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Road Shows From Past to ’Present’ - ConExpo 1975 Part 1

Part one of a look back at ConExpo '75

Thu August 01, 2013 - National Edition
Construction Equipment Guide

These ConExpo articles were published in Construction Equipment Guide (CEG) on Feb. 5, 1975.
These ConExpo articles were published in Construction Equipment Guide (CEG) on Feb. 5, 1975.
These ConExpo articles were published in Construction Equipment Guide (CEG) on Feb. 5, 1975. Evel Knievel’s ill-fated rocket hung from a crane in McCormick Place. These ConExpo articles were published in Construction Equipment Guide (CEG) on Feb. 5, 1975. These ConExpo articles were published in Construction Equipment Guide (CEG) on Feb. 5, 1975.

Editor’s Note: These ConExpo articles were published in Construction Equipment Guide (CEG) on Feb. 5, 1975. These and other ConExpo articles to follow will be part of a continuing series that take a look back at ConExpos past through the reporting of CEG. We hope you enjoy these retros as much as we did searching for them deep in our archives.

Fifty years ago, in 1925, when the first formal road show was conducted in Chicago, the crowd of approximately 15,000 people was thought to be spectacular. Now, a half century later, the ConExpo, formally known as the Road Show, is anticipating a Chicago crowd of at least 150,000 to wander through the International Amphitheatre and McCormick Place to view practically every piece of construction equipment that is manufactured in the world.

The first known road show was actually nothing more than a trade show conducted in Chicago in 1909 — at least these are the earliest available records of a meeting of this type. In 1925, the first major show was held in Chicago and was repeated again in 1926. In those years, crowds of 15,000 to 16,000 were considerable and the exhibit area available at that time was less than 100,000 square feet, which by today’s standards would only accommodate the three largest exhibitors at this year’s ConExpo.

The early 1930s precluded any shows because of the condition of the economy, but by 1936 the construction industry association felt more confident and conducted a show in Cleveland. With over 14,000 visitors in attendance it made the show a great success. In 1938 another show was staged, using both indoor and outdoor space, also in Cleveland. The success of that year’s show provided the impetus to stage a show in San Francisco in 1939 to tie in with the Golden Gate Exposition.

The advent of World War II prevented any road shows until 1948, when a show was held back in Chicago for the first time since 1926. That year’s production was staged at Soldier Field in Chicago and was the first totally outdoor show and also was the last summer time show that the association ever attempted. Regardless of the conditions, however, the magnitude of the show far exceeded any previous ones. It was at this show that there was in excess of a million square feet of exhibit space available, with over 75 percent of this used for equipment exhibits. It also was the first time that all exhibitors had as much space as they cared to use and the city of Chicago also had enough accommodations for all of the visitors.

After the 1948 success, the association changed their name to CIMA and scheduled the next road show for Chicago in February of 1957. Once again, even though it was nine years after the last voyage to Chicago, the show proved to be tremendously successful. The number of exhibitors and visitors, as well as the size of equipment on display, was larger than anything previously staged. However at this time it also became apparent that as the show got bigger, the cost and money involved was getting to be enormous. Regardless of the cost, the 1957 show was a huge success and as a result, 1963 was scheduled for the date of the next show.

The 1963 show was even bigger as the Amphitheatre, the largest exhibition hall in the country, was once again utilized. This show was the biggest ever and proved one thing … that the preparations, the costs and the time involved for such a show meant that a long period of preparation time had to be granted to all the exhibitors. The board at that time resolved on a six-year interval between shows. This would provide the industry, construction equipment manufacturers and their engineering departments with an adequate amount of time to develop and announce new equipment. It was at this time that the theme of the show was changed to ConExpo and 1969 was scheduled for the next show. The 1969 show turned more international in flavor as countries from all over the world were represented by well over 10,000 overseas visitors to Chicago. The ConExpo ’69 registered 124,000 guests and exhibitors invested an estimated $100 million, including the value of the equipment on display, cost of exhibits and the preparation and staging expenses of the show. Of the $100 million, approximately 60 percent was the cost of all the equipment on display.

ConExpo ’75, which will be staged February 9 through the 14, will be housed in two buildings as the 1969 show was. The International Amphitheatre will be open from 9 a.m. until 5 p.m. and McCormick Place will be open from 10 a.m. until 6 p.m. As to exhibitors, it could very briefly and correctly be stated that everyone will be there. As far as the major exhibitors are concerned, the dominating space of ConExpo ’75 will be taken by JI Case, Caterpillar Tractor Co., Clark Equipment Co., John Deere, Fiat-Allis, International Harvester, Challenge Cook, Poclain, Terex, Massey-Ferguson, and Wabco, to mention a few. The exhibitors will number in excess of 200, to give you a good idea of the scope of this year’s ConExpo.

In addition to equipment, you can also expect to see an extravaganza that will rival some Broadway productions. The entertainment will range from movies to miniature models of equipment working from computers and also being worked by electronics from nearby remote units. A laser manufacturer will give free training in leveling their laser units, the manufacturer of a large rear dump will allow you to lounge in the bed of the truck and listen to some narrators discuss the features of the vehicle. Various entertainers will be utilized including an ESP mental telepathy act, magicians will be on hand, as well as famous entertainers, athletes, and others who will all contribute to the construction industry on parade.

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