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From Swiss Sample Fair to MCH Group

Published on 2/12/2016 by
MCH Group Schweizer Mustermesse 1958

From the historic organiser of the Basel Sample Fair early in the 20th century, our company has, over the course of a hundred years, grown into a leading international live-marketing group. The initiant was a Belgian.

Following the grant of an imperial privilege to Basel, the autumn fair was established there in 1471 and has been held every year since then without a break, although not as a "commercial fair" in the sense of present-day trade fairs, but as an "annual funfair". The medieval spring fair in Basel, on the other hand, was only short-lived. It was abandoned in 1494 under pressure from the local guilds, who objected to the competition arising from the freedom to trade during the fair.

A Belgian initiates a tradition

The idea of holding a spring fair in Basel re-emerged at the start of the 20th century. The initiator was a Belgian, Jules de Praetere, the then director of the General Trade School (Allgemeine Gewerbeschule) and the Museum of Arts and Crafts (Kunstgewerbemuseum) in Basel. His vision was of a "product sample market" to be held annually along similar lines to the Leipzig event and it quickly gathered strong support in political circles in Basel. On 15 July 1916 (right in the middle of the First World War) the Basel-Stadt cantonal government declared that it was "fundamentally in agreement with the organisation of a Swiss sample fair". And less than a year after that, the first Swiss Sample Fair took place in Basel from 15 to 24 April 1917.

A milestone: the merger of Messe Basel with Messe Zurich

On 26 February 1920, the Basel-Stadt cantonal parliament took the decision to set up a cooperative under private law with the purpose of organising the sample fair in Basel. At a later date, this cooperative was transformed into a cooperative under the public law of the canton of Basel-Stadt. It was transformed once again in 2000 into a limited company with the participation of public-law entities. The most important reason for this change was the planned merger with Messe Zürich, which had been founded in 1945. The company resulting from the merger in 2001 was given the name Messe Schweiz AG; this was changed in 2009 to MCH Group AG, which is still its name today. Up to the present, the canton of Basel-Stadt has retained a one third holding in our Group, and shares are also held by the cantons of Basel-Landschaft and Zurich as well as the city of Zurich.

More than fairs

What once, at the beginning of the 20th century, was a cooperative whose sole purpose was to organise trade fairs in Basel, has today, at the start of the 21st century, grown into a leading international live-marketing group, with sales figures that place it amongst the ten biggest trade-fair companies in the world.

MCH Group Messe Basel Halle 1

Photo 1: Staatsarchiv Basel Stadt/Privatarchiv MCH Group
Photo2: MCH Group

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