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3'000 years old: trade fairs

Published on 2/17/2016 by
MCH Group Schweizer Mustermesse Basel 1947

Trade fairs date back almost 3'000 years.. They were being staged in the 9th century BC already. Even back then, the trade fair ground enjoyed particular protection

900 years before the birth of Christ in the Phoenician city of Tyre, now in southern Lebanon: merchants are offering their wares, and anyone wishing to acquire them must offer something in exchange. This is the first trade fair referred to in history. It is described in great detail in the Old Testament of the Bible, in Ezekiel Chapter 27. This form of trading was founded by the Phoenician King Hiram I.

The Bible indicates that the trade fair ground enjoyed particular protection at that time already. Even enemies were able to engage in trading there for the duration of the fair without being in any danger. This special status still prevails in the German-speaking world today as "Messefrieden" (maintenance of the peace) at trade fairs.

The trade fair ground – a place with particular protection

But maintaining the peace at trade fairs entails much more than ensuring safety and order. It means: people at trade fairs must be able to exhibit and participate in fairs, whether as exhibitors or visitors, irrespective of their political differences. Political participation criteria are forbidden. The state is responsible for maintaining the peace at trade fairs.

What already applied almost 3000 years ago is still of key importance today. Even now, exhibitors and visitors from all over the world meet up at trade fairs and congresses, irrespective of the political situation and potential political differences. And the Swiss Sample Fair – the picture shows a view from 1947 – is still young by historical comparison, despite dating back one hundred years.

Photo: Staatsarchiv Basel Stadt/Privatarchiv MCH Group

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