This section is from the book "The Gardener's Monthly And Horticulturist V24", by Thomas Meehan. See also: Four-Season Harvest: Organic Vegetables from Your Home Garden All Year Long.
On page 320 of the Gardener's Monthly, for October, you ask why do not exhibitors exhibit, and say that those engaged in getting up exhibitions have generally to get on their knees and beg of exhibitors to send something to the fair, etc. Now, I had an idea that editors were well posted persons on all subjects, and that the editor of the Gardener's Monthly was the best informed man among them all. But I regret to see that I have been mistaken.
Why exhibitors do not exhibit is simply because the premiums are not enough to cover the expenses. Allow me to give yourself and readers some incidents of personal experience. In September, 1876, at the Pennsylvania Horticultural Society's autumnal fair, I exhibited one hundred varieties of succulents, consisting of Echeverias, Sempervivums and Cotyledons - many of them were new plants shown for the first time, and were growing in four, six and eight-inch pots. The cost of getting them to and from the hall, cleaning the pots and labeling the plants, was as follows :
Two men one day each (at $1.50 per day), $3.00; one load furniture car to hall, $1.00; one load furniture car from hall, $1.00; one hundred large labels for plants, $1.00 ; one man one-half day returning with plants, etc.,75 cents; making a total expense of $6.75. This exhibit covered about one hundred and fifty square feet of table room, and, although it was the centre of attraction, the committee for awarding prizes gave a special premium of only $2.00. You will readily see that I was likely to be $4.75 out of pocket. But be it said, to the credit of the secretary of the society, that he was so ashamed of the action of the committee that he made up the deficiency out of his own private purse; but exhibitors do not always come out so well, and consequently will not bring their best productions to the exhibition.
Last year, at the State Fair of the Pennsylvania Agricultural Society, I exhibited fifty distinct varieties of Coleuses, grown in eight-inch flower pots, and, after sending a man to water them every other day during the fair, which lasted two weeks, I received the munificent sum of $3.00 for my prize - about one-fourth the price of the production of the specimens, and certainly not half the price paid for the plants, as many of them were new varieties.
Again, look at the Chester County's Agricultural Society premium list of the State Fair, held at West Chester in September. For greenhouse plants (strong growing collections), first prize, $5.00; second, $3.00; while for the Bicycle race the first prize was $20.00; second, $10.00. For designs of cut flowers for table decoration the first prize was $2.00; the second, $1.00; while for the best carriage afghan of zephyr work, which any one could roll up and carry under his arm, a prize of $3.00 was given for the best, and $2.00 for the next best.
Now this kind of treatment is not very encouraging for horticulturists to bring their best productions to the various exhibitions, and, as long as the prizes will not cover the expenses, exhibitors will be scarce.
It is all very well for those who have the getting up of exhibitions in charge to tell exhibitors that it acts as a good, free advertisement, thus bringing their names more fully before the public, etc., etc.; but the most of exhibitors - at least all of the commercial ones - are willing to pay for printer's ink for that purpose, and generally do so.