Processing Magazine

What do Thomas Edison and thousands of processing professionals have in common?

August 1, 2013

By Clay Stevens

You may be surprised to learn that the answer to the question posed in the above headline is that they have all attended the CHEM SHOW!

From the very first event in 1915, when America’s most famous inventor came looking for inspiration, until this year, the CHEM SHOW has always been a leading source of innovative solutions for processing professionals. In fact, we will proudly celebrate the event’s 98th anniversary at the 2013 CHEM Show in New York City this Dec. 10.

Nearly a century ago, the then fledgling U.S. chemical industry was under threat of having its supply of European raw materials cut off during World War I. Dr. Charles Roth, chief chemist for the Standard Oil Co., and the International Exposition Co. (IEC), recognized the need to bring equipment manufacturers and chemical producers together to meet this challenge and decided to launch the event.  

At the original CHEM SHOW, i.e., the First National Exposition of the Chemical Industries, 83 makers of processing equipment and materials came together to showcase their latest products and solutions. The event was attended by a few hundred curious chemical industry professionals. From those humble beginnings, our growth paralleled that of the process industries. The 1916 Expo more than doubled to 188 exhibitors, and the 1917 Show (it was still an annual event at that time) more than tripled to 288 exhibitors — a 250% growth.

Growth and more

As the industry grew, the biennial CHEM SHOW thrived as the primary marketplace where new innovations were being showcased on a regular basis. Even when the country struggled through the Great Depression in the 1930s, the chemical industry and the CHEM SHOW continued their growth as more than 200 new chemicals were introduced to the market during that time.

The early 1940s were dominated by the lean years of World War II but the late ’40s and much of the ’50s saw a robust economic recovery that created new demand for chemical-related products.

Starting in the 1960s and extending through the 1970s, increasing environmental regulations created a significant growth in pollution control and the number of environmentally focused products. As we entered the early 1980s, the economic recession brought downsizing, consolidation and an increased focus on quality control and efficiency.

The 1990s ushered in an age of greater productivity and efficiency, much of which was made possible by advances in software and new automation technology. We launched a new Process Control and Automation Center to meet those needs and it attracted nearly three-dozen exhibitors showcasing everything from digitized transmitters to process simulation.

Bumps in road

Unfortunately, another major trend was also taking shape in the ’90s. Increasing globalization of the CPI was shifting chemical manufacturing overseas and taking many jobs with it. And although overseas participation increased, there were fewer U.S. companies left to participate.

A smaller but strong U.S. CPI and CHEM SHOW greeted the new millenium, and both have weathered even more recent stresses to the global economy. The CHEM SHOW remains the leading North American event where attendees can discover new innovations for every process application. Our 55th event in December is expected to attract more than 5,000 CPI professionals who will come to see all the latest products on display from over 300 companies.

Although Thomas Edison would truly be amazed by what he could see and learn at this year’s exposition and conference, the mission of the CHEM SHOW remains the same as it did in 1915 — to bring CPI suppliers and end-users together to find solutions to their challenges.

I hope that you will come to this year’s event seeking inspiration and solutions to your challenges. You won’t be disappointed.

To learn more about attending or exhibiting at the 2013 CHEM SHOW, please visit our website