ebook  History of Watertown, Wisconsin


Fair Day

Market Day

Farmers Market


Leopold Kadish ran a general store and introduced fair day, the Viehmarket,

on the second Tuesday of the month.






1973 review article

May 5, 1973 — Watertown Daily Times


'Viehmarkt' or Cattle Fair or Fair Day

Dates Back over 100 Years


One of Watertown's oldest community projects dates back 100 years or more and has been continued down to the present time without a break.  It is the monthly fair day, held every month in the year on the second Tuesday [1973].


This old European marketing custom was introduced into Watertown by one Leopold Kadisch in the early 1850's.  It was known then as "Viehmarkt" or "Cattle Fair."


Out of it grew the present custom of farmers from far and near to gather in Watertown, on the second Tuesday of each month, bringing with them horses, cattle of all grades and descriptions, hogs, dogs, chickens, geese, ducks, dairy products and vegetables and even grain, which were displayed on all the principal downtown streets of the city where they were offered for sale.  In the early days dealers from Milwaukee and Chicago sent representatives here each month to buy up such stock and supplies.  It was a day of sharp bargains and amusing street scenes.  At one time the Market Street area was the central spot for such fairs.  Over the years the center gradually shifted to streets north of Main Street and now [1973] the fair centers in an area bounded by Madison Street on the south, North Fourth Street on the east and North Second Street on the west and running to the north as far as North Second Street bridge when really large fairs are held.


Horses and cattle are no longer offered for sale on the street, but there is poultry and all kinds of garden vegetables and flowers in season, fancywork, honey, apples, and other fruits in season.  In recent years the fair has emphasized its importance as a pig and hog market, with dealers coming from several neighboring states and as well as from all parts of Wisconsin itself.


The day of the gypsy and the horse trader is gone and many of the colorful characters that frequented these early cattle fairs have vanished, too.  But even today an occasional "pitchman" sets up his stand and proceeds to sell his goods, ranging from devices that are "guaranteed" to give greater automobile mileage to a gallon of gasoline, to snake oil and herb salves.


A published account of one of the early fairs reports "Farmers' wives and daughters drive both the cattle and the bargains and can twist the candle appendage of an unruly calf with a grace and effect that would turn an Arkansas bullwacker green with envy . . . Venders of peanuts, candies, etc., prize the Viehmarkt as highly as they do a circus, and the festive monte man is usually on hand, in search of victims . . ."


The fair has changed greatly over the years and it's been a long time since police received a complaint of anyone being victimized by a sharpie.  It has become and is one of Watertown's most firmly established community events, and will probably go on as long as there are sellers and buyers, which should be to the end of time.


1855       PRIOR TO FAIR DAY

01 11       Watertown Market

Our streets have now a very brisk business appearance owing to the large quantities of wheat, pork, beef, poultry, produce, and other commodities, that are being brought here from the surrounding country.   An almost continuous and unbroken line of teams on every fair day may be seen slowly winding their way into our city, or more rapidly leaving it.  These teams bring heavy loads of grain, or whatever else the owner has to dispose of, and go away with such articles as he may have a wish for.  Our farmers are beginning to find it not necessary to go to Milwaukee, or any where else, either to sell their surplus on the best terms or to supply their own wants on the cheapest rates.   WD



06 21       Town Fairs

It would be a great advantage to the agricultural portion of the community if these exhibitions of farm products could be made more frequent and become more general.  They recently held one in Jefferson at the farm of Lambert Ruth, some three miles east of the village, which according to the Jeffersonian was a complete success.  Five hundred farmers and stock growers were present with their choicest animals, and some seventy or eighty sales and exchanges were made.  They intend to have another exhibition of the same character on the 7th of August.  The benefits arising from gatherings of this kind must be obvious to all and we hope to see other towns in the county follow the example set by Jefferson.  It is one worthy of being imitated.   WD


09 07       Cattle Show and Fair

We understand that several of our enterprising citizens have established a cattle show, to be held in this city every three months, commencing on the first Saturday in October next, for the benefit of farmers, drovers [person whose occupation is the driving of sheep or cattle, especially to and from market] and cattle dealers generally.


