Today, I made my annual trek to Mansfield, Ohio. Mansfield is about 50 miles north of Columbus, and is a pretty non-descript place. However, the second largest Civil War show in the country is held there the first weekend in May each year. Every year, I go and visit my network of friends and book vendors who gather there, drool over antique weapons that I can’t afford, and look for a CDV of Ulric Dahlgren, which are, evidently, few and far between. For the first time in years, I didn’t spend a dime today.
I actually had intended to. I got an order for a copy of my second book, “We Have It Damn Hard Out Here”: The Civil War Letters of Sergeant Thomas W. Smith, 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry, a couple of weeks ago, and I am out of copies of it. Traditionally, and for years now, the Kent State University Press, which published the book, has had a table there, and I figured I would buy a couple of copies directly from the Press at my author discount so I have one to fill the order and an extra in case I get another order. I made my way back to the building where the KSU Press has always had its table, and was stunned to find that the entire building was filled with World War II stuff for sale.
That wasn’t the only portion of the show dedicated to World War II stuff. Dealers selling World War II stuff were thoroughly interspersed among the Civil War dealers all throughout the show. There’s always been a certain amount of non-Civil War stuff at the Mansfield, show, but it’s always been 95% Civil War stuff and 5% other stuff. Today, it was about 67% Civil War stuff and 33% World War II stuff.
I have no issues with people buying and selling World War II memorabilia and books, to be sure. Let’s be quite clear about that. Likewise, I understand that the economy is largely in the toilet (given that Susan got laid off from her job in January, I am painfully and constantly aware of that unpleasant reality) and that desperate times bring about desperate actions. I’m all for people trying to make a living, and I similarly understand that the show promoters have an overhead nut to crack, and that if the participation of Civil War dealers is down due to the economy, they need to cover that nut somehow. I get all of that.
At the same time, there’s a time and a place. This show is called the Civil War and Artillery Show (artillery reenactors give demonstrations there every year), not the Civil War, World War II, and Artillery Show. I surely didn’t expect to find nearly 1/3 of the stuff for sale being completely off topic, but there it was. If they want to open up the show so that it covers more than the Civil War, then fine. However, if the plan is to do that, then for Pete’s sake, change the damn name of the show so that people aren’t deceived as to what to expect.
While on the way home, I told Susan that I am seriously considering not going next year because I was so disappointed by the offerings there–specifically with the many missing regular dealers and with the overabundance of material that was completely off-topic to the theme of the show. If I don’t go next year, it will be the first time in about 15 years that I will have missed the Mansfield show.
I think that the promoters need to decide what they want their show to be, to promote it that way, and to keep it on-topic. It surely wasn’t this year.Scridb filter