The first Swiss Sample Fair
Published on 1/3/2016 by
It was in the afternoon of 14 April 1917 that Hermann Blocher (1872-1942), a member of the cantonal government and chairman of the organising committee, ceremoniously opened the first Swiss Sample Fair. No one present on that occasion had the slightest inkling that it was going to exceed all expectations – and that by a big margin.
The very first Sample Fair ever was a national industrial exhibition, providing a broad overview of Switzerland's commercial and industrial output during the First World War. The products or samples on display included staple and luxury foodstuffs, household goods, building materials, sports articles, toys, machines, tools, and furnishings and fittings for the home, not to mention watches and jewellery and extending to products from the fields of chemistry, pharmacy, graphic design and transport. During the 15 days that the fair remained open, its two locations in Basel were attended by more than 300 000 visitors. The 831 exhibitors at the first Swiss Sample Fair concluded transactions worth a total of around CHF 25 million thanks to their presentations on an exhibition surface area of some 6000 square metres. That was more than anybody had expected the event to achieve. The initiator behind the Sample Fair was a Belgian, Jules de Praetere, who at the time was director of the General Trade School ( Allgemeine Gewerbeschule) and the Museum of Arts and Crafts (Kunstgewerbemuseum) in Basel. He was aiming to emulate what Leipzig had done and establish an annual "product samples market" in Basel.
By the way: The number of visitors to the Swiss Sample Fair grew rapidly until the mid-1960s. In 1945, the last year of the war, it reached a new record with just under 450 000 visitors, by 1950 it had swelled to approximately 650 000 and, for its 50th edition in 1966, it even "broke through" the million mark.