Sunday, December 31, 2017

Fond Memories of a Forgotten Industry

If you want to know where the future goes to be seen, look here.

― Charles Pappas

Charles Pappas, reporter for Exhibitor, has compiled a lighthearted treasury of trade show tales titled Flying Cars, Zombie Dogs, and Robot Overlords: How World's Fairs and Trade Expos Changed the World

It's a whimsical wayback machine that whirls you through a century and a half of gadgets and the shows that made them famous.

Pappas' goal isn't to spotlight the stars, but the stage. 

Although worth about $100 billion today, trade shows are a forgotten industry, he says, "as invisible as the oxygen in the air around us."

And that's ironic because shows are much more than "product platforms," Pappas says: they help launch social movements.

You'll find tons of delightful trivia inside his 250 pages.

Among my favorite:
  • We owe our obsession with dinosaurs to an 1851 London show

  • We eat bananas because an 1876 Philadelphia show popularized them

  • The seed money for the Statue of Liberty came from shows in Paris and Philadelphia

  • Aunt Jemima owes her fame to an 1893 Chicago show

  • The electric vibrator premiered at a 1900 Paris show (where else?)

  • The Patriotic Food Show promoted eating roadkill to help ration food in 1918

  • Space travel launched at a 1927 show in Moscow (30 years before Sputnik)

  • Picasso's "Guernica" began life as a trade show mural

  • The run on Nylon stockings began at the 1939 New York show

  • The term "Con" (as in Comic-Con) was coined by the same promoter who coined "Sci-Fi"
Pappas' book suffers from the author's overuse of puns, but they're easily overlooked amid the fascinating stories he tells. 

Don't miss Flying Cars, Zombie Dogs, and Robot Overlords. It's a lot of fun.
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