Such an institution has long been needed here and the wonder is that it has not been organized before.  There is a large extent of country around Watertown that much of necessity find a market here, for all its surplus products, and our citizens should afford the farmer every facility and inducement in their power to come here and make this what it can easily be made to be, a great market place.


These cattle shows have been instituted in several of the surrounding towns, and so are as we have been informed in the matter, they have been attended with good results.  They bring together a large number of farmers and cattle dealers, who buy, sell, and trade generally, in horses, cattle sheep, and other kinds of live stock. 


The facilities of transportation from here to Milwaukee, Chicago, and to all points North and West of us, are such that when these fairs or market days become once established and known, as they should be, buyers from all these points can come together as they probably will, to make purchases and exchanges of stock and Watertown will become a place of resort with those in this vicinity who have any business of that kind they which to transact.  We trust our friends will bear this matter in mind and remember that an exhibition of this kind will positively take place here the first Saturday in October. [precursor to Viehmarket or fair day event]   WR


10 12       The Cattle and Horse Fair

The exposition of cattle and horses in this city last Saturday was more extensive than anyone had reason to expect it would be. We certainly did not think that the turnout would be so general, nor did we believe that the getters up of the affair had any idea of that kind themselves. 


According to the account as kept by the gentlemen appointed for that purpose, the following figures show precisely the extent of the day's transactions . . .


This, under all the circumstances, we consider a grand achievement, and makes these Fairs permanent institutions of our city.  There were many nice oxen and cows on exhibition, but the display of horses was not so fine.  We believe everyone who was present and took part in the affair seemed to be satisfied of the feasibility and importance of the plan adopted.  It is proposed to have another exhibition of the same kind on Wednesday, the 7th of November, to continue on the eighth, if it is deemed advisable by those present on the first day.  We look for a still better show of stock then, and a greater number of purchasers than were here on Saturday.  Everyone can see at a glance that on such an occasion as this people who want to buy anything in the line of cattle or horses can suit themselves better than in any other way, for there is a great variety and all kinds from which to select.  The arrangement is an admirable one for all parties interested in a benefit to the city at large.  We hope it will continue to meet with the encouragement it deserves at the hands of the public.   WR


11 02       A Second Cattle and Horse Fair

It will be borne in mind, we trust, that the second fair for the sale of cattle, horses and stock of all kinds, comes off in the city next Wednesday.  We hope there will be a good turnout and that the exhibition will be a fine one.  Persons wishing to purchase a good yoke of cattle, horse, or any kind of stock will do well to be on hand.   WR


11 16       Cattle and Horse Fair

The second livestock exhibition and sale in the city came off on Wednesday and Thursday of last week, according to previous notice.  It was not as well attended as the preceding one, though the attendance was quite large and exhibition in all respects as fine as could have been expected under the circumstances. We do not think the selection of time was a very good one, being as it was the day after the election, when people, as a general thing, are too much absorbed in other matters to attend anything in the way of fairs.  Mr. Martin Hoph, who kept an account of the sales, reports the following as the results of the days transactions.


There were sold, 25 milk cows, 84 head of working and beef cattle, and 13 horses.  Total amount of sales, $3309.  We call this a pretty good day's business.  There can be no doubt as to the practicality of the plan adopted for bringing buyer and seller together, and the benefits arising from it.  We look upon these exhibitions as just the thing for dealers in stock and trust they have become permanent institutions in our city.   WR


11 30       Livestock Fair

We understand there will be another exhibition and sale of horses, cattle and livestock generally, in the city, on the 12th next month.  Farmers and others interested will do well to bear this in mind.   WR



02 28       The seventh live stock fair for the sale and exhibition of horses and cattle will be held in this city Tuesday, the 12th of March next.  This is now regarded as one of the established institutions of Watertown.  If the weather proves favorable a good opportunity will be offered to sellers of stock, as a large number of purchasers are expected to be here on that occasion.   WD

