1903: Teddy bear debuts at Toy Fair
Initially attracting little attention at its debut at the Toy Fair in 1903, the teddy bear was almost thrown to the wayside until its fortunes were saved when an American buyer snapped up the entire lot of 100 bears and ordered another 3,000 right before the exhibition finished. Thus the prime of the Steiff Company began. Twelve thousand bears were sold at the St. Louis World’s Fair in 1904 and the Steiff family received the Gold Medal, which was the highest honor at the event. Richard Steiff entered his aunt’s toy making enterprise in 1897. While attending the School of Arts and Crafts in Stuttgart, Steiff regularly visited the nearby Nill’scher Zoo and spent time drawing the bears. His drawings were used to create the teddy bear prototype in 1902.
1904: Man of Iron
Symbolizing status as the nation’s fourth largest producer of iron at that time, Alabama created a 56-foot-tall statue of Vulcan, the Roman god of fire and blacksmithing for the 1904 Louisiana Purchase Exposition in St. Louis. This 60-ton figure stood within the exhibit in the Palace of Mines and Metallurgy holding a hammer weighing 300 pounds. Shipped back to Alabama after the expo, this Iron Man has since been used for a variety of marketing plans, including advertisers putting a Coca-Cola, ice-cream cone and Heinz pickle in his open hand.
1951: Festival of Britain
Held throughout the UK, the festival of Britain was a national exhibition showcased in the summer of 1951. Organized by the government during the country’s recovery from war, this festival was to promote British contribution to the arts, science, technology, industrial design and architecture. Events held in different areas discussed specific industries including the Poplar for architecture; Battersea, the Festival Pleasure Gardens; South Kensington for science; and Glasgow for industrial power. Festival celebrations took place in Cardiff, Stratford-upon-Avon, Bath, Perth, Bournemouth, York, Aldeburgh, Inverness, Cheltenham and Oxford as well as touring exhibitions by land and sea.
2004: PAX Prime
Deciding they wanted a show exclusively for gaming, the people at Penny Arcade created PAX Prime, which debuted in 2004 with just 4,500 attendees. This show focused on the culture and community of gaming. Since then PAX has become the largest fan-operated gaming show for the public with two shows – Pax Prime in Seattle and PAX East in Boston, both drawing tens of thousands of attendees. These expos include console freeplay, live concerts, exhibit hall, the “omegathon” (a contest with 20 contestants battling for the chance to win a trip to Japan), panels, PC freeplay and tabletop area for gamers of all types and skill levels.
2004: Sideshow Convention
Started nearly a decade ago by Franco Kossa, co-owner of a chain of tattoo parlors and founder of “Inkin the Valley” tattoo convention, the annual Sideshow Convention makes the list of weirdest conferences.
Naming itself as the “world’s only sideshow convention,” the Slideshow Convention is held each November in the northeastern Pennsylvania city of Wilkes-Barr. This event is a place for sword swallowers, light bulb eaters, glass walkers and human blockheads to come together in one jaw-dropping show.