A Brief History Of Trade Shows And Exhibitions

large trade show

So, how long have trade shows and exhibitions been going? It’s considerably longer than the International Boat Show, or The Ideal Home Exhibition, although they have both been going for decades.

When did traders first start exhibiting their goods?

No one can put an exact date on this, but as long as people have been supplying goods and services, they have been finding ways to exhibit their wares. Trade fairs have been traced back to medieval Europe. During this time crafters and farmers would travel the land finding audiences to spread the message about their goods. This was networking at its most direct.

The ancient bazaars of the Middle East could also be considered exhibitions. Traders competed for the attention of potential customers.

Jumping forward, the 1700s saw exhibitions and shows become commonplace across Europe and North America. The industrial revolution was in full swing and there were many technological advances to show off.

The momentum from the 18th century carried on into the 1800s and one of the most famous of all exhibitions opened its doors in 1851.

The Great Exhibition of 1851 

Exhibitions as we now understand them can thank The Great Exhibition for laying down their roots. Queen Victoria’s consort, Henry Cole, along with Prince Albert, took the credit for creating and organising this larger than life event.

The full name for the exhibition was the less snappy Great Exhibition Of The Works Of Industry Of All Nations. The exhibition opened in Hyde Park on May 1st and ran for 6 months. It was housed in the famous Crystal Palace, which was constructed especially for the event.

It was a fabulous success, showcasing British manufacturing, including textiles, machinery of all types and even carpets. Over 6 million visitors filed through the doors and Britain’s influence around the world was celebrated.

The Ideal Home Exhibition

Britain has continued to influence exhibition and trade show styles since the 19th century. The 20th century had barely begun when the famous Ideal Home Exhibition (now called the Ideal Home Show) opened its doors in 1908. Claiming to be the longest running exhibition, it will be bigger than ever in 2020.

What started out as a publicity vehicle for the Daily Mail. Has grown to be the standard by which other exhibitions are judged. The general public’s imagination was captured. Home ownership was just starting to become affordable to working class people.

Since WWII (the exhibition was suspended during the war) visitors have continued to go along in their millions. Whole houses, even villages have been constructed inside with new inventions making their debuts at the show.

Close inspection of both the Great Exhibition and the Ideal Home Exhibition will reveal many design similarities with shows and exhibitions of today.

You may not be exhibiting at a show as grand as these two legendary events but you can certainly draw inspiration from them. And, wherever you are exhibiting, be sure to take us with you.

Conex might not quite date back to 1851, or even 1908, but we have a wealth of experience of helping brands of all sizes to make a big impact at their chosen exhibitions.

Get in touch today and let us start putting your perfect exhibition stand together.

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