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The History of Exhibitions and Trade Shows

Posted By:

XL Displays


19 September 2016

Reading Time:

4 Mins

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The History of Exhibitions and Trade Shows

Thousands of exhibitions and trade shows take place around the world every year. As we enter the main exhibition season you are, no doubt, busy finalising your exhibition stand and equipment and confirming your exhibition plan. But have you ever wondered about the history of exhibitions and trade shows?

Trade shows have been around for thousands of years and the basic premise has not changed – it’s a way to get sellers and buyers together. In Medieval times producers would travel around visiting different towns for trading fairs where they would showcase and sell their products and services.

The Great Exhibition in 1851 is often heralded as the beginning of modern trade shows in the UK as we know them today. It was organised Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s Consort, and Henry Cole.

The Great Exhibition of the Works of Industry of All Nations (to give its full name) was held in Hyde Park, London in 1851. A building of glass and iron, the Crystal Palace, was commissioned and purpose-built for the event. The exhibition opened on 1 May and ran for six months with an estimated six million visitors passing through its gates. It was the first international exhibition of manufactured products.

At this time Great Britain was the most powerful country in the world with an Empire of over 50 countries and territories. The country had seen the industrial revolution and was experiencing a boom in inventing, manufacturing and engineering.

The idea of the Great Exhibition was to showcase culture and industry from around the world and to be a shop window for British manufacturing. Every type of product you can think of was on show, from textiles to machinery, the latest cutting-edge technology to jewellery and gems, carpets to porcelain.

The Exhibition was a great success and was considerably influential on society and trade relations.

Whilst everything has moved on significantly since Victorian times and the Great Exhibition, trade shows are still used today as a platform for launching new products and services. An exhibition or trade show is still the best face-to-face marketing opportunity available which is why, even with today’s technology and digital media and marketing, they are still very popular and successful events.

Technology and design have changed greatly since the 1850s with continual advances in exhibition ideas, design and print. But if you look closely at any picture of the Great Exhibition you will see the standard layout of a trade show – booths and stand spaces lined up next to each other. You will also see many display products which are still popular today – tablecloths, signs, flags, product display stands. Even in Victorian times people loved a freebie and at the Great Exhibition many exhibitors gave away free samples of their products – a practice that is still carried out today.

At XL Displays we might not have been around in Victorian times but we can still provide you with everything you need for a modern day exhibition. We offer a wide range of portable display products, including pop up stands and roller banners. With a nod to those at the Great Exhibition we also do a fine range of branded tablecloths and printed flags!

For more information on any of our products or exhibition stand design service, please contact us or call on 01733 511030.