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A Glimpse at Tradeshow History (July 2013)


1898: Postage stamp set commemorates Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition

Commemorating the Trans-Mississippi and International Exposition in 1898 are nine stamps issued by the Post Office Department, which is now the U.S. Postal Service. This world’s fair held in Ohio, Neb. from June 1 to Nov.1, 1898 highlighted the development of the West.  More than 2.6 million attendees viewed 4,062 exhibits, celebrated the honoring of Buffalo Bill Cody and heard President William McKinley speak.  Each stamp depicts a scene of life in the west, and unused stamps are worth up to $5,000 today.

1928: The growth of the International Home + Housewares Show

ecn_072013_ts_history_1928_kitchenaid-1940hoteleraThe International Home + Housewares Show, which is managed by the International Housewares Association (IHA), evolved into one of the top 20 largest tradeshows in the U.S. and in the top 10 in Chicago. While there were earlier exhibitions, the first modern housewares exposition occurred in 1928 at the Stevens Hotel in Chicago. The success of the 1928 show led to the American Housewares Exhibit in New York City in 1932.

Buyers from 11 countries were at the housewares show by 1949, making it an international marketplace.  It faced difficulties due to the effects of WWII, which changed housewares manufacturing and sales, and government-imposed travel restrictions led to a failed show in Atlantic City. No shows were held for two years.  After the war ended, growth was demonstrated by the show relocating several times to accommodate more exhibitors. It settled in Chicago’s McCormick Place in 1961, where it would continually reside.

1979: The decline of COMDEX

Once a large computer tradeshow, Computer Dealers’ Exhibition (COMDEX) ran for 24 years in Las Vegas, with additional shows in Atlanta, New York City and Chicago during the spring. COMDEX debuted at the original MGM Grand in 1979, before the major fire in 1980 that led to the hotel becoming Bally’s. The show united manufacturers and developers of computers, peripherals, software, components and accessories with retailers, consultants and their competitors. Attendance exploded in the late 1980s when COMDEX became open to the public, but this caused attendance costs to rise. During this time, factors that made the show a must-see began to fade, and much of the press rejected covering the show after show organizers made it difficult for them to attend.  Many exhibitors turned toward the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) once it landed on the scene. A lot of major technology companies stopped associating with COMDEX in 2000. COMDEX cancelled its 2004 exhibition in Las Vegas altogether.

2008: Water main breaks at Greater Columbus Convention Centerecn_072013_ts_history_2008_greater_columbus_cc_002

Flooding occurred at the Greater Columbus Convention Center due to a 16-inch water main break in January 2008. Cleaning up the Center took 150 people and 600 fans and humidifiers as well as additional equipment. Floor slabs costing more than $200,000 needed to be replaced, but business operations resumed the day after the flood. The building didn’t sustain any structural damages.

2011:  Expansion of the Pennsylvania Convention Center ends

After five years of expansion, construction wrapped up at the Pennsylvania Convention Center in February 2011, three months ahead of schedule. The $786-million expansion project added 935,000 square feet of space for attendees and exhibitors to utilize a new main entrance atrium lobby, an extended Arch Street Concourse, 23 meeting rooms, three exhibition halls and a 56,000-square foot ballroom. A central power plant and office space was included too. The facilities of the center now totals 2.3 million square feet across 20 acres of land. Tishman Construction Corporation along with joint-venture partner Joseph Jingoli & Son finished the project while staying within budget.

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