The History of Antique Shows

Head to Rehoboth Beach for the 60th Annual All Saints' Antiques Show
Head to Rehoboth Beach for the 60th Annual All Saints’ Antiques Show

The All Saints’ Antiques Show in Rehoboth Beach, Delaware will celebrate sixty years when the show opens at the end of July. That’s one of the oldest operating shows on the East Coast, and one of the oldest in the country. I thought the occasion might be a good time to take a look at the history of antique shows.

Recently some sad news came out of the U.K., the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair is closing down after 75 years. The fair started as a means of boosting trade during the Great Depression. It initially ran for three weeks in September 1934.

Antiques are a bit older of a tradition in Europe than in the United States. However, 1876, the year of the Centennial Exhibition at Philadelphia, is most commonly cited as the beginning of appreciation for American antiquities. Antique shows in the United States are for the most part younger.

The most prominent shows in the U.S., the Philadelphia Antiques Show and the Winter Antiques Show (New York), don’t extend back that far. 2009 was the 40th year for the Philadelphia Antiques Show. The Winter Antiques Show was founded in 1954, one year before the Washington Antiques Show.

A show that claims to be the South’s oldest antiques show takes place in Ashville, North Carolina. The Asheville Antique Fair began in 1946. The curious thing is on the history page of the Ashville show website; it conveys that the show started after two local women came back from New York’s Winter Antiques Show. Of course, if all the information we have is correct, the Winter Antiques Show began well after the Ashville show.

It’s a show in the mid-west that seems to predate most, if not all, of the east coast shows. The Dunham Tavern Museum show in Cleveland has been one of the biggest funding sources for the museum since it began in 1937—only three year’s junior to the Grosvenor House Antiques Fair. Oddly a press release puts the show start date at 113 years ago (the 1890s) when most anything considered an antique must have been English (and you have to wonder how much of that might have been in Cleveland). Still, it’s possible…

The All Saints’ Antiques Show runs from July 29-Aug 1 at the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center.

The Ashville Antiques Fair runs July 31- Aug 2 at the Ashville Civic Center

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