Meile not only had to confirm the success of the first Swiss Sample Fair but also had to consolidate the innovative company and give a solid legal shape to what had, up until then, been the provisional organisational structure of the Basel trade fair. The 31-year-old economist had valuable specialist knowledge for tackling such an undertaking. Even the trade-fair sector was not new to him. He had written his dissertation on "Switzerland at the world exhibitions" and had thus already dealt intensively with the phenomenon of national and international fairs.
After selecting Meile to be the new director, the organising committee took the fundamental decision to hold the Swiss Sample Fair every year in Basel. In order to safeguard the interests of the exhibitors and purchasers, who wanted to conduct their business with greater discretion, it was also decided to restrict free access for visitors. From the third Sample Fair onwards, the public at large was only allowed to attend at weekends, while the weekdays were reserved for professional buyers.
From 1920 onwards, the fair management shortened the duration of the Swiss Sample Fair from fifteen days to eleven. The most important aim politically was to make sure that Basel as a fair location was equipped to face up to the expected competition from Zurich and Lausanne. One measure soon launched towards achieving that was to concentrate the trade fairs on a single site within Basel (the first sample fair in 1917 had been spread over several sites, some of them provisional). The fair management opted for the plot of land that had formerly been occupied by the Badischer Bahnhof (the German railway station), which is where the second Sample Fair was then held in a concentrated form in 1918.
Under Director Meile, the provisional organisational form of the Swiss Sample Fair was converted into a definitive one and the "Swiss Sample Fair Cooperative" was founded in 1920. By the way, the fair remained a cooperative until 1999. Wilhelm Meile also pushed ahead the trade fair's building programme, which included having various provisional structures and new halls opened in 1920, 1923, 1926 and 1933.
In 1938, Wilhelm Meile was elected director general of the Swiss Federal Railways, and his replacement in charge of the Sample Fair was Dr. Theodor Brogle (1893-1959), a professor of business economics, who held the post until 1954.
Photo: Staatsarchiv Basel Stadt/Privatarchiv MCH Group