03 14       The live stock fair, last Thursday, was well attended.  We do not think there has been a larger collection at any previous exhibition.  We are informed that the transactions of the day amounted to more than three thousand dollars.  The streets were crowded with cattle and everything had a business appearance.  We think it really worth while to make better arrangements for accommodating those who visit these fairs and bring their stock here for sale.  That they bring considerable trade to the city there can be no doubt, and those who are thus benefited can afford to contribute something to make their enterprise a permanent one.   WD

03 28       The next regular live stock fair will be held in this city next Tuesday, the 2nd of April.  It will be an election day but that need not interfere.  Vote first, then attend the fair, sell your stock, and return home and learn the news.  All can be done very easy.   WD

03 28       A trotting course — Some of our owners and dealers of splendid horses propose to add to the attractions of the live stock fair that is now regularly held here, a race course for the purpose of trying the speed of their nags and testing their qualities.  We learn that appropriate ground for this purpose can be very easily procured and two hundred dollars have been pledged to grade a road of suitable length.  Let the thing be carried out.  It will have a tendency to draw together more buyers and a sight now and then of a famous, fancy, or swift-footed traveler won’t hurt any body.  We are in favor of the race course..   WD

04 04       The regular live stock fair will take place in this city next Tuesday, the 9th – we made a mistake in stating the day last week.  The SECOND TUESDAY of each month has been agreed on as the time for holding these exhibitions for the display and sale of horses and cattle.  Let all come who want to buy, sell, or see a large collection of fine stock.  WD

04 11       The live stock fair last Tuesday was well attended, considering the roads and weather.  There was a large amount of stock on the ground and most of it of a superior quality.  The next exhibition will take place on the 14th of May when we hope there will be fairer skies and better going.  WD

05 02       CITY FAIR

The next Live Stock Fair will be held in this city on Tuesday the 14th inst.  The success which has attended these exhibitions has been decided and encouraging.  Those who have cattle or horses for sale will be sure to find buyers here on the appointed day.  A better opportunity for disposing of good stock cannot be found.  WD

09 05       LIVE STOCK FAIR

The next Fair for the exhibition and sale of live stock will be held in this city on Thursday, the 10th.  The hurrying season of harvest being about over, farmers will have more time to attend to other things.  Those who wish to sell or buy horses and cattle should be present.  Dealers from abroad may be expected to make purchases.  The buyer and seller can meet on these occasions, the one supplying what the other wants, and make their transactions on the spot.  Such opportunities are advantageous to both parties, and if rightly managed, may be the means of saving much time and trouble.  We hope we shall see a large attendance and find display of all kinds of livestock.  Let us have a lively market day.  WD

12 12       The Live Stock Fair last Tuesday, notwithstanding the muddy going, was well attended.  The representation of all kinds of live stock was large and buying and selling went on very briskly.  These fairs have proved a decided success and are of sufficient importance and advantage to our city to induce those interested to take some steps towards providing better accommodations for those who attend them from a distance.  The expense of fitting up some convenient place for this purpose would not be very great and the means might very easily be raised by a little effort.  Several hundred head of cattle and horses ranged along the streets, and men tramping about all day in the mud, when the weather happens to be unfavorable, is not a very pleasant spectacle, though it may give an appearance of business and activity not unpleasant to witness occasionally.  WD



03 13       Live Stock Fair.  The Live Stock Fair held in this city last Tuesday was very numerously attended.  We are not sure but there were more horses and cattle on the ground than have ever been exhibited on a similar occasion.  Considerable portions of Main, Third and Fourth streets were lined with oxen, cows and colts.  Another noticeable feature of this display was the remarkably fine condition of most of the stock for this season of the year.  Nearly every animal had a full, healthy, well-fed, well-kept appearance, that showed its owner properly appreciated the value of his property.  As near as we can learn, however, the trading was not very extensive.  Holders demanded higher prices than buyers were inclined to give.  Dealers looked upon the chances of speculation as a little dubious, and were inclined to be cautious.  There is evidently an upward tendency in the price of live stock, but how long it will continue is very uncertain.   WD


