First Monday Trade Day in Scottsboro began as Horse Swapper's Day on December 1, 1902. The event was the idea of James Armstrong, editor of "The Scottsboro Citizen."
Armstrong made his first appeal to his readers on March 8, 1900 saying, "Why not have a day SET APART each month in Scottsboro as horse swapper's day? This would bring a big crowd to town and would be known as horse trader's day."
James Armstrong waited almost three years before his idea materialized. Finally on November 13, 1902 he again appealed to his readers suggesting, "Each first Monday could be made a lively day for buying, swapping and selling horses and mules. The Citizen suggests that Monday, December 1st be named the First Horse Swapper's Day."
Th rest, as they say, is history. While the FIRST horse swapper's day was not a howling success, Armstrong did not give up. Six months later, The Citizen reported: "A good crowd was in town Monday. County and Commissioners' Court met that day." No mention was made of trade day.
Nine months from "the first day set aside," James Armstrong was still reminding his readers of horse swapper's day. On September 3, 1903, he printed:
"Next Monday, being the first Monday, will be horse swapper's day in Scottsboro. Bring in another horse."
Mr. Armstrong was obviously pleased with the crowd in 1903. On September 10, 1903, his most extensive coverage to date appeared with the bold heading:
HORSE SWAPPER'S DAY
"Last Monday - the first Monday - was horse swapper's day at this place, and a large crowd was in town. A number of trades were made during the day, and everybody seemed satisfied he got the best bargain."
Editor Armstrong had to give his readers constant reminders about first Monday Horse Swapper's Day but his perseverance paid off. He patiently educated his readers and together they established an unofficial holiday in Jackson County.
As the needs of the people changed, so did First Monday Trade Day. More and more farmers acquired automobiles and tractors, and horse swapping declined. First Monday crowds waned in direct relation. Once again a newspaper editor sensed the economic climate and provided cohesive leadership.
After James Armstrong died in 1911, the stock of The Scottsboro Citizen was sold to The Progressive Age. In 1919, James S. Benson purchased The Progressive Age. On March 5, 1925 Mr. Benson outlined a plan to expand the marketing services of the declining Horse Swapper's Day. He proposed first Monday trading to be called Market Day. He stated farmers could advertise free of charge in The Progressive Age. Mr. Benson obtained the support of the Civitan Club to foster this new idea. He wrote, "On the first Monday in April, what is known as Market Day will be started in Scottsboro, and doubtless much good will result from the business and good fellowship campaign arranged for that day. It is planned that in addition to the horse swappers convention that always takes place on First Monday, the farmers of the county will be invited to come on this day and trade and sell their products. It is planned that any farmer in the county who has anything to sell, trade or wants to buy anything on this day can advertise FREE in The Progressive Age. A section of the paper has been contracted for by the business men under the auspices of the Civitan Club of the Town and all the farmer has to do is write out his advertisement and send it to The Progressive Age and the week before the First Monday this section will be published. If you have anything you want to sell or exchange, advertise it in these columns and have it here on that day, and it is very likely you can get a trade. Get ready for it."
The variety of wares traded increased with the crowds each year. Now a trade day of mammoth proportions takes place around the courthouse square. First Monday in Scottsboro is one of Jackson County's most consistent claims to fame.
Again, times have changed and Scottsboro is no longer the agricultural community it once was. Once again, First Monday has to adapt itself to the changing times. Many of First Monday's vendors have full time jobs and therefore are unable to set up on Monday. Therefore, the best crowds are usually found on Sundays. On those weekends where Monday is a holiday, you will find crowds on both Sunday and Monday.
Labor Day Weekend is truly the biggest and best First Monday Weekend. The vendors set up and sell Saturday, Sunday and Monday and it is not unusual to see crowds in excess of 40,000.
First Monday Trade Days are an integral part of our heritage and tradition: a part we are very proud to celebrate and share. Ask the vendors to share their stories of yesteryear.
We invite you to come to Jackson County and experience First Monday Trade Days. Explore the multitude of treasures that our vendors have to offer. Spend a day ambling around the courthouse square. Enjoy the sights and sounds as well as the aromas emanating from the variety of food vendors.
Special thanks to Ann Chambless, editor of The Chronicles, a publication of the Jackson County Historical Association for her tireless effort in researching the facts surrounding First Monday Trade Days.