First Monday dates back to the 1850s when farmers and horse traders would gather at the courthouse on the first Monday of the month when the circuit judge would arrive to hold court.
That's when the horses were traded, the livestock was sold and produce was offered.
According the First Monday Trade Days official history, it became known as the best place to buy a good horse. Over the decades with the decline of horse trading it became known for selling pigs and at one time was even called Dog Monday.
Savvy shoppers start showing up on day one for the best and first picks.
Canton First Monday Trade Days is a huge sprawling flea market that actually consists of five different operations. The City of Canton owns and operates a portion of the original grounds, there is also the Canton Market Place which is set up more like a mall (air conditioned and heated), Dog Alley where animals and livestock are offered, Old Mill Market which is the newest area across from Dog Alley, and the Henry Lewis area which consists of part of the original grounds and pavilions.
My first trip to Canton was way back in the late 1960s / early 1970s. We would occasionally make the 60 mile drive over from Dallas on a Sunday or Saturday. It was well-known and crowded back then, you can imagine how much it has grown over the years.
In the city-operated area alone, there are approximately 2000 vendors and sixty food vendors.
A recent trip we took was a quick one on a Friday, although it wasn't mobbed, it was pretty darn crowded for a weekday and the vendors were taking full advantage of the crowds. In fact one vendor told me they were done selling for the weekend and would be leaving Friday evening. They were just about sold out by mid-afternoon.
If you're not up to long days of walking, there are scooters to rent and if you don't have a wheeled shopping cart to take, those are plentiful to purchase and even rent for a few bucks a day. Want to pull a wagon? Rent it! We were able to park close by, otherwise I would have seriously considered buying or renting a shopping cart. When we bought a small piece of furniture, we were talking about possibly tieing it on the roof to get home, the vendor pointed out the other vendors who were selling bungee tie-down cords. In fact there are whole businesses dedicated just to supplies and conveniences for the Canton shopper. As one who has, at times, forgotten key items, it was very nice to see these things available at reasonable prices.
Walking around on a hot summer day can be hard, but there are lots of shady areas, plenty of spots to buy water for a buck a bottle (or bring your own) and even a few air-conditioned buildings for shopping when you also need to cool off a bit.
Load of old furniture, plants, smalls, new stuff, old stuff and of course lots of junk. Although there wasn't any prevailing theme, there was a lot of old farm and western stuff to be had. My new-to-Texas friend was delighted with all the western items. Saddles, cowhides, Texas stars, boots, ropes, name it and you could find it at First Monday.
Check out some of the things that caught our eye on this trip. A few we bought and others were reluctantly left behind.
- Open the Thursday through Sunday before the first Monday of the month
- Admission fee: None
- Parking: $5. or $10. VIP parking at the Historical Main Gate on Grove Street
- Hours: 8 am - 5 pm (4 pm on Sunday)
Be courteous, polite and don't insult that dealer who might have been sitting out in the heat and wind for four days straight. Of course that doesn't mean you shouldn't make a lower offer, chat them up a few moments and get a feeling for what they're willing to do. Then make an offer slightly less than you're willing to pay.
Almost every vendor we dealt with bargained, one came down almost 50% when I wound up buying most of the stock she had left. I didn't ask for that low a price, I simply said if I buy these eight pieces, what's the best you can do. And I was very pleasantly surprised at her response.
When my friend came across the four oak chairs that would have been perfect for her home, the price was $300. She offered $200, the dealer came back with $250. SOLD!
Your First Trip to First Monday:
- Pick up a map or download one from the website
- Dress appropriately, layers if the weather is changeable. An umbrella if there is a chance of rain or even better a rain poncho.
- Food and refreshments are readily available and you might not want to be stuck carrying too much stuff, but a bottle of water to start off and maybe even a piece of fruit to keep the blood sugars in check.
- Sunscreen and a hat
- A tote bag or shopping cart.
- Small bills
- Most buyers have packing material, but it's always helpful to have extra stuff in the car for the fragile stuff.
- Call me Mr. Monk, but I really needed a few santizing wipes after touching a bunch of grimy stuff and then wanted something to eat.
I don't get down to Canton often enough, but every time I've gone, I'm always wondering what took me so long to get back. The dealers are friendly and helpful, the other shoppers for the most part are friendly and love to chat with like-minded collectors, the foods are varied and yummy, the selection is enormous and the prices are right. What more could you ask for?