VIDEO: Wonderful Footage of the 1914 Montana State Fair

As someone who loves funnel cake and being hurled through the air, you can bet that I was distressed to hear there wasn't going to be a state fair this year.  Ordinarily, I'm the first in line for nachos, first in line for the tilt-a-whirl, and first in line to hurl my guts out in the parking lot.  But not this year, thanks our old friend Covid-19. 

Well, if you can't bring the fair, we'll just have to go back in time to attend.  In fact, let's go back 106 years to the 1914 State Fair as captured by Rollin S. Sturgeon for the Vitagraph Company of the United states. 

Deer Lodge County Exhibit, Montana State Fair.  Courtesy of The Montana Memory Projet.
Courtesy of the Montana Memory Project.

At four minutes, the short film (here in Dutch because it is now in the collection of EYE, the Dutch national museum of cinema) captures some amazing footage of what the Montana State Fair was like more than 100 years ago.  The footage begins with a title card reading "a 20 foot giant" (in Dutch) and proceeding through a "parade of young animals", "the blue ribbon winners" before presenting marvels like the world's biggest ox.  Our crack time of fact-checkers were unable to confirm or deny that this was, at the time, really the biggest ox in the world.

Perhaps most astonishing for modern audiences is the practice of roping and riding wild horses.  While there are still wild horses in parts of Montana, they are not as common as they used to be. 

Bingham candy Exhibit at Montana State Fair
Bingham Candy Company exhibit at Montana State Fair, Helena, Montana. Courtesy of The Montana Memory Project

Finally, the video ends with the decidedly badass Mrs. Steele, world-champion horse rider, whose exuberant taming of her bronco must have set many a lonesome cowpoke to tender musings. 

Watch the video yourself below -- for maximum authenticity, watch with an elephant ear in your hand.

Leave a Comment Here

Your comment will not appear until we have reviewed and approved it.