12 11       The Live Stock Fair was well attended yesterday but it is difficult to tell whether there was more live than dead stock in the streets.  Horses and cattle were plenty but the loads of dead hogs, mostly of the heaviest and best breeds, were unusually numerous.  Trading went on briskly and a large amount of property changed hands, the prices averaging high figures.  We are glad to see so many farmers taking an interest in these monthly gatherings for the display and sale of stock.  They offer excellent opportunities to observe the varieties of stock in this vicinity and the manner in which they are kept up.   WD



09 10       Live Stock – The first live stock fair since the commencement of harvest was held in this city Tuesday.  There was an unusually numerous attendance and all kinds of live stock were exhibited in abundance.  A good deal of trading occurred and both buyers and sellers find these fairs a decided convenience and advantage.   WD




Monthly fairs are useful in their proper place, but Main Street is not the proper place to hold them.  The practice of lining each side of the street with cattle, obstructing the cross walks with a mixed crowd of men and animals so to make them impassable, ought to be stopped at once.  The city authorities should put an end to these exhibitions on our principal thoroughfare of business and travel without delay.  There are places enough where these fairs can be held without annoyance to the whole city.  As they are now conducted they are a common nuisance and disgrace and should be located at some convenient point where those interested can derive every benefit from them – and those not escape the evils now attending them.  In all events, they should be banished from Main Street immediately – not another should be permitted there.  This thing has been carried far enough, against the will and wishes of nine-tenths of the community.    WD



By Ald. Moak, report from Committee on Streets and Bridges, on Cattle Fair, with the following resolution:


Resolved, That Third Street in the First and Second wards is hereby designated as the place where the monthly Cattle Fair shall hereafter be held in this city and that it shall be the duty of the City Marshall to notify persons bringing stock in at such times for sale or exhibition that said Third Street has been designated and that it shall be further the duty of the Marshall to keep Main Street clear of all manner of obstructions so that a free and uninterrupted passage for teams and pedestrians may be secured at all times.  Adopted.   WD


06 09       THE NEXT FAIR

It has been suggested that the next County Fair be held in this city, the only objection urged against the proposition is that Watertown is not so central a point as might be found.  This is true, but Watertown and neighboring communities are on the rails and it is such that our city is about as accessible to those who usually attend the fair and contribute to its success as any other place.  Mr. F. Cooley has recently built a fine trotting course and with little expense his grounds could be easily fitted for the purpose.  At all events, as the experiment would be as likely to succeed here as any where, we hope it will be tried.   WD



The Next Live Stock Fair.  We are requested to state that the next Live Stock Fair will be held on Thursday, the 10th of November, in consequence of the regular day coming on the day of election, which takes place on the 8th.  Those interested in this exhibition will please notice the change and act accordingly.  It would be rather too much for the people, both in the city and country, to have two big things to attend to at the same time.  The Election first — the Cattle Fair afterwards.   WD



The monthly live stock fair was held in this city last Tuesday.  The day being warm and pleasant, early in the morning the farmers began to come from the country with their horses and cattle and before noon the streets were filled and crowded.  As usual there was brisk trading, which continued all day.  This fair is an excellent thing for buying and selling stock, but it is a nuisance to our streets.  It is a pity that some more convenient place cannot be found for holding it than in the very center of our city.  This evil ought to be remedied at once.   WD



11 16       THE CATTLE FAIR - -The cattle fair, adjourned from Tuesday of last week, on account of the election, was held on Saturday last, and was the most numerously attended fair of the year. The display of cattle was large, and more than the usual number of horses was offered for sale. Buyers of horse-flesh, however, were scarce, and there was very little demand. About 250 head of horned cattle were sold, all in good condition, and we understand brought good prices.   WR



01 11       The usual monthly cattle fair was held on Tuesday of this week and the streets at certain points were blocked up with men, women and cattle.  There did not appear to be much nerve among the buyers and less apparent among the sellers of stock.  In fact sales all through the day hung fire, and on the whole it was rather an unanimated market.   WR



12 21       Two professional auctioneers, named Geo. L. Clinton and R. Simons, who conducted their business on the “Cheap John" principle, were arrested by Marshal Cunningham on last fair day, on complaint of selling goods at auction without a license.  At first they were taken before Judge Baird, but were subsequently removed on a change of venue before Justice Krebs.  The trail came off last Friday, when they were convicted and sentenced to pay a fine of $100 each and costs.   WD   1876 (or 78)




