This paper investigates the relevance for innovation of international exhibitions. While the first of these events, i.e., London’s 1851 Great Exhibition, was an “exhibition of innovations,” many of the subsequent ones, following the model of industrial exhibitions developed in France, did not select exhibits based on novelty. In fact, they displayed a large spectrum of products, ranging from machines to primary products. Therefore, the suitability of data from their catalogs for proxying innovation, and their relationship to the traditional patent measure, should be better qualified. To do so, this paper performs an in-depth analysis of the Turin 1911 international exhibition, a medium-sized representative “French-model” exhibition. It matches a new database, built from the catalog of this event, with patents granted in Italy, revealing substantial differences. Furthermore, it evaluates how inventors could use the exhibition to promote their ideas, establish their reputation, and develop their career.

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Journal European Review of Economic History
Domini, G. (2019). Exhibitions, patents, and innovation in the early 20th century: Evidence from the Turin 1911 International Exhibition. European Review of Economic History. doi:10.1093/ereh/hez004