Down the Memory Line: Trade Show Revisited

If you don’t know history, then you don’t know anything. You are a leaf that doesn’t know it is part of a tree. ” ― Michael Crichton

We are nothing without our history behind us. History defines and determines us. History teaches us the courses of action and the paths to follow leading way for a brighter and more secure future. It is through the footsteps of history that we learn the course of future action.

Humans, in some part of their life, have been occupied in the meanders of history. After having shed knowledge on the numerous facets of Trade Show Exhibitions we bring to you the history of this practice. And it is a lot more fascinating than you expect it to be.


The first such trade fair can be dated back to the 17th Century. Although modern B2B tradeshows did not appear until late 19th Century, yet traces have been found of tradeshows being used by individuals and companies to expand their business and reach markets otherwise difficult to penetrate.

Robert B. Konikow, in his book, Exhibit Design, states the roots of such activities can be traced back to the Ancient Bazaars of Middle East. Egypt marks their trade fair histories as ancient bazaars in olden days. They can also be traced back to the late medieval Europe, the period of merchant capitalism in this side of the globe. Farmers and Craftsmen travelled to numerous locales in those days, to display and sell their commodities. It was in the 1700s that exhibitions became commonplace in North America and Europe. World fairs date back to just about a century and a half ago with the great exhibition in the Works of Industry All Nations.

1851 – Crystal Palace Great Exhibition

Considered by many as the first world fair, the 1851 Great Exhibition of the Works of the Industry of all Nations was held in London’s Hyde Park. It has ever been marked for the iconic Crystal Palace where numerous international exhibits and events have been held. Organized by Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort, inventor Henry Cole and few other members of the Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Commerce and Manufactures, this international exhibition was the first in the series of world fairs meant to highlight global advancements in technology and other industries that feature advancements made in the United Kingdom.

Queen Victoria, then called the “grandmother of Europe”, was one of the noble attendees. Other important names included Samuel Colt, Charles Darwin, Charles Dickens, Lewis Carroll, George Eliot, Charlotte Bronte and Lord Tennyson. The Crystal Door and the Great Exhibition closed its doors on the 15th of October, 1851.

1950 – Clark and Lewis Revisited

Though not officially recognized as a trade fair by the Bureau of International Exhibitions, the Lewis and Clark Centennial American Pacific Exposition of 1905 was a global event held in Portland, Ore. The event recorded an audience of 1.6 million in its 4 months run and has exhibits from 21 nations.

The fair was scheduled on the 100th birth anniversary of the Clark and Lewis “Corps of Discovery” expedition’s ambit in Portland after reaching the Pacific Coast of 1805. The event had a dual theme of westward expansion’s impact on economic growth while celebrating Clark’s and Lewis’ winter stay in Portland one century earlier. This exposition led to a boost in Portland’s local population from 161,000 to 270,000 from 1905 to 1910. The event closed in 1905, 14th of October after opening on June 1.

1962 – The Space Needle

It is the iconic bearer landmark of the Seattle World Fair that ran from April 21 to October 21 in Seattle and drew more than 10 million visitors during its run. It is also one of the few fairs to actually derive a profit during the 20th Century.

The Space Needle, a futuristic monorail together with many new sports and entertainment venues had been built for the event; and many of these actually remained. The design owes its credit to the then happening space race between the US and the Soviets. The then President John F. Kennedy was supposedly scheduled to end the event with a speech, later cancelled due to a crisis.

The Present

In 2016, trade fair world is a dynamic and booming industry adrift with technological advancements and demands from every corner of the world. From humble market-meet-places, the world of trade shows has moved forward to being a forward-marching multi-million-dollar industry that helps shape the faces of the market leaders of an economy.

The world is still to behold how the trade show world evolves to the test of time.