The May cattle fair was held yesterday and our streets presented a lively appearance, although the amount of stock brought in was not as large as at some of the previous fairs this season.  There was a show of excellent horses and high prices were paid for the best of them.  There appears to be a great demand for horse flesh for the Milwaukee and Chicago markets and buyers have become aware that good animals can usually be obtained at the Watertown fair.  For the purchase of cattle Watertown has had a long and well established reputation from dealers.     WR  




A most disgraceful feature of fair day on Tuesday was a woman in a beastly state of intoxication.  Her friends, after trying in vain to keep her in the wagon to go home, were at last obliged to tie her.  Affecting in the extreme was the sight of a little girl who wept bitterly for her mother to come.  This woman lives in Concord.  Her husband recently met an accidental death.   WG  




The monthly cattle fair yesterday was the largest attended of any held for a long time, the streets being crowded all day.  The good sleighing was a strong inducement for people to come to town.  Horses were more numerous than anything else offered for sale.     WR



04 06       DON"T MISS FAIR DAY

Tuesday, April 12.  One of the most interesting features of the day will be an exhibition, at Kusel's Hardware Store, of the Norcross Butter Separator, a scientific wonder invented in 1897.  It is not a cream separator nor a churn, but a simple machine which removes the pure butter oils from the sweet cream or milk, or from sour cream.  When sweet milk or cream is operated the buttermilk left is not buttermilk at all, but sweet cream or milk still, fit for all table, cooking and feeding purposes.  Remember the time, 2 P.M.   WR




Mayor Grube and a delegation numbering 125 of our citizens formed an excursion to Columbus Wednesday afternoon and viewed sites of the street fair held there.  The attendance at the Columbus fair was large and good entertainment was provided.  Attractive booths were constructed in the streets and served for the generous display of products.  The affair was not essentially a carnival, but in its way proved very successful.  The drum corps accompanied the local delegation.   WR




The monthly stock fair held today was lightly attended, the large number of people taking advantage of the day to do their Christmas trading.  The gypsy horse traders were noticeable by their absence.  Young pigs were plentiful and ranged in price from $1.60 to $2.00 a piece.  Onions sold at $ 1.50 per bushel on the market.  Dressed beef brought a trifle over six cents a pound.   WDT




A large crowd attended the cattle fair on Tuesday.  A large number of horses were offered for sale, buts few buyers were found.  Prices ranged from $75 to $150.  Young pigs were offered in large numbers, prices being from $3 to $3.50.   WG



E. MAIN AND N. THIRD STREETS, view to the north




08 16       MONTHLY FAIR DAY

Tuesday was Monthly Fair Day, but there was not a crowd in the city, the day being too fine to admit of the farmers leaving their work.  Quite a number of the “Nomads” known as Gypsies were in the city with the usual number of crowbait horses, whose frames might answer for specifications for an equine by a stretch of the imagination.     The Watertown Weekly Reader








Yesterday's Cattle Fair / Fair Day - Barnyard odors, pigs, pigs and more pigs.  Little pigs, big pigs, white pigs, brown pigs, red pigs and black pigs. Sleeping pigs, squealing pigs, and quiet pigs.  An Indian selling something or other.  Dogs of all sorts --- Trucks parked for blocks.  Tables loaded with honey, waiting for buyers.  Rural kids glad to be in town for a day, many munching ice cream cones.  A farmer coming out of a tavern wiping the foam from his mustache while his wife asks him for money.  Two other farmers and a buyer arguing over the price of a pig.  Straw on the streets --- À boy climbing up the side of a truck to get a better view of a litter of sleeping pigs and then falling down and breaking into a cry while his mother shakes him and scolds him and tells him not to climb up again.  Truckloads of cabbage waiting for buyers.  Plenty of potential sauerkraut (pardon us, Liberty Cabbage) there.  More barnyard odors and more pigs.  Any cattle fair means a lot to a community and Watertown has one of the oldest and best of all monthly stock fairs.




