• Dante Mazza

#861: Site of First California State Fair

Updated: Jul 12, 2021


Site of First California State Fair

The State Plaque in August 2015

 

Site of First California State Fair

California's first State Fair was held on this site on October 4, 1854. Sponsored by the California State Agriculture Society, the exhibition of "horses, cattle, mules, other stock, and agricultural mechanical and domestic manufacture and productions" promoted the new state's growing agricultural industry. A different city held the fair each year until Sacramento became the permanent location in 1861.

California Registered Historical Landmark No. 861

Plaque placed by the State Department of Parks and Recreation in cooperation with the Grand Parlor, Native Sons of the Golden West, August 18, 1973.

 

The first California State Fair was held in this location on Bush Street in what is now the Financial District of San Francisco. The date was October 4, 1854 and California was barely four years old as a state.

From the moment the first settlers and fortune seekers from the Eastern United States and beyond arrived in California, they knew agriculture would be an important part of the state's economy and image. California's first elected Governor, Peter Burnett, expressed his desire for a strong agricultural sector in his 1849 inaugural address, and state pioneers like John Bidwell and John Sutter established large farms and ranches.

Another early arrival who saw the promise of agriculture in California was James Loyd LaFayette Franklin Warren, a seed merchant from Massachusetts. After opening three stores in Northern California, Warren set about promoting the state's agriculture industry. He held showcases and competitions in his stores, founded The California Farmer and Journal of Useful Sciences publication, and publicly lobbied for the creation of a state agricultural society.

On May 13, 1854 the state legislature made his wish come true by establishing the California State Agricultural Society. The Society set to work immediately planning a showcase, and $5,000 was appropriated for prize money. On October 4th, the first ever California State Fair was held at the Music Hall on Bush Street. Livestock were exhibited across town on the grounds of Mission Dolores.

Following a successful first run, the State Fair went on the road for the next few years in an effort to drum up support and interest. The 1855 fair was held in Sacramento, 1856 in San Jose, 1857 in Stockton, and 1858 in Marysville. By 1859 the State Fair was a big hit, and the city fathers of Sacramento lobbied hard and successfully made the capital city the permanent home of the California State Fair, where it has been held every year since 1861.

Warren proved to be a man with incredible foresight. California agricultural products, over 400 commodities in all, are now worth a collective $47 billion annually.

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