Author: specialcol


Tonight’s McCracken County Fair events are scheduled to include both a talent show and the Western horse show, but in 1910 a very different type of competition took place at the fair among the farmers of Western Kentucky.

That competition was a tobacco growers’ contest and the September 28, 1910 issue of the Paducah Evening Sun rightly called the dark tobacco market of Western Kentucky, “the keenest rivalry of the entire exhibits at the fairgrounds.”

It was noted at the time that the finest tobacco growing out of the fertile soil of the Jackson Purchase traditionally came from Ballard, Graves, Marshall, and Calloway counties. However, the 1910 fair saw two McCracken County farmers pull off a surprising upset over the perennial powerhouse tobacco farmers of Western Kentucky.

A tobacco barn

The two planters in question were none other than J.W. Harris and his son Earl, who took home five out of the six prizes for tobacco that year. No small feat, considering the rich, tobacco growing history of the region. The Harris duo took home first place and second place for their Italian tobacco, first place for manufactured tobacco, first place for Snuff, and also won for samples numbering over 100.

The monetary earnings of the Harris’ prizes aggregated to $100, a sum that numbers to over $2,000 of today’s dollars when accounting for inflation, and their first-rate tobacco netted them other gifts as well. All in all, the father and son’s hard work translated into a well-deserved pay day for two Kentucky farmers.

For more information about the McCracken County Fair, the history of tobacco farming in Western Kentucky, or the history of our region in general, please visit us at the McCracken County Public Library Local and Family History Department.


–Aaron Williams

SCHMAUS BROTHERS FLORIST – “Biggest Floral Firm in Western Kentucky.”


Looking for a place to purchase spring flowers? If you were living in Paducah in 1909 (or anywhere else in the surrounding area, for that matter) then you would have looked no further than Schmaus Brothers Florists. William H. F. and Henry Schmaus had all the spring gardening plants you could imagine.

Schmaus Brothers Florists was located on Broadway, opposite Labelle Park (later known as Wallace Park) in Arcadia. This area had a long history of gardening and by 1904 the Schmaus brothers had established their greenhouses into a leading business in McCracken County.

According to the Paducah Evening Sun, April 8, 1909, “They produce every kind of flower including exotics, bedding plants, vines, foliage plants, shrubs, ferns and palms.” With beautiful varieties of Chrysanthemums, roses, tulips, weeping Lantana, geraniums and many others, Schmaus brothers had on hand at all times 100,000 to 125,000 potted plants and 20,000 to 25,000 geraniums. In 1909, their greenhouses included 5,000 feet of steam pipes and 50,000 square feet of glass. Possibly best known for the taking care of the beautiful landscaping around the McCracken County Court House as well as the numerous stations of the N.C. and St L. Railroad between Paducah and Memphis, TN, Schmaus Brothers were the leading landscape artist in the West Kentucky and West Tennessee.

To read more on the Schmaus Brothers, click on the following link provided by the Library of Congress, Chronicling America, or come see us at the McCracken County Public Library.

Photograph appears in, “‘Paducah’ The City Beautiful,” pg. 13

Some things never change.