First Monday Trade Days in Canton, Texas is advertised as the world famous and in some places as the world’s largest flea market. This flea market has a very interesting and colorful history. Back in the 1850s, the circuit judge would come to Canton on the first Monday of every month. People would come to Canton on the first Monday to take care of official business. It wasn’t long before people started bringing goods and livestock to trade with others on the first Monday of each month. Canton became known for being one of the best places in the state to buy a good horse on the Monday trade day. It was commonly called “Hoss Monday” because so many traders came to swap horses with each other. All of this took place on the courthouse square.
Very little money changed hands in the early days, because people would rather swap their surplus goods for something else they needed. I think you can see why this was called, and still is called First Monday Trade Days in Canton, TX or just First Monday to the regulars. As it grew in popularity it eventually was outgrowing the courthouse square. As the need for horses declined, the traders began bringing dogs and hogs to buy and trade. They were known as a place to find cholera free pigs and good hunting dogs. Some even called it “Dog Monday.” There is still a section about a block from the main grounds called “Dog Town” where you can find many traders still bringing dogs to sell at first Monday.
By 1965, First Monday Trade Day had outgrown the courthouse square and the City of Canton purchased six acres just a couple of blocks from the courthouse. It gradually began to include the weekend before the first Monday of every month. Now it officially starts on Thursday and really closes on Sunday, although a few dealers will stay over to Monday. This still causes problems for some shoppers. Nearly every month, especially during the summer months, you will see a few people that show up on Monday ready to experience First Monday Trade Days, or just Canton Trade Days. They are so disappointed that First Monday is really before First Monday now.
Through the years First Monday has continued to grow, spreading out to other areas. Different promoters have bought land in the area and opened it up to new flea market vendors. Some have done well but there also has been fortunes lost. The original grounds and adjacent properties still remain the most popular to the thousands of visitors each month. Because it is most an outdoors flea market or trade day, the biggest crowd are the months where the weather is the most comfortable in the spring and fall. But they are open every month, rain or shine, heat or snow. But keep the weather in mind and the huge size of the market when deciding the shoes and clothes to wear.
Because Canton Trade Days is so large and so many people attend, you need to plan ahead. For the RV crowd, they have spaces available, but during the busy months they always sell out. The same holds true for motels in Canton. You can check Canton Inn and extended stay canton to find available rooms. There are also some bed and breakfasts in Canton to check out when you are looking for Canton hotels. There are shoppers who come for the entire four days. In truth there are dealers setting up as early as Monday. Be prepared to pay inflated prices for the rooms during these four days.
When we first set up at Canton Trade Days as dealers in the 80’s, it was one of the finest antiques markets anywhere. You could find nearly anything there. And if you came early, you could find some great deals. We once saw a piece change hands five times at one First Monday, and each time it nearly doubled in money. There are still some good antiques and collectibles here. In fact, the City of Canton has built the Canton Civic Center and it is reserved for antiques & collectibles each First Monday. But unfortunately there are not as many antiques dealers there as there once was. But then again, there is not the demand for antiques now like there once was. In the early 90’s there was an antiques pavilion where we set up. During the first two years we set up there, we literally sold out of everything three or four times. One of those months, I was actually borrowing sets of antique oak chairs from my friends to go with my refinished English antique oak draw leaf tables because I had sold the chairs I brought for them. Those were the days. If the demand for antiques increases, the antiques dealers will return. But attending Canton Trade Days can be a fun experience. The food is wonderful if you know where to eat. You know chewing on a turkey leg is a flea market experience. These trades days offer all sorts of merchandise. Literally nearly anything you can imagine, especially in handmade items. I hope you get a chance to visit First Monday and buy a t-shirt saying ’I survived Canton Trade Days.”