Iowa City’s newspaper man of the 1880’s – Herbert Snowden (H.S.) Fairall – was born on July 27, 1854 in Keysers Ridge, Maryland (see below). The youngest of nine children, H.S. – at age 8 (1862) – moved westward with his family to Iowa City. Records don’t indicate what his father did for a living here, but like so many others in the 1850’s, Truman & Mary Fairall made Johnson County their home, and little Herbert certainly made a good name for himself over the next 40 years.
Quite the educated man, H.S. Fairall received a degree in Liberal Arts and Law from SUI, and later, a Masters in Art as well. In May of 1881, just as the ownership of The Iowa City Republican was transitioning, 27-year old Fairall was hired to serve as the general editor and manager – a position he held for 13 years – until May of 1894 – taking only a small eight-month break in 1883-1884 to coordinate Iowa’s participation in the 1884 World Exposition in New Orleans. But more on that later.
Read more about the history of The Iowa City Daily Republican here.
Besides the editorial work associated with a daily newspaper, H.S. was also actively involved in the political scene across Iowa and the nation. In 1881, he published a highly-popular book on Iowa politics – The Manual Of Iowa Politics – with annual revisions published through 1884…
Of course, his Iowa City Daily Republican was a great place to publish the bevy of positive comments coming in regularly from across the state…
As an Iowa City historian myself, I’m so glad that Fairall, as editor, also convinced his good friend, and long-time Johnson County pioneer – Cyrus Sanders – to begin writing a regular article for The Republican around 1880. As 63-year-old Sanders combined his first-hand knowledge with his wit and wisdom, Fairall published almost all of his material, and Iowa Citians absolutely loved it. Knowing that the Sanders’ column was helping to sell newspapers, Fairall also created a new department at The Republican, calling it Early Iowa, with Cyrus as the primary contributor for material. Read more here.
As we mentioned earlier, Fairall took an eight-month break (1883-1884) from his editor’s position in Iowa City in order to give his undivided attention to his new role as Iowa Commissioner for The World’s Industrial & Cotton Centennial Exposition coming to New Orleans in December 1884.
Many believe that it was the 1893 World’s Fair in Chicago – the Columbian Exposition – that truly set off a long string of memorable World’s Fairs held around the U.S. between the 1890’s and 1960’s. On other posts, we’ve discussed Iowa’s involvement with –
The 1893 Chicago World’s Fair…
The 1898 World Exposition in Omaha…
The 1904 St. Louis World’s Fair…
The 1933 Chicago World’s Fair…
But, in all honesty, there were two earlier World’s Fairs/Expositions that caught the attention of Americans. In 1876, on the centennial of the signing of the Declaration of Independence, Philadelphia held a highly-successful Centennial Exposition, which stirred leaders around the country to think about similar events in their part of the country. Eight years later, in 1884, the city of New Orleans – looking to heal some of the deep wounds that remained from the Civil War – decided to host the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition. The theme was a natural one as 100 years earlier, the first bale of cotton had been shipped from America to England.
Without a doubt, the Exposition planners thought big – building a main exhibition building (above right) which measured 1,378 feet by 905 feet – thirty-three acres under roof – and, at the time, it was the most expansive building of its day. Adjacent to this main structure was a Horticultural Hall – 600 feet by 194 feet – which was the largest greenhouse (below) in the world!
Meanwhile – back In Iowa City – on January 1, 1884, the Governor of Iowa – like all the state governors around the U.S. – received an official invitation for the State of Iowa to have an exhibit at the New Orleans event. So, on January 10th, Iowa City’s Herbert S. Fairall was invited to be the State Commissioner overseeing Iowa’s involvement. And, as you can see from our rare postal cover below, Fairall said yes, and over the next year, he made sure all the details came together for Iowa’s massive exhibit at the fair – which was originally scheduled to begin on December 1, 1884.
Like the fair itself, there were major setbacks throughout 1884 that made planning difficult for Fairall and his committee co-chair – John S. Ely from Cedar Rapids. Delays in New Orleans pushed the grand opening back to mid-December, but the biggest snafu here in Iowa hit on December 1st, just days before the fair had been re-scheduled to begin.
The Burlington, Cedar Rapids & Northern Railway was transporting two rail cars filled to the brim with exhibit materials headed to New Orleans. And, according to newspaper accounts (see below), there was a major derailment that pretty much destroyed all of the contents of those cars, leaving Fairall and his team to scramble to find a solution – which apparently, they did!
