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The History of Exhibition Trade Fairs

Exhibitions are one of the oldest marketing practices used by businesses. But have you ever wondered when it all began? What did the first exhibition look like and how it has evolved over the years? 

No? Well, then let’s take a walk down memory lane and see how the history of the exhibition trade fairs unfold!

The first exhibition takes us back to 1851 when Queen Victoria reigned over England. With the passing of the Reform Bill of 1832, the Victorian Era saw an increasing trend towards democracy, political and social reforms. 

Not only that, the Industrial Revolution led to a boom in the economy with new industries and factories towering over the country. In the wake of industrialization and commercialization, the Victorian Era became rather materialistic. So, with the booming businesses, the middle class became rich overnight. 

So, her reign brought tremendous industrial, economic and social prosperity and superiority. Owing to this, Queen Victoria decided to host an exhibition to put on display this prosperity. So, with her husband, Prince Albert, the first exhibition, called the ‘Great Exhibition’ came to life. 

Held at Hyde Park, London, the exhibition was a metal structure covered in glass. And inside this structure was the exhibition with all sorts of manufacturing products. 

The ripples of this affected several facets of society like tourism, art, and especially trade. With 6.2 million visitors and 13,000 exhibits, this was the beginning of not just exhibitions but international exhibition trade fairs too. 

The layout and the fair booth designs back then became the blueprint that we follow today. Exhibition systems lined up next to each other with a square or rectangular framework for the booth. 

Now that the wheel of exhibition trade fairs started to turn, the next significant exhibition to take place was all the way to Paris, France between 1855 and 1900. With five series of ‘World Expo’ these exhibitions, the most important and revolutionary was the 1889 World Expo. 

The previous editions of the exhibition brought about quite the economic and cultural changes in the Parisian society. Moreover, it furthered cross-border trade, education, labour rights, technology and inventions. 

This brings us to the 1889 edition of the World Expo, ‘Exposition Universelle of 1889’ that hosted more than 61,000 visitors and led to the construction of the Effiel Tower just for this exhibition. 

Taking a look at the exhibition trade fairs on the other side of the pond, although American exhibitions existed, influenced by the Great Exhibition, they weren’t noteworthy. In fact, the first notable exhibition in America was in 1893. 

The World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893 was only a few years after the Exposition Universelle of 1889. So, it had to be grander and more influential. While they failed to acquire permission to construct a significant structure, they managed to create something crucial.

With the introduction of the ‘midway’, an entertainment area, the exhibition changed the exhibiting style for the coming decades. In no time, the exhibition gained momentum and became a major event in the following editions.

However, being at the cusp of World War 1, it all came to a temporary end. After the war, while there weren’t as many exhibitions hosted, the most significant one was the Exposition Internationale des Arts Décoratifs et Industriels Modernes in Paris, held in 1925. 

After the Second World War, with the Cold War silently raging, the exhibitions in Europe became a metaphoric battleground for the US and the Soviets to outshine each other. 

So, the most significant exhibition was the New York’s World Fair of 1964-65 with the theme of “Peace through understanding”. And in 1970, the Japan World Exposition in Osaka witnessed the simmered down effects of the Cold War. This exhibition was rather significant as it saw 60 million visitors and gave Japan the title back of one of the leading nations in the world. 

Post-1975, exhibition trade fairs began focusing on certain themes and industries. But tumbling into the 21st century, due to the high production and organizing costs, they became less frequent. However, they are still as important, focusing now more on pioneering in certain industries. 

Exhibitions are inarguably the most common and effective ways a company can gain brand exposure and boost its sales. 

With its origins dating back to centuries, exhibitions and trade fair stands have evolved astronomically. Today, exhibitions aren’t just about setting up an exhibition stall and calling it a day. From elaborate fair booth designs to extensive marketing tactics, exhibiting has become rather meticulous. Moreover, it has led to building an industry of its own that specializes in exhibition organization booth production, and much more.

If you need assistance in building creative exhibition stands for upcoming exhibition events, look no further. Our team of dedicated professionals will help you out. Contact us today for more details.

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SOL Brand Solutions is a branding and stall design company that designs and builds large-format exhibition stands. We offer a wide selection of exhibition stands, inlcuding custom exhibition stands, portable displays, modular display stands for conventions and conferences, and promotions and activation kits. Wtih offices in Asia, USA, and Europe, we can serve you anywhere in the world with a complex stall design to the activation and promotion display kits.

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