Center for Archival Collections

Archival Chronicle Gallery

August 2006: Volume 25, Number 2

Archival Chronicle: August 2006 | Archival Chronicle Index | CAC Homepage

Summer in Bowling Green: Tomato Festival

This issue of the Archival Chronicle Gallery features summertime activities in Bowling Green just before World War II. They are selected from the William Insull scrapbooks (MS 1045) which document life in the region between 1934 and 1940.

Tomato Festival Opens

A local farmer brings a load of tomatoes to Bowling Green to sell to the H. J. Heinz Company.

What Growers of Tomatoes Received

"...We repeat the data regarding...three growers whom we designate as A, B, and C and whose farms are within ten miles of Bowling Green.
"A had 40 acres of tomatoes which yielded a total of about 313 tons or 7.8 tons per acre. The net profit on these, after deducting cost of plants, fertilizer, and labor for picking was $1760.50, or $44 per acre.
"B planted ten acres, had a yield of 104 tons, an average of 10.4 per acre, and a net profit of 656.50, or $65.64 per acre.
"C had fifteen acres, a gross yield of 193 tons, or 12.8 per acre, and a net profit of $1202.46, or $80.16 per acre."

--The Daily Sentinel Tribune, November 25, 1934

Tomato Harvest
1938 Tomato Queen Candidates

   1938 Tomato Queen Candidates

Some of the thirty-four entrants in the Tomato Queen beauty contest pose with the produce at the Heinz Plant.

Summertime seems to call for celebration. Harvest festivals were a long-standing tradition in northwest Ohio, but the Wood County Fair had operated for the last time in 1927, probably because of the economic depression which affected agriculture before it famously hit businesses in 1929. Although small 4-H shows continued, communities felt a need to come together for some playtime. In 1935, the Bowling Green Chamber of Commerce sponsored the first Fall Festival, featuring some of the same activities the old fair had. By the end of the 1930s, Bowling Green merchants were ready to work together on another celebration. Agriculture was still the backbone of the local economy, as was obvious in town as well as in the country: the H. J. Heinz Company had operated a ketchup processing plant in Bowling Green since 1920. It seemed appropriate to tie a festival in with the city's largest employer, and the Wood County Tomato Festival was born in 1938.

Queen of Tomatoland, 1938

Entry Blank for Queen Contest

 Entry Blank for Queen Contest

No celebration could be complete without a queen to reign over it. Nearly three dozen young women competed for the honor, following the rules outlined in this brochure. "Vital measurements" of all contestants were taken (including wrist and ankle circumference) and composite figures published in the paper, comparing local contestants to an average Miss America winner. A panel of celebrity judges was organized including politicians, American Legion and Elks Club leaders, and movie theater managers. The winning queen candidate would be given a chaperoned trip with all expenses paid to Atlantic City, with a stop-over at Pittsburgh as the special guest of the H. J. Heinz Company. In addition, she would receive "four complete outfits, including lingerie, hosiery and all accessories," including an evening gown and wrap, afternoon dress and coat, traveling and street outfit, and bathing suit.

1938 Tomato Queen Jane Kramp  

An estimated audience of over 3,500 filled the City Park Stadium in Bowling Green to view the selection of the 1938 Tomato Queen. Contestants came from all parts of Wood County. Among the queen's duties was the awarding of prizes at the Water Carnival.

1938 Tomato Queen Jane Kramp
1938 Tomato Queen Candidates

   1938 Queen and her attendants

The Queen and her court ready for the parade. Attendants were Helen V. Knudson, Marcella Kellermeier, Mary Phillips, Phyllis Logan, Leola Rutter, and Fern Whitehead.

"Miss Ellen Jane Kramp, Bowling Green, was the selection of a corps of judges at the First Annual Tomato Festival in 1938, and a wise selection indeed. A comely brunette, Queen Jane reigned in regal fashion at the various events which made the festival one of the most outstanding events in Northwestern Ohio and truly she was a worthy Queen of those who produce the delicious fruit which makes its home in Wood County.

"She will conclude her reign over Tomatoland at the selection of her successor August 23; a reign which has been marked with many exciting and entertaining functions. Following her selection and crowning, Jane and her escort, Miss Minniebelle Conley, enjoyed a week of swift-moving events that started with their trip on the air-conditioned Pullman."