As we said, this hiccup in Burlington was only a small one in comparison to the larger problems at the fair. Unfortunately for the Exposition, those big ideas and big pavilions the committee planned, nearly sank the project. And while the fair did attract over one-million visitors, it was constantly in financial turmoil, which prompted a late opening and a fairground with unfinished buildings and exhibits. As far as mismanagement goes – look at this! E.A. Burke, the Director-General of the Exposition, embezzled $2 million in state funds, and by the fair’s end – in 1885 – had to flee to Europe. Apparently, Burke was not very good at construction as well, as the private hotel he was building for the fair – Burke’s Hotel – collapsed before the December 16th opening!
All these troubles, of course, caused bad press, which, in turn, dampened attendance. Interestingly, the fair’s troubles did have an unintended positive consequence for New Orleans, however. Journalists who were in town to report on the Exposition, wrote, instead, about some of the other exotic features of New Orleans, from the wharf district to the French Quarter, which, long-term, brought more tourists to the area than the fair!
When it was all said and done, Iowa’s part in the New Orleans Exposition came off as a huge success, leaving Iowans very satisfied with the work Fairall and his team had done. For some nice light reading, you can check out his two massive volumes published after the event closed on June 1, 1885…
Iowa at the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial and the North, Central and South American Expositions, New Orleans, 1884-6 – 168 pages!
The World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition, New Orleans, 1884-85 – 450 pages!
As we said earlier, H.S. Fairall remained at his editor’s position at The Iowa City Republican through May of 1894. While in Iowa City, Herbert and his wife – Lillie S. Adams of Solon (married in 1876) – had three children – two of which lived into adulthood – Herbert S. Fairall, Jr. (1878-1914), Henrietta Fairall (1879-1977), and Kirk Fairall (1882-1887).
Around 1900, at age 46, Herbert decided to move north to Wisconsin, settling first in Superior, where he became the owner/editor of the Superior Leader newspaper. A few of years later, he took the position of Secretary for the Northern Wisconsin Farmers Association in Iron River. While in Milwaukee on business, on May 13, 1907, H.S. Fairall suddenly died, at the young age of 52. Below are some of the many articles written around the loss of this influential newspaperman.
Lillie Adams Fairall (1856 -1927) and Herbert Snowden Fairall (1854-1907) are both buried in Oakland Cemetery in Iowa City. In closing, here’s a salute to H.S. Fairall – Iowa City’s Newspaperman of the 1880’s.
Kudos to the amazing resources below for the many quotes, photographs, etc. used on this page.
H.S. Fairall & Family, 1880 US Census, Ancestry.com
H.S. Fairall-Iowa City Republican, History of Johnson County, Iowa, 1883, p 370
H.S. Fairall-Iowa City Republican, C.R. Aurner, Leading events in Johnson County, Iowa, 1912, pp 556-557
H.S. Fairall-The Iowa Methodist, History of Johnson County, 1883, p 376
Mr. Sander’s Sketches, Iowa City Republican, January 7, 1881, p 3
Manual of Iowa Politics, Iowa City Republican, September 27, 1881, p 1, 2, 8
Manual of Iowa Politics, Iowa City Republican, October 28, 1881, p 4
Just The Thing & The Manual of Iowa Politics, Iowa City Republican, July 2, 1884, p 2
New Orleans, United States 1884-5, World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition, Americasbesthistory.com
Iowa at the World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial and the North, Central and South American Expositions, New Orleans, 1884-6, Herbert S. Fairall, George E. Roberts/Des Moines, 1885
The World’s Industrial and Cotton Centennial Exposition, New Orleans, 1884-85, Herbert S. Fairall, Republican Publishing Co./Iowa City, 1885
Iowa’s Wrecked Exhibit, Iowa City Republican, December 2, 1884, p 3
H.S. Fairall Dies In The North, Iowa City Daily Press, May 13, 1907, p 8
Former Editor Called Beyond, Iowa City Republican, May 13, 1907, p 5
H.S. Fairall Died Suddenly, Iowa Citizen, May 13, 1907, p 1
Honored Man Laid To Rest, Iowa City Daily Press, May 18, 1907, p 5
Lillie Adams Fairall, Find-A-Grave
Herbert Snowden Fairall, Find-A-Grave
Click here to go on to the next section…
Click here for a complete INDEX of Our Iowa Heritage stories…