To create an interest in agriculture, the Nebraska Department of Public Instruction (later Department of Education) announced a corn contest for boys in the spring of 1905. The first five hundred boys who applied were sent selected seed corn. Each boy was to bring to a subsequent meeting in Lincoln a written report and the ten best ears of corn raised. Girls were later admitted to the contest as “corn cookers.”
The Twentieth Biennial Report of the State Superintendent of Public Instruction (1907-8), located in the Nebraska State Historical Society Archives/Library, reported on the first such corn contest and associated state meeting, held December 14-16, 1905. Sixty-five counties sent delegations. The first day’s program included lectures by agricultural experts and state dignitaries and the judging of exhibits. “At the close of the program a beautiful ceremony was conducted in which corn was crowned King of Nebraska, alfalfa Queen, and little sugar beet Heir to the Throne.”
Sessions on subsequent days featured more lectures, a business meeting, and the formal organization of two new groups: the Nebraska Boys’ Agricultural Association and the Nebraska Girls’ Domestic Science Association. One evening session consisted of a “corn banquet” for the more than seven hundred attending.
The Biennial Report included with its account of the 1905 corn contest and state meeting the entire text of “Nebraska Corn Song.” Written especially for the two new youth associations by E. C. Bishop of the Department of Public Instruction, it praised corn as “the King in Nebraska” while sung to the tune of “Marching Through Georgia.”