Firemen were called upon this forenoon to rescue a pig from the Rock river.  The porker, consigned for sale at the monthly stock fair, broke away while being unloaded from a truck, made a beeline for the river and went in.  Firemen gave chase in a boat and with John Gruel at the oars and Glenn Sutton twirling a rope, the latter lassoed it and brought it safely to shore.  Firemen said the pig belonged to a Delafield farmer.




The second Tuesday of each month is set aside as a "Fair Day."  On this day all farmers in this area bring their small pigs and farm products to Watertown and offer them for sale.  This Watertown Fair Day is a popular farmer day and is known in Iowa, Illinois and Minnesota as a good place to buy small pigs.      1959 Watertown City Directory




Fair held on N Second St., in Memorial Park area.




Sales people, including farm folk who bring their produce to the monthly street fair in Watertown, formerly known as the “cattle fair” or “viehmarkt,” were on notice today that if they wish to sell anything at the fair they must have it packaged according to state weights and measures regulations and any products that are sold by weight must be weighed on scales that do not violate state statutes.  The “notice” came in the wake of yesterday's arrests at the fair in which three scales were seized as illegal and in which one packaged article was also seized because the packaging did not list the weight of the article.




“I have been coming to Watertown’s Fair Day just about every month for the past 25 years,” Harold Volbrecht, Montello, Wis., located about 25 miles north of Portage, told a Times” reporter at the April Fair Day.  Volbrecht said he is very happy with the fair in Watertown.  “I am treated well, and I do business.  If I wasn’t happy I sure wouldn’t keep coming back month after month,” he said with a broad smile.  Volbrecht and his brother, Melvin, own and run four farms in the Montello area.  They have been in farming since 1932.   WDT




   Fair Day on North First Street




The city’s fair day may be expanded to two days a month, based on a recommendation by the city’s finance committee.  the committee voted in favor of establishing the fourth Tuesday from May to October as fair day.  Currently, the second Tuesday is set aside for the sale.  Jack Erdmann, executive director of the Watertown Area Chamber of Commerce, said the popularity of the event promoted the chamber to seek a second day.  Many downtown merchants support the change, Erdmann said.  In a poll of chamber members, 76 percent said they supported the addition of a second fair day.




When the Plattdeutscher Hall doors are opened on Tuesday morning for its seasonal monthly Fair Day dinner, the ladies auxiliary will find people waiting in line outside who want to get in the buffet line inside.  The longtime tradition, which dates back about 40 years, has many repeat customers who come monthly June through November for the good cooking at a reasonable price.  The tradition of the Fair Day dinner is rooted in a longtime Watertown event which used to draw hundreds of people to the city. The dinner is held six months of the year on the second Tuesday of the month, the traditional date of the Watertown Fair Day.   WDT


2008         If It's Tuesday It Must Be Watertown” <> POOR QUALITY video




The Tuesday Farmers Market will be relocated to the North First Street parking lot in 2017.  The market will continue to be held at Riverside Park in 2016 starting May 3.  The Watertown Farmers Market, formerly known as Fair Day, is one of the longest running farmers markets in Wisconsin     WDT





That was always a fun trip to town. As a kid I always wanted to bring home a puppy or bunny.


Never bought a pig, but my mom bought rutabaga. 😄


I still call it fair day!!


My dad bought me my first dachshund puppy at Fair Day (early '50s). What a wonderful memory. I so looked forward to this as a little kid.


My dad got his pigs at fair day!


Got my first dog around ‘53 at fair day. Very unhappy mother.


My Mom had to literally drag me away from all the puppies….and then I’d cry all the way home!


I bought 15 piglets at Fair Day back in 1962. They paid for my freshman year at Lakeside when I sold them in the fall.


Got a number of pets from Fair Day. Got my 1st toy poodle Brandy at Fair Day! 2nd one my daughter around 3 yrs old grabbed a kitten (Fritzy) and wouldn't let go.  Third took my son down and they were giving [puppies away.  Since it was his 9th BD I told him to pick one out!  We came home with Daisy Mae!!  All were wonderful pets and gave us many years of joy!




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History of Watertown, Wisconsin