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State Fair (novel)

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Title: State Fair (novel)  
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Subject: Phil Stong, State Fair, Des Moines, Iowa, List of University of Iowa faculty, State Fair (1945 film)
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State Fair (novel)

State Fair is a 1932 novel by Phil Stong.[1]

Thomas Leslie, the author of Iowa State Fair: Country Comes to Town, wrote that the novel State Fair is "a surprisingly dark coming-of-age story that took as its major plot device the effects of the "worldly temptations" of the Iowa State Fair on a local farming family.[2] Leslie wrote that the novel captured tensions between the urban Des Moines and rural Iowa.[2]


The novel follows the Frake family from Brunswick, a fictional town.[2] The father, Abel, has a Hampshire boar named "Blue Boy" and he wants the boar to win the grand championship. The mother, Melissa, has a set of pickles and wants to win blue ribbons for them, beating the competition that has won in prior years.[3] The son, Wayne, wants to do the hoop-la stand and gain revenge there from the carnival barker who had taken his money and pride in previous years.[3] Margy, the daughter, wants to enjoy herself at the fair. Both Margy and Wayne are looking for romance.[4] The family leaves the fair, having found what each sought, for better or worse. Returning home, they are reminded of the things that matter most in life.


In the northern hemisphere summer of 1931, Phil Stong's wife, Virginia Maude Swaine, suggested that he write a story about the Iowa State Fair. At the time, Stong was working in the newspaper's publicity department. On July 28, 1931, Stong wrote to family living in Iowa stating that he had written 10,000 words of his novel in three days.[5] Stong had previously covered the fair's evening stock shows when he worked for the Des Moines Register and his grandfather was the superintendent of the fair's swine division for several years. [3]

Robert A. McCown, the author of the foreword of the 1996 University of Iowa Press edition of State Fair, wrote that the work "is very much an Iowa book, filled with incidents and details from the author's own life."[4] He added that "there is undeniably an element of make-believe" in the work and that Stong wrote "an artistic representation of the fair, not presenting the literal truth."[4] McCown emphasized that Stong was not a historian but a novelist.[4] He added that the early 20th century state fair setting was "accurately portrayed".[4]

Release and reception

The book was released in the late spring of 1932 and was originally published by the Century Company. Robert A. McCown, the author of the foreword of the 1996 University of Iowa Press edition of State Fair, wrote that the book was "widely reviewed".[4] McCown stated that most reviews were favorable.[4] He added that many Iowans perceived the Frake daughter and son were "loose".[4] Stong wrote to a roommate from his university studies that "Iowa generally felt that Iowa girls wouldn't do such things."[4]

The book was named a Literary Guild Selection. Grosset and Dunlap reprinted the book in 1933.[4] There was an edition for members in the United States Armed Forces. There were also paperback editions and foreign editions.[6]

Due to the success of State Fair, Stong was able to quit his newspaper job.[1] Stong bought his mother's family farm, the [7]


The novel was adapted into three films released to theaters.[8] Hollywood made the first in 1932.[7] Leslie wrote that the novel was "best known as the inspiration for the somewhat sunnier 1945 musical by Rodgers and Hammerstein".[2] The most recent was a 1962 film,[8] which used a Texas setting.[7] An additional adaptation was produced as a television pilot in 1976.[9]

In addition, the screenplay of the 1945 Hammerstein film was adapted into a Broadway production in 1996.[7]



  1. ^ a b Hassler, p. 474-475. "[...]until the great success of State Fair (1932) enabled him to quit his newspaper work."
  2. ^ a b c d Leslie, p. 92.
  3. ^ a b c McCown, p. x.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j McCown, p. xi.
  5. ^ McCown, p. ix.
  6. ^ McCown, p. xi-xii.
  7. ^ a b c d McCown, p. xii.
  8. ^ a b Hassler, p. 475. "State Fair was made three times into a film, the most recent a 1962 musical version by Oscar Hammerstein II."
  9. ^
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