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The International Housewares Association and the Housewares Industry have a rich history dating back more than 80 years. In honor of IHA’s 80th Anniversary, here is a look back at some of the highlights:

To read more about the history of the housewares industry and Show:

Read our “Housewares History” Blog Series


First house furnishing exhibition in the U.S. is held in New York’s Madison Square Garden. It is conceived by Isbon Scott, editor of House Furnishing Review, who founded the trade publication in 1892. Scott also creates the House Furnishing Exhibition Company to manage the show, which ends after its 1908 event.


Numerous promoters and groups of manufacturers or merchants attempt to stage trade shows at Chicago venues.


The National House Furnishing Manufacturers Association (NHFMA) organizes the “First Annual Chicago House Furnishing Exhibit” with 115 exhibitors, held at Chicago’s Stevens Hotel, January 3-7. (The Stevens Hotel, on Michigan Avenue at 8th Street, is later renamed the Conrad Hilton.)


East Coast manufacturers establish the rival American Housewares Exhibit in New York City, held July 24-30.


Organizers of the East Coast show incorporate as The New York Housewares Manufacturers Association (NYHMA).


Conflicts within the NHFMA cause some manufacturers to incorporate a new organization, IHA’s predecessor, the House Furnishing Manufacturers Association of America (HFMAA).


Both NHFMA and HFMMA sponsor shows in Chicago. NHFMA holds its Show at the Stevens Hotel, January 8-14. On the same days, HFMMA hosts its first Show at the Palmer House; its six-day Show is open 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday and 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Monday and Thursday.


The NHFMA and the HFMMA merge to create the Housewares Manufacturers Association (HMA).


The newly formed HMA holds its first joint Show in January at Chicago’s Palmer House hotel.


HMA merges with the NYHMA and the name of the combined trade group becomes the National Housewares Manufacturers Association (NHMA)


NHMA holds its first Show at the Philadelphia Convention Hall, April 27 through May 2, marking the end of the “hotel era” and moves into the modern exhibition era.


NHMA’s National Housewares and Major Appliance Exhibit is held at Chicago’s International Amphitheater, January 15-22.


NHMA manages its January Show in Chicago and its July Show in Atlantic City.


The January Show moves to Chicago’s Navy Pier to accommodate a growing number of exhibitors, eventually reaching a maximum of 649 in 1956. The Show runs from Thursday, January 13 to Thursday January 20 and is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. all days, except on Sunday, when it is closed.


The Show’s name changes to the National Housewares and Home Appliance Manufacturers Exhibit.


The Show moves to Chicago’s new exposition center, McCormick Place on the Lake. The expanded Show attracts more than 900 exhibitors.

1961 – 1991

With the new McCormick Place, NHMA holds both semi-annual Shows in Chicago.


On Saturday, January 15, the night before the opening of NHMA’s National Housewares Exhibit, a fire spreads rapidly from one exhibitor’s booth and destroys McCormick Place.


After the catastrophe, the Show is held at Chicago’s International Amphitheatre from June 12-16, where it continues for three years.


In January, the Show returns to the rebuilt McCormick Place.


NHMA publishes The Housewares Story, a book written by veteran industry journalist Earl Lifshey.


“Bigger and Better than Ever,” the Show expands to occupy space in the West/Donnelley Hall building.


NHMA experiments with Show dates in April and November in Chicago. The November 1986 Show celebrates the additional space available in the newly opened North Building.


NHMA stages September shows in Atlanta. In September 1991, NHMA’s Lifestyle Show is held at the same time as the National Gourmet Show and the National Fall Gift and Accessories Show in Atlanta.


NHMA relocates its headquarters from Chicago’s Merchandise Mart to Rosemont, near O’Hare Airport. The Show occupies three levels of the East building and two levels of the North building.


The Show’s name changes to the International Housewares Show, and NHMA announces it will host one Show per year.


NHMA introduces the winners of NHMA’s first annual student design competition and the Design Oasis display to spotlight design’s importance and add educational programming to the Show.


The opening of the new South Building at McCormick Place dramatically increases available space, allowing the Show to reorganize exhibitor locations according to product categories to increase buying efficiency. NHMA commemorates its 100th Show with the publication of America at Home: A Celebration of Twentieth-Century Housewares.


NHMA forms the Housewares Charity Foundation (HCF) and hosts its first annual Charity Gala in 1998. Since then, HCF has raised more than $48 million and has been credited with donating more than $27 million to the Breast Cancer Research Foundation.


NHMA premiers, the Online Show, allowing access until March 15 to exhibitor information from the January 11-14 Show.


To better represent the growing global industry, the NHMA changes its name to the International Housewares Association (IHA).


IHA, with 13 international magazine sponsors, inaugurates the Global Innovation Award (gia) for retail excellence.


IHA partners with the Pantone Color Institute to create the ColorWatch, an annual display at the Show that illustrates the impact of color in the housewares industry.


The International Housewares Show is renamed the International Home + Housewares Show.


Responding to changing retail buying patterns, IHA reschedules the Show from its traditional January to March. The three-day Show is open Saturday, Sunday and Monday. In 2005, it changes to Sunday, Monday and Tuesday.


The Show responds to buyer interest and adds a fourth day, opening on Saturday at 12:30 p.m. and closing on Tuesday at 5:00 pm. The 2013 Show opens at 10 a.m. Saturday and closes at 3 p.m. on Tuesday. The Show also introduces its mobile app.


IHA introduces its Innovation Awards recognition, which becomes the IHA Global Innovation Awards (gia) for Product Design in 2016.


IHA launches The Inspired Home to help members connect directly with consumer through and various social media platforms.


At 816,000 ft2, The International Home + Housewares Show is the largest annual trade fair in Chicago and the 14th largest in the United States.