National Corn Exposition

The Farm Magazine of Omaha on January 1, 1909, described an important agricultural fair recently held in the city. The second National Corn Exposition was brought about largely by the efforts of Omaha businessman and civic leader Gurdon W. Wattles. Wattles, also instrumental in staging the Trans Mississippi and International Exposition ten years before in 1898, saw more than 100,000 people attend the corn show, which opened December 9, 1908, and closed on Saturday evening, December 19. The slogan “Prosperity Moves on Crutches When Crops Go Wrong” revealed the booster spirit which planned and promoted the corn show.

The Farm Magazine said: “The exhibits registered in the senior department numbered 5,500, and the junior exhibitors had 2,131 entries, making the total 7,731 entries. In premiums the exposition paid over $54,000 in gold and merchandise distributed by the friends of the exposition and those interested in agriculture. The grand sweepstakes were won by Indiana and the winners received over $2,800 in premiums on the ten-car sample. Those ears were sold for $280. The same buyer paid $75 for the champion single ear, which was also grown in Indiana. . . .

“So successful was the exposition that the National Corn association, headed by Eugene D. Funk of Illinois, endorsed Omaha as the logical point at which to hold an annual corn show. The show will be held at Omaha next year. The city has shown its right to become the permanent home of the big agricultural show which is expected to do for American grains and grasses what the International Live Stock show and similar expositions have done for live stock. [The third National Corn Exposition was held in Omaha in 1909, but succeeding shows were held in other cities.]

“The list of speakers at the Omaha show demonstrated the international scope the exposition is destined to assume. Mexico was one of the foremost of the foreign exhibitors. Zepherino Domingues, a wealthy planter whose name is mentioned as a successor of President Diaz, spent the entire two weeks in Omaha, giving to the students in the Iowa College of Agriculture a solid silver bust of President Diaz, as a reward for their winnings in the student judging contest.

“President Roosevelt’s country life commission spent two days at the national corn exposition. The meeting of the commission in Omaha was really the first of great importance and visitors, including men and women, went before the men composing this important body and told what the farmers needed, [in] legislation, in public improvements and educational facilities.”

(Note December 8, 2022: Other materials from the event list the dates from December 6, 1909 to December 18, 1909.)

Gurdon W. Wattles, Omaha business and civic leader. From J. Sterling Morton and Albert Watkins, History of Nebraska (1918). (Photo not available)

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