It’s the Fairest of the Fair
October 30, 2002
It's the fairest of the fair this week on the Oklahoma Audio Almanac.
Hello, I’m Steven Knoche Kite.
The queen of Indian Territory, Muskogee, hosted the first ever International Indian Fair this week in 1874. The event served as a grand gallery displaying the various Native American cultures in Indian Territory at that time. On exhibit were buildings, artwork, craft items, livestock, leather and woodwork and pottery from all over the region. Some items on display included robes, blankets, beadwork, moccasins, bows and arrows and buckskin garments. Cherokees, Creeks, Seminoles, Chickasaw, Choctaw, Kiowa, Comanche, Arapaho and Cheyenne were just a few of the numerous tribes in attendance at the exposition. The event opened with a grand parade through the 160 acre exhibit grounds with each tribal delegation holding message carrying banners. “Charity for all, Malice towards none and Firmness in the Right” exclaimed the Creek banner. The Osage banner being a bit mysterious read, “Come and See the Figure of the Plow and Follow Me.” The Kiowas demanded on their banner simply “We need Schools, Cows and Ploughs.”
Brass bands marched in the parade coming from as far away as Cincinnati and southern Texas to take part. Other bands came from Fort Smith and Fort Sill. It is said that over 1000 horses were brought to the event to compete in the trotting, running and riding competition. Horse races were apparently the biggest attraction with a total prize package of over $1800. The biggest race of the fair between Black Roxey and Grey Wolf attracted a crowd of over 5000 with thousands of dollars in bets exchanging hands over the event. Competition among women riders was especially stiff, and the prize for best overall rider included a custom made sidesaddle.
Agricultural exhibits and contests abounded as did exhibits intended to illustrate the changes occurring in each tribe since their move to Indian Territory. Over the course of the four-day event the International Indian Fair drew large crowds from numerous states, and it was said to have been bigger than the state fairs of Kansas or Texas. The event was hailed as a great success and began a tradition that lasted for nearly thirty years. Today, Spaulding Park in Muskogee occupies the grounds that once held the first even International Indian Fair, taking place this week in 1874.
I'm Steven Knoche Kite.
The Oklahoma Audio Almanac is joint production of the Oklahoma State University Library and Oklahoma's Public Radio.