New Illustrated Inventory: B. T. Hill’s Photographs of the New England Fair

Hill - PerformersAs we draw towards the end of summer, we can now look forward to fair season! Town, county, and state fairs are happening around the country and are filled with plenty of food and entertainment. Luckily, our newest illustrated inventory looks at the New England Fair here in Worcester during the early 1920s through the eyes of amateur photographer Benjamin T. Hill.

Hill was a lawyer in Worcester for over thirty years. He was interested in photography and created manuscript books in his free time. He also served as the auditor here at AAS for twenty-three years. His personal collection of papers, books, and photographs are within the Society’s collections.

Hill-Horse-jumpingThese photographs document the New England Fair, put on by the Worcester County Agricultural Society and the New England Agricultural Society, at the third and last location of the fairgrounds, in Worcester’s Greendale neighborhood. The property was sold to the Norton Company in the 1940s. The buildings of Norton Company are seen in many of the photographs. Hill focused many of his images on the horse-jumping competitions, which were a major draw for spectators. His photographic technique in creating these images has been critiqued in a previous blog post.

Hill-Aerial viewAlong with horse-jumping, there are many other scenes of the fair that don’t vary much from what we see today, though most fairgoers today do not dress in suits and long dresses in the August heat! Somehow, Hill was able to take aerial views of the fairgrounds, giving the viewer the opportunity to see the games and attractions offered. In the view seen here, a man is seen playing a ring-toss game, while many other people are lined around a small bowl-shaped track to see a motorcyclist on the “steepest motor cycle track.” A tent showcasing a male and female wrestler and a vendor selling parasols and Worcester pennants are also seen amongst the crowds. Any of these vignettes could be their own image, and being able to zoom in on them is such an amusing experience. We hope you will take a look through these charming scenes of an early county fair, and then head out to one yourself!

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Associate Curator of Graphic Arts, American Antiquarian Society

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