1882 Carl Sandburg and his friends walked the four miles to the fairgrounds in Knoxville. They carried their shoes and walked barefoot in the on the dusty road. They put on their shoes at the fair to avoid having their toes squashed by other fairgoers.

The admission was twenty-five cents. The boys were lucky to have a few more nickels to spend on the attractions. They visited the barns where livestock was judged. They learned the difference between stallions and mares, bulls and cows and boars and sows—nature's own sexual differences. Seeing the largest and best fruits and vegetables on display was also interesting.

They boys understood that the farmers came to the fair to learn and share the latest knowledge about farming techniques and food production. They could apply this new information to improve their farms and increase their income.

Sandburg and his friends didn't have the money for grandstand seats to watch the horse races. They stood by the wood fence at the edge of the racetrack to watch the horse races.

Harness racing has been popular in the United States since the 1850s. Building tracks for racing became a significant part of every fairground. Half-mile and one-mile dirt ovals were traveled by trotting horses and the elapsed time was recorded. Trotting horses have shorter legs and longer bodies which gives them stamina for racing.

Horses who could cover the mile in 2.5 minutes were recorded in a stud book and they became known as standardbred. Most trotting horses today descend from Hambletonian, a great grandson of Messenger, a horse brought to America by Henry Astor in 1788. Most horses today can run the distance in less than two minutes.

The race times by different horses became the obsession of owners and fans alike. The names of horses and their racing times were the topic of conversation for weeks after a race, Pictures of horses appeared in newspapers along with stories about their parentage and history of ownership.

From July 16th through 19th this summer, the Knox County Fair was conducted for the 164th time. The opening day included an afternoon program of harness racing. The local newspaper reported the grandstand was only half-filled. The evening grandstand programs included a monster truck show, tractor pulls, stock car racing and a demolition derby. The means of transportation have and the interest of the public have changed greatly since the days when Carl Sandburg and his friends visited the fair.


Sandburg's Hometown
Date Title
July 21, 2014 The Knox County Fair
July 14, 2014 The Panic of 1893
July 7, 2014 The Rev. T. N. Hasselquist
June 30, 2014 The Knox County Courthouse
June 23, 2014 The Family Photograph Album
June 16, 2014 Parades
June 9, 2014 Lingonberries
June 2, 2014 Where We Live
May 26, 2014 Old Main
May 19, 2014 Rhythms of the Railroad
May 12, 2014 Spring Tonic
May 5, 2014 The Milkmen
April 28, 2014 Gray's "Elegy..."
April 21, 2014 Off to War
April 14, 2014 Swedish Easter
April 7, 2014 A Father's Face
March 31, 2014 Secret Societies
March 24, 2014 George A. Murdock, Merchant
March 10, 2014 Trade Cards
March 3, 2014 The Demorest Medal
February 24, 2014 Rip Van Winkle
February 17, 2014 Cabbage Soup
February 10, 2014 Lincoln's Birthday
February 3, 2014  The Colonel
January 27, 2014 The Lincoln Penny - A Little History
January 20, 2014 Walking to Work
January 13, 2014  A Small Abode
January 6, 2014 Birth of a Poet
December 30, 2013 Christmas 1880
December 23, 2013 Swedish Christmas
December 16, 2013 The Reporter Sees Santa
December 9, 2013 The Coming of Christmas
December 2, 2013 The Fire Boys Talk
November 25, 2013 Galesburg Will Feast on Turkeys and Cranberries - Thanksgiving 1893
November 18, 2013  Mary Sandburg Johnson
November 11, 2013 Carl Sandburg's Bicycle
November 4, 2013  Lace Curtains 
October 28, 2013 The Front Room
October 21, 2013 A Warm Breakfast
October 14, 2013 Marion D. Shutter
October 7, 2013 Cigars and Consumption
September 30, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke & August Sandburg
September 16, 2013 Forrest F. Cooke, Mayor
September 9, 2013 Dusty Streets
September 2, 2013 Typhoid Fever
August 26, 2013 Coffee and Water
August 19, 2013 A Horse! A Horse!
August 12, 2013 Gaddial Scott
August 5, 2013 The Racetrack
July 29, 2013 John Peter Algeld - Part II
July 22, 2013 John Peter Altgeld - Part I
July 15, 2013 Tramps, Tramps, Tramps
July 8, 2013 Lady Liberty
July 1, 2013 Galesburg's Fourth
June 24, 2013 John H. Finley
June 17, 2013 The World's Columbian Exhibition
June 10, 2013 Fruit Short-Cake
June 3, 2013 Horatio Alger, Author
May 27, 2013 Memorial Day, 1887
May 20, 2013 Professor Jon W. Grubb
May 13, 2013 Beginnings of Lombard University
May 6, 2013 Young Sandburg’s View of Lombard College
April 29, 2013 Thinking
April 22, 2013 Robert Colville, Master Mechanic
April 15, 2013 The Galesburg Opera House
April 8, 2013 Grocery Stores and Sample Rooms
April 1, 2013  A Hearty  Breakfast 
March 25, 2013  The Lost Wallpaper Legend 
March 18, 2013 Martin G. Sandburg
March 4, 2013 The Edison Talking Machine
February 25, 2013 Joe Elser, Civil War Veteran
February 18, 2013 Remember the Maine...
February 11, 2013 Lincoln's Birthday
February 4, 2013 Curiosity