A slice of Michigan racing’s past

While we wait (and wait, and wait) for Michigan racing to right the ship or sink, I’d like to share a small piece of the state’s racing history I managed to snag on eBay.

As mentioned in a previous post, a pair of racing programs from the 1924 Alpena County Fair were offered on the online auction website, and I was the winning bidder.

Considering the age and use of the programs, they are in very good condition. The programs consist of a single piece of heavy stock paper folded down the middle to resemble a book. I believe elementary school students call this “hamburger style”.

Inside the programs are the entries for four races. Two are clearly marked pace events. The other two are a tad more ambiguous. The “County Race” and “Free For All Run” are race conditions I am unfamiliar with – harness or otherwise.

The highest published purse on the day’s card was a whopping $300. Using the Inflation Calculator, that purse would be equal to about $3,791.48 at last year’s rates. For a fair circuit track in rural northeast Michigan, that’s not bad at all.

Period-specific idiosyncrasies are plentiful in the programs. One can hardly argue with a 35-cent lunch or a men’s suit for $28.50. The two and three-digit phone numbers must have been easy to memorize, as well, when one needed to call the Studebaker Motor Cars dealer or the local radio shop.

For less than five bucks, these programs provided an interesting snapshot of the state’s fair racing scene, and that of its surrounding community. It was definitely worth the purchase, and I am happy to share it with my readers.

Today, the number of county fairs in Michigan still hosting harness racing is dwindling, but they are still out there. I have yet to attend any of the state’s fair races, but I intend to do something about that this summer – especially if it is my only option.

If any readers have any stories or fond recollections of racing on Michigan’s fair circuit, they are more than welcome to share them.

Behind the jump are photos of the racing program from the 1924 Alpena County Fair

The program’s cover. It’s good to know that if one required a cab, they only needed to remember two numbers.

The inside of the program. Four races, 24 horses, and apparently, snappy, courteous service from O’Callaghan Bros. Druggists.

Whoever had this program at the races took impressive race notes, with positions and times for each point of call. In a world without Equibase, race fans had to call their own charts. What a time we live in.

The back of the program.


Filed under Pictures

4 responses to “A slice of Michigan racing’s past

  1. Tom Schram

    Fascinating post. Really good stuff. I wish they had listed breeding info on the entries. Thanks for sharing.


  2. greg

    I love stuff like this. I still have a few programs from the 70’s from ND, Hazel, and Wolverine (DRC) . Whenever I get nostalgic I grab one or two of them and look back at my start of my love affair with racing. Thanks for sharing this neat buy.

  3. mibredclaimer

    Thanks! I was a little bummed that there wasn’t more information, too. Then again, those horses probably just came off people’s farms back in the day. Official paperwork was probably hard to find outside of “What do you call that one?”

    I always enjoy looking through my old programs, too. Even if it is just an MPM program from last year, it brings back an awful lot of good memories.

  4. jeannette mainville

    Hello My Dad was John Mainville from Alpena and I have alot of old programs from the fairs, Hale michigan and Cheboygan, Standish T.C. Love the good days when my Dad and Brothers raced the fairs, my favorite fair will always be Hale Michigan, with Warren and his Dad Elwood .

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s