The idea of a trade show might seem like a fairly modern notion, but in fact, trade shows can be traced back hundreds of years ago. The overall concept of getting together to trade and show off goods and services is nothing new. Many fundamental parts of a society require outlets to share products to help improve life and help out each other. This idea can be found throughout many time periods in history. Trade shows have been through an evolutionary process throughout time and have become what we know them to be today – large expos in convention centers to promote goods and services. Although they may have had different names in the past, trade shows have been around for the purpose of networking and trading for mutual parties’ benefit. Let’s take a look back in time to see where trade shows originate from, what their history looks like, and how they have evolved into what we know them as today.
Bazaars – The Early Years of Trading
Trading has existed throughout the known time, ever since there has been a need to trade for mutual benefit. Some of the first organized trading events were called bazaars and can be traced back as far as 3000 BC. These bazaars originated in the Middle East and grew in popularity as places to gather to sell goods. Vendors would bring their goods to these bazaars and travelers, as well as locals, would attend to gather any goods they may be in need of. From these early forms of trading, connections were able to be made between villages and effective trade routes and partnerships were able to be formed.
The Great Exhibition – The First Official Trade Show
In 1851, Queen Victoria of England held the first official trade show in London. It was her goal to display the best products from around the world under one roof for everyone to see. This first trade show was held in London and lasted around five months. During the five months that it opened, this Great Exhibition saw more than 6 million visitors. The Crystal Palace, where the exhibition was held, was constructed for this event specifically and was the very first trade show display of its time. Inside the building, there were over 100,000 exhibits where people came to show new technology, science materials, guns, clothes, musical instruments and machinery. This exhibition paved the way for all that we know now when it comes to trade shows.
Industrial and Trade Fairs – The Large Franchise Expositions
Throughout the late 1800’s and into the 1900’s, industrial and trade fairs really began to take off and grow in popularity. Philadelphia held one of the first world fairs, the Centennial Exposition, in 1876. Shortly after that, in 1889, New York held the International Industrial Fair which was one of the largest franchise expositions the world had seen up until that point with over 400 brands exhibited there. These fairs and expos attracted vendors from all over the world and set the groundwork for some cultural trends and combinations that we see today.
The Trade Shows We Know Today
Overtime, the bazaars, exhibitions, expositions, and trade fairs have come to be known as trade shows. As we get into the later 1900’s, we see the growth in popularity for all these events. There are trade shows happening in all different categories – from clothing to medical devices. People from all around gather to market their goods, gain new experiences and see what is up and coming in their field and industry. Trade shows and trade show displays have grown exponentially into what we know them to be today. We are even stepping out into a new frontier of attempting virtual trade shows. While these events can be traced to way back in time, we know that they are still prevalent – if not more so, today then they have ever been.