The 1905 State Corn Contest

It may have been the Christmas season, but it was corn that was on everyone’s mind in

Lincoln in December of 1905. That year over 500 Nebraska boys and girls descended on the

Capital City for the first State Corn Contest. Sponsored by the Department of Public

Instruction, the “well-arranged program” enabled contestants from around the state “to enter

their exhibits, and visit the state farm, university and manual training and domestic science

departments.” The exhibits were a big hit with the public. “The corn was of splendid quality

and of a remarkably uniform size. Several large tables were completely covered with yellow

ears. All of the grain was grown from seed sent out by the state superintendent.

“The surprisingly large number of ways in which the grain had been treated by the young

women attracted much attention. Fully a score of dainty pastry dishes, cakes, and breads

were displayed on the tables, and several of the displays were so tempting that large holes had

been picked in them. One cake, which was as white as though made from the finest wheat

flour, suffered especially, and the other exhibits were made the victims of frequent levies

either from the young people themselves or their envious and skeptical parents.

“District No. 20 of Pawnee County had a log cabin made of corn on exhibition which

attracted considerable attention. The boys of Whittier School of Lincoln had a map of

Nebraska made of kernels of corn, with different colored kernels to represent the hills,

valleys, rivers and other topographic features.”

Speakers at the two-day event included University professors, USDA representatives, and

even Governor John H. Mickey. “Instructive lectures” on “The Improvement of the Corn

Crop,” “The Effect of Environment on Domestic Animals,” “General Principles of Cooking,”

and “What Girls Can Make From Corn” were found “intensely interesting.”

“Entertaining features such as will please and amuse,” like an exhibit fire run by the Lincoln

Fire Department were also on the agenda. The evening program started with Nebraska scenes

on canvas, and a reading of the fable “How Corn became King and Miss Alfalfa became

Queen in Nebraska.” Introduction of King Corn and Queen Alfalfa, and the christening of

their heir to the agricultural throne, Baby Sugar Beet, capped the festivities. At the close of

the program, Professor G. E. Condra reminded the assembly, “Our boys and our girls are the

real Kings and Queens of Nebraska. They stand at a premium wherever they go, fed on these

other products for which our state is famed.”

Enthusiasm for the contest was so great that both a “Nebraska boys’ agricultural association”

and a “Nebraska girls’ domestic science association” were organized. These groups were

among the forerunners of today’s Future Farmers and Future Homemakers organizations.

The culmination of the two-day event was the Corn Banquet. No less than 700 diners

supped on a menu of corn soup, corn pone, corn dodgers, hominy grits, Johnny cake, corn

pudding, corn sauce, corn cake, corn-fed beef, corn coffee, and finally, corn ice cream.

Numerous speakers followed, and then the “most remarkable” convention was adjourned.

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