Agricultural History Series

 Missouri State University

 1904 St. Louis Worlds Fair

Sheep Shearing Competition

The sheep shearing competition took place on October 12-13, 1904, at the Livestock Pavilion.  There was wide-spread interest and enthusiasm surrounding the shearing competitions.  Professional shearers gathered in hopes of setting new world records. Many other contributors to the United States and foreign wool industries  were also present.  The weather was favorable throughout the competition.  Even though the demonstrations were extremely complex, the combined efforts of the officers of the International Sheep Shearing Festival Association and the contest judges made the events successful.

Two Professionals in the speed class.

It was estimated that over 25,000 people observed the events over the two day competition.  There were eleven individual events, with the winners of these events being awarded a share of $1,125.  Each winner was awarded $125 and one of eleven solid silver cups that were designed and manufactured specifically for the competition in St. Louis.  The skill of the contestants was greatly appreciated by other shearers and sheep breeders.  The general public enthusiastically cheered on the contestants as they were entertained by demonstrations of shearing expertise.

The sheep shearing competitions were unique to the St. Louis Worlds Fair.  No similar contests had ever been carried out anywhere else in the world.  A special committee composed of expert machine shearers, machine shearer manufacturers and owners of machine plants were assembled to draw up the rules and regulations for the contests.  Protests and disputes were absent from this competition.

Kelly puts quality before time.

The judging was based on the elements of speed, quality of work, minimum numbers of cuts and scratches, and the ability of the contestant to handle the animal and the machine.  The judges for the competitions were Professor C. S. Plumb, Ohio Agricultural College; Professor Coffey, Illinois Agricultural College; Charles Timson, Chicago, Illinois.  C. F. Wiggs and W. J. Clarke were the time-keepers for the events.

Speed Contest-Professional

Contestants in this event were required to catch and shear three sheep which were penned in the usual position behind the shearer.  The sheep were of the same grade and class.  The time was calculated from the time the contestant started shearing the first sheep until the third animal was finished.  With a time of six minutes and forty seconds Con Pickett of Illinois took home the first place prize.

Quality Contest-Professional

This event required contestants to shear one sheep.  They were evaluated on the condition of sheep after being trimmed, the number of pauses and second cuts, and the handling of the machine and the animal.  The process had to be completed within six minutes.  Quality of work was worth 70 points and speed was worth 30.  L.C. Kelly of Michigan won the competition with a score of 89 total points. 

Kelly's perfectly shorn sheep

Thanks to Barbara Dobberfuhl for sharing a scan of a photo of Champion Shearer, Lewis Kelly, and his silver cup that he won at the 1904 World's Fair.

Speed and Quality Combined (Shepherds' Class)

Contestants were given the option of using hand shears or power machines.  In this competition, contestants were required to catch and shear one sheep that was penned in the usual location.  The scores were based on the condition and appearance of the sheep and the fleece after being trimmed.  The ability to handle both the animal and the shearing machine was considered.  Quality of work and speed were equally weighted at 50 points each.  H. Keim was the winner with a time of six minutes and ten seconds with a combined score of 85 points.

Speed and Quality Combined (College Class)

The rules of the contest were similar to that of the shepherds' class.  However, contestants were using hand machines in this class.  The condition of the animal and the fleece were evaluated, as well as, the handling of the machine and the animal.  Points were awarded in the following areas: quality (30),  speed(20), handling (20),  cuts (20), and handling of shears (10).  E.S. Bartlett was the winner of the class with a total of 93 points and a time of four minutes and 18 seconds.

Speed and Quality Combined (Free for All)

The rules,  regulations, and scoring of this class were identical to the shepherds' class.   Con Pickett was the winner with a time of two minutes and a combined score of 96 points.

Champion Pickett establishing record of 1:30.

Hand Shear

Only hand shears were permitted in this competition.  Each contestant was required to shear one sheep.  Competitors were judged on the appearance to the animal after being trimmed.  They were also judged by the minimum number of breaks and second cuts, and the handling of both animal and shears.  F. C. Fawkes won with a time of 21 minutes and 40 seconds. 

References: American Sheep Breeder,  0ctober 15, 1904

Photos from: American Sheep Breeder, October 15, 1904

This page was designed Adam Brock and Mike Friedrich  and is maintained by Lyndon Irwin

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