First Monday Trade Days
One Man's Trash is Another Man's Treasure
What began as a naturally occurring town meet up with the circuit judge is now one of the largest and oldest flea markets in America; it might be a hunt for cutting-edge treasure, but First Monday Trade Days in Canton, Texas is overflowing with paraphernalia.
Since 1850, people have gathered to swap, shop, and trade in Canton. Nowadays, people travel from all over to visit this six-acre lot in order to find their treasures. From homemade aprons to beautiful, hand crafted furniture to darling puppies, the variety of goods that can be found on these grounds is endless.
Born quite naturally, First Monday Trade Days began when the circuit judge would come to town on the first Monday of the month. Folks from the county would come to the center square in order to conduct business, trade their goods and crops, stock their pantries, and observe court proceedings. This marketplace meet up eventually became a permanent spot when there were only a few forms of communication; it was common for relatives to meet up on the first Monday of the month. Eventually in 1965 the city of Canton moved these trade days two blocks from the courthouse because it had outgrown the city square. Today, the town of Canton is home to almost 4,000 residents, but during a First Monday Trade Day weekend it can welcome over 100,000 shoppers.
No longer meeting on Monday’s, vendors show up, rain or shine, Thursday through Sunday to sell used junk, craft handiwork, beautiful antiques, and so much more. In arbors, tents, and pavilions one can smell the variations of food while walking the grounds from funnel cakes to turkey legs to fresh squeezed lemonade to candied pecans.
Many families visit First Mondays multiple times a year making it a family tradition, bringing buggies to load their goods, gifts, and rare finds. It can be a whole day affair or even a weekend depending on where you are coming from. Locals and regulars alike know how to skip the crowds by wandering through the stalls on Thursday and some avoid the heat altogether during the summer.
With a history of 168 years, First Mondays is one of the largest and oldest flea markets in the states. Their motto is “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure” and it could not represent the heart of First Mondays more perfectly. It is an exploration of the past and present. With a peak into quintessential East Texas culture, First Mondays is a quest among boundless treasure.
Words by Holly Moore
Photos provided by Canton, TX