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Competing presidential campaigns at the 1968 Maryland State Fair. (William L. LaForce, Baltimore Sun photo, 1968)

The Maryland State Fair has been going strong for well over a century. But there’s at least one Free State tradition that goes back even further: Politicking.

We have no record of whether Democratic Gov. John Lee Carroll even showed up at the inaugural fair in 1879, or whether the two men running that year to succeed him — Democrat William Thomas Hamilton (who would win) and Republican James Albert Gary — engaged in any spirited debates among the livestock or between the horse races.

But politicians and their supporters have been pressing fair flesh as long as anyone can remember. And as the photo above proves, it’s not only the local or even state-level candidates who have shown up.

In 1968, supporters of presidential candidates Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey set up competing booths within spitting distance of each another (not, we hasten to add, that any spitting occurred, at least not literally).

The photo’s original caption notes that the Nixon/Republican booth, to the left, was “somewhat more elaborate than its counterpart and has more workers.”

Didn’t help, though. Humphrey carried the state by just over 20,000 votes — even though Nixon’s running mate was Maryland Gov. Spiro T. Agnew.

Humphrey’s victory, however, proved somewhat hollow, as Nixon won the presidency. Republicans also won Maryland’s U.S. Senate race (Charles McC. Mathias was elected to the first of three terms) and gained a seat in the state’s congressional delegation. So maybe that “elaborate” fair booth wasn’t such a bad idea after all.  

Click here to see more photos from Maryland State Fairs of the past