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Corn Palace Secretary Pin

Date: 1888


Description: This badge and nametag once belonged to James V. Mahoney, the secretary of the 1888 Sioux City Corn Palace. The secretary’s primary duties included not only overseeing the construction of each Corn Palace, but organizing the annual Corn Palace Festivals, which were some of the largest celebrations in Sioux City history. These festivals took place during harvest time and lasted different amounts of time depending on the year. In the 1888 Corn Palace, an illustration of which can be seen on this badge, had a festival that ran from September 23 to October 5. In 1891, the last Corn Palace, the festivities lasted for nearly a month: October 1st to the 25th. The festivals included many different events, most of which took place in the large, empty concert hall that was built into the interior of the Corn Palaces. A huge parade with grain-decorated floats drew in huge crowds, and at the end of the parade a King and Queen (“King Corn” and “Queen Ceres”) were elected. Bands, shows, acts, and speeches took place during the festivals with some of the biggest names of the late 19th century including President Grover Cleveland, who said that the Sioux City Corn Palace was “the first new thing that had been shown [him].” In 1888 when Mahoney was secretary a special Corn Palace train carried delegates from Sioux City to the Republican National Convention in Chicago. The train was decorated entirely in grain with images of the Corn Palace and other murals. The festivals drew in countless visitors into Sioux City and served the city well as a major promotional technique; an estimated 130,000 to 140,000 attended the 1887 festival alone, and that Corn Palace was the smallest. The festivals ceased after 1891, but many future cultural celebrations would try and emulate these major celebrations of Sioux City’s agricultural heritage.


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