Welcome to the 1941 Vermont State Fair!

Carnie at the Vermont State Fair in 1942 - Old historical pictures

All of the pictures on this page are from the 1941 Vermont State Fair in Rutland, VT. Photographer Jack Delano was on assignment with the Office of War Information when he took these pictures.

An Overview of the Vermont State Fairgrounds

This picture provides a nice overview of the Vermont State Fair and the attractions they had in 1941. Rides, freak shows, half-naked women and everything in between. Let’s head inside!

Touring the Midway

Walking into the fair you see the tent for “The World’s Largest Snake” and other sideshows that today would seem absolutely ridiculous to pay for. But hey, nowadays people pay to watch the Kardashians do tricks instead! Every generation has its sideshow acts.

Exploring the Vermont Fair

Here you see a rickety looking ferris wheel. Considering the high safety standards carnies have, we’re pretty sure it was perfectly safe.

Step Right Up… Test Your Strength!

The look on his face reeks of disappointment, but at least he tried.

Or Maybe Test Your Courage?

The fact that this ride existed in 1941 is pretty damn impressive. The first space shuttle, the Enterprise, didn’t make its first flight until more than 30 years later, in 1976. Maybe one of the kids who rode this grew up to be an actual astronaut. Maybe one of the kids who rode this fell out and died. The odds are probably equal.

Little Kids Anxiously Awaiting the Rides

The little girl looks nervous, but did you see that space shuttle ride? We would be nervous too. They probably tied you in with a rope, and there’s clearly no cage on the outside to prevent you from falling to your death. No wonder old people are so tough.

Waiting for Ride Tickets

The young boy looking at the camera does not look pleased. You would think he would be happy… being at the state fair and all. Seems teenagers have been full of angst in all the generations.

Avoid the Cameraman!

Whether the year is 1942 or 2017 one rule is the same. Never make eye contact with amusement park photographers. They’ll try, but just look at the ground or something. You’re not going to buy the picture.

Sneak Peak at “The Girlie Show”

The girl on the left lives life on the wildside. For one, she ran away and joined the circus. Secondly, she’s double fisting Coca-Colas. And it’s not even diet!

Getting Ready for the Girlie Show

A girlie show is exactly what it sounds like, provocatively dressed young women being paraded around on stage like sex objects, but remember, this is only 21 years after they got the right to vote. Baby steps.

Warmup Handstands

One of the girly girls is practicing her hand stands before the show, and what looks to be a young Fonzie is watching her off to the left hand side. We were unable to determine if he was a member of the T-Birds or the Scorpions.

Not Too Excited… Yet!

The girl on the left is apparently an ancestor of Janelle Monae. At least that’s our random guess of the day. You’re not paying us to read this article, so do the research yourself.

Now They’re Excited!

All it took was five bottles of coca-colas! The “girlie girls” are ready to perform.

One of the “Girlie Show” Girls Ready for the Stage

You’ll see this woman without the jacket in the next picture. Turn back now if you’re at work.

The “Girlie Girls” on Stage!

Just joking. We know all the men scrolled to this picture as fast as possible. We hope you were disappointed! She looks lovely in this full length dress. Girlie girls, indeed.

The Girls Coming Offstage

After having strangers search for any sign of skin, the women stepped off their trailer and sat in the grass until the next show. What a life. At least they were breathing in that delicious Vermont fresh air.

Lamenting the Elephant’s Fate

Even in the 1940’s, these people seem to be pitying that elephant. He literally looks like a piece of furniture. It cost ten cents for a child to ride, and fifteen cents for adults. But we’re sure he got all the peanuts he could eat. Luckily for society, we’ve come a long way in terms of how we treat animals for entertainment.

Saving Money With a Picnic Lunch

This nice couple took the economical route and shared a picnic lunch at their car outside of the fair. The carnie in the distance is planning how to pilfer more money from them to make up for the lost food revenue.

“Just Looking” at a Trailer

One thing that hasn’t changed about state fairs? They always have big expensive things for you to look at that you’ll never buy at a state fair. Hot tub display anyone?

Introducing the Sideshows

Step right up! See Teddy the wrestling bear! Maybe his opponent will get mauled today, maybe not! But you’ll have to pay five cents to find out! Let’s face it, this was probably the best five cents most people spent in their entire life.

The World’s Fattest Family

The sign says the father is a whopping 702 pounds, and they get skinnier from there. We don’t see a problem with the world’s fattest family, but we do see a problem with the fact that children under 12 are charged ten cents for this show, while the fighting bear was only five cents . What child would choose looking at fat people over seeing a bear wrestle? You can see plenty of fat people in Vermont for free.

The Biracial Twins!

This is why we think it’s Janelle Monae’s ancestor in the previous picture. The signs on the tent say, “First in medical history” and “Meet the mother”. The “barker” is standing in front of a podium that shows a headline cutout from The Sunday News. The whole headline isn’t legible but you can see the word “black”. It seems like they were exhibiting a white and black baby and calling them biracial twins.

The sign also says “one brown eyes”, “one blue eyes”. Biracial twins are definitely a real thing, so this may have been one of the few sideshows at the fair that wasn’t a straight up lie.

Pitch Till You Win!

A group of kids attempting to “pitch till they win”. The game cost ten cents, so the prizes must be worth five cents or less, which leads to the question, how much do parents value their children feeling like a winner for a few seconds?

The answer? At least five cents.

Big Winnah!

Clearly this girl played a game that cost more than ten cents, that stuffed animal is impressive. This is the 1940’s version of carrying a huge stuffed bear around on your back at Six Flags.

Watching the Trapeze Artists

These people are sitting on a bench watching the high flying trapeze artists… patiently waiting to find out if they’re going to watch someone die today.

Trapeze Artists Tempting Fate

We can’t see past the cars, but we like to think they had no net. At a time when safety standards were clearly lacking, the risk these performers took had to be enormous, but at least they didn’t get stuck working the girlie girls trailer.

Patiently Waiting

This trio looks cool as hell. They’re probably watching the trapeze artists too, but judging by the way the guy in front is dressed, we’d wager money on them anxiously awaiting the next event….

The Horse Races!

To be accurate, they’re actually called sulky races. Sulky racing involves a jockey sitting in a lightweight cart with two wheels that is then attached to the horse, and they get dragged behind the horse and see who can go the fastest. But before we can find out who won today’s events, you have to place your bets first.

The Crowd is Ready!

They’re eager with anticipation! Except the ladies in front. They look pretty bored.

The Bets Are Ready!

This guy clearly just called in the fix.

The Old Men Are Ready!

Got his cigar and his life savings on a horse. The good old days.

And They’re Off!

This is stressing us out. WHO’S GOING TO WIN?!

And the Winner Is…

Whoever got to see that bear wrestle for five cents! That’s only 82 cents accounting for inflation! What a value. If you’ve ever seen a bear wrestle for less than that, please contact us and let us know so we can add your experience to this story.