A Look Back at the Origins and History of CONEXPO
From 1,500 attendees to nearly 150,000 today, the show we know as CONEXPO/CON-AGG has roots over 100 years old and a fascinating part of America’s road construction history. Find out how it all began in 1909 and more memorable moments along the way to 2020.
A Major Attraction
In 1909, members of the American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA) held a construction equipment and machinery show in Columbus, Ohio. The following year, ARTBA’s “Road Show” featured 45 manufacturers and had 1,500 attendees. Bolstered by federal-aid road programs, rising federal and state revenues for road construction and a growing number of equipment manufacturers, the Road Show became a major attraction for highway engineers and road contractors by the early 1920s. From 1921 through 1927, Chicago hosted the Road Show and the number of manufacturers exhibiting their products grew from 213 in 1923 to 287 in 1925.
From January 11-15, 1926, the 17th Road Show took place in Chicago’s famous Coliseum and featured a wide range of both heavy and light equipment along with various construction materials from 295 equipment manufacturers – including the newly formed Caterpillar Tractor Co. Around 15,000 highway engineers, contractors and manufacturer representatives attended the 1926 Road Show.
This unique photo from the Corporate Archives historical photograph collection is special for two reasons. It is our only photo of the Caterpillar Tractor Co. exhibit at the 1926 Road Show – the first equipment show the young company participated in. It is also the only known photograph that features all five tractors in the company’s first product line all lined up together. From left to right, we see the Caterpillar Sixty and Caterpillar Thirty (both formerly Best designs) and the 2-Ton, 5-Ton and 10-Ton Tractors (all formerly Holt designs). Within a few weeks, the 10-Ton would be pulled from the product line and the 5-Ton would be discontinued a few months later, leaving the company with only three products to sell by the end of 1926.
Through subsequent decades the Road Show was an integral part of ARTBA conventions. But at the beginning of the Interstate Era, in 1957, the Construction Industry Manufacturers Association took over the Road Show, which continued to evolve into what we now know as CONEXPO/CON-AGG. Nearly 150,000 people now attend CONEXPO, which is held every three years in Las Vegas, Nevada.