The Lone Star Fair of 1852

The First State Fair


Henry Kinney, founder of Corpus Christi, made a fortune when Zachary Taylor’s army was here. But in 1851, he was looking for a way to attract immigrants who would buy some of his thousands of acres. He decided to hold the Lone Star Fair, partly to honor Corpus Christi’s incorporation as a city.

Kinney distributed thousands of handbills advertising the fair; he expected 20,000 people to attend. The fair opened on May 1, 1852. A reporter wrote that 2,000 strangers were in town to see horse races, bull fights, and cock-fighting. Maltby’s Circus put on nightly performances to an audience of frontiersmen, Indians, vaqueros, gamblers, and gun-slingers.

An exhibition hall displayed saddles, bridles, blankets, agricultural and livestock exhibits. An award for the finest cotton went to Kinney’s wife Mary, for cotton grown on the Oso. Gail Borden (who would later invent condensed milk) won a prize for his meat biscuit. People who would become famous in Texas history attended the fair, such as Rip Ford, Sally Skull, Legs Lewis, and Capt. Richard King.

Still, the fair and its promotion had a lasting impact. Immigrants attracted here in 1852 became some of this region’s most influential settlers, here in Corpus Christi, and especially in the sheep country of the Nueces Valley. Richard King, who owned a string of riverboats on the Rio Grande with his partner Mifflin Kenedy, came north to attend the fair, riding over a sea of rich knee-high grass that stretched as far as he could see. King got the idea of starting a ranch, it is believed, while he was camped one night by a little stream called the Santa Gertrudis.

Now the state fair is held in Dallas every October.


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