"At Pittsburgh the Queen found the House of Heinz an elaborate hostess for a day and night of gala celebration. On the train again, the queen was swept to Atlantic City, the playground of America, for four gorgeous days of pleasure in an atmosphere that befitted the fruit she represented.

"During the past winter Queen Jane participated in two affairs of note--the recipient of a commission from the Ohio National Guard making her Honorary Colonel, and reigning over the Policeman's Ball.

"But as the fairy story of Cinderella goes--Queen Jane gives way on August 23 to her successor. Her reign marks a unique place in the history of Bowling Green--as first Tomato Queen she will remain hostess to all future Queens of Tomatoland."

--1939 Tomato Festival Program

Parade Draws Crowd to Main Street


Police Motorcycle Escort

  Police Motorcycle Escort ready to roll

Officers from several area law enforcement agencies pose at the corner of Main and Wooster.

"Sheriff Bill Siders of Williams County informed Chairman [Carl M.] Galliher this morning that he would send two motorcycle patrolmen here on Wednesday as an escort for the Queen's float. Sheriff Siders stated that two new white cycles had recently been purchased and should make a splendid addition to the parade.

"Chairman Galliher also received information from Lieutenant Augenstein at the Findlay State Highway Patrol that a company of 12 motorcycle patrolmen would be here to lead the parade on Wednesday. An invitation was also dispatched to Col. Lynn Black, commander of the State Highway Patrol, this morning to ride in one of the honor cars at the head of the parade.

"Chief of Police Ray Allen of Toledo police department, also informed the chairman that he would send four patrolmen here on motorcycles and also two detectives to mingle with the crowd and be on the lookout for pick-pockets and purse-snatchers."

--Daily Sentinel-Tribune, August 25, 1938, p. 1

Sinclair Opaline Motor Oil Float 

Businesses from around northwest Ohio contributed floats to the parade. World War II was clearly on the horizon and the patriotic theme of this float was echoed in the participation of an American Legion honor guard.

Sinclair Opaline Motor Oil Float


View of 1939 Parade

 Downtown Bowling Green during the 1939 Tomato Festival

The 1938 Festival Parade began at 7:00 p.m., which may have made it too dark to appreciate the floats and marching units. The following year, the parade was scheduled to step off at 4:00 p.m.

Headlines describing the 1939 Tomato Festival shared the front page with the news of the outbreak of war in Europe. Although the United States would not be involved in the conflict for two more years, Americans adopted a more somber outlook. The Chamber of Commerce, which sponsored much of the Tomato Festival activities, also sponsored a Fall Festival in late September to early October, which not only promoted local merchants but also substituted for the lack of a county fair. Townspeople threw all their efforts into the Fall Festival only for 1940. With the return of peace, people were able to think anew about traditions and celebrations. The Wood County Fair was reborn in 1947.

Research Notes

Researchers are familiar with the feeling. Start out with a simple question like: what building is shown in this photograph? Your quest to find the answer can lead in a hundred different directions. The Center for Archival Collections staff was intrigued by such a question about the photograph above showing the line of motorcycle officers preparing to participate in the 1938 Tomato Festival Parade. Found in the Insull scrapbook covering 1934-1938, it is one of two views of this line of policemen, not quite overlapping, but clearly taken within moments of each other and showing about 50 feet of streetfront.

Clearly, the photographs were taken downtown. But what direction was the camera facing? Which was the street in front of the policemen? Some clues are available in the photograph itself. Only parts of signage and storefronts are visible, but railtracks are present. We turned to a series of city maps to learn that tracks ran not only north-south on Main Street, but also east-west on Wooster. That narrowed the possible streets to just those two.

The photograph shows that the building has an awning and a sales display of candy and cigarettes, a long expanse of unornamented brick wall with a fire escape, and decorative treatment on the window tops. A closer look yet shows that the candy and cigarettes are in a small narrow structure attached to the main building--a newsstand. These elements suggest the location at the "Four Corners" (Main and Wooster) itself, with the streetfront as Wooster, and a newsstand that no longer exists. The building was either the Milliken Building (southeast corner) or the Exchange Bank Building (northwest corner). A comparison of the window treatments today confirmed that the building was indeed the Exchange Bank.

But what about the newsstand? The 1937 Bowling Green City Directory confirmed that there was a newsstand at 100 West Wooster, run by Claude Smith. It was there in 1928, but not in 1916; there in 1940, but not in 1947.

Archival Chronicle: August 2006 | Archival Chronicle Index | CAC Homepage