ConExpo-Con/Agg through the years

By |  January 31, 2020

Long before ConExpo-Con/Agg was the grandiose gathering it is today, there were more modest exhibitions that showcased the latest and greatest in equipment and technology.

Over more than a century, the shows that ultimately merged into ConExpo-Con/Agg grew in size and developed reputations as go-to industry events.

The latest rendition of ConExpo-Con/Agg is set for March 10-14 at its now-familiar home in Las Vegas. But before the industry converges this year on the Las Vegas Convention Center, Pit & Quarry takes a look back over the last 111 years to illustrate how ConExpo-Con/Agg ultimately came to be.

ConExpo Countdown 1909

Photo courtesy of ConExpo-Con/Agg


The Road Show, the earliest name for what later became ConExpo, launches in Columbus, Ohio. This original exhibition was viewed as a hazardous experiment, with 40 machinery manufacturers displaying amazing new devices that could do the work of 15 horse-drawn units. The show covered only 40,000 sq. ft. – the equivalent to one of the larger booths at the modern-day ConExpo-Con/Agg. This early show was sponsored by some of the founding organizations that eventually formed the Association of Equipment Manufacturers (AEM) and the American Road and Transportation Builders Association.


The first edition of what later becomes Con/Agg is hosted in Detroit. Held at the Book-Cadillac Hotel, the show is called the Biennial Show in its early days. The Biennial Show becomes the Concrete & Aggregates Show more than 40 years later.

ConExpo Countdown 1931

Photo: P&Q archives


Pit & Quarry publishes a commentary on the Road Show, which is held in St. Louis this year. In the commentary, some criticism is made regarding the exhibition being held every year. With the nation in the midst of the Great Depression, P&Q details how some manufacturers want to be able to utilize their annual show investment utilized in other areas. Additionally, the commentary suggests lengthening the time between exhibitions to better showcase tech advancements.


The American Road Builders Association sponsors the Road Show in Chicago. This was the first time the show came together following World War II, showing contractors the tools they need to help build America during its booming years. Held outside Soldier Field, the 1948 show is larger and more diverse than any prior gathering.


The Combined Biennial Show (Con/Agg’s predecessor), as it is renamed this year, is hosted at the Chicago Coliseum by the National Sand & Gravel Association and the National Ready Mixed Concrete Association.


In 1963, the Road Show’s name is changed to Construction Equipment Exposition & Road Show to reflect the growing scope of industry. The name “ConExpo” is used for the first time in 1969 during an exhibition staged at the International Amphitheatre in Chicago.


Photo courtesy of ConExpo-Con/Agg

Photo courtesy of ConExpo-Con/Agg

The Show Management Joint Venture Agreement is signed by the National Aggregates Association, the International Concrete & Aggregates Group (NRMCA and the National Stone, Sand & Gravel Association) and the Construction Industries Manufacturers Association. ConExpo’s show cycle is reduced from six years to three in order to better align rotation with international shows. P&Q covers the agreement and provides a first look into what the show will look like going forward. Also, the final Con/Agg is hosted in 1994.


ConExpo-Con/Agg debuts at the Las Vegas Convention Center in 1996 – the first time ConExpo and Con/Agg are hosted together– creating the largest exposition ever held in the Western Hemisphere for the construction, aggregate and ready-mixed concrete industries. In 1999, ConExpo-Con/Agg becomes the nation’s largest trade show across all industries.


In 2004, AEM gains control of ConExpo-Con/Agg, eliminating a dual-management system following approval by the boards of AEM and the International Concrete & Aggregates Group.


The 2020 rendition of ConExpo-Con/Agg comes on the heels of a record-setting year in 2017. The last meeting of construction, aggregate and ready-mix industry professionals spanned a record 2.8 million-plus sq. ft. of exhibits, with a record 2,800-plus exhibitors for the nearly 128,000 attendees.

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About the Author:

Joe McCarthy is a former Associate Editor of Pit and Quarry Magazine.

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