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The modern concept of the World’s Fair was crystallized by the Centennial International Exhibition held in Philadelphia in 1876.
Attendees saw early products, ranging from the Edison lightbulb, Alexander Graham Bell’s first telephone and Heinz ketchup. Entrepreneurs, inventors and engineers imagined a future and got business done.
In the Technical.ly newsroom, we define innovation as the process for developing new solutions for old problems. Technology and entrepreneurship have always been effective tools to execute on just such advancements.
For the last decade, each spring, we’ve gathered around these ideas as part of what’s now Philly Tech Week presented by Comcast. The 10th annual will take place May 1 to 9, 2020. Help us launch this season on Nov. 19 at Quorum.
A decade in, PTW is this generation’s ground-up gathering of builders in Philadelphia. But it’s easy to see the Centennial Exposition, as it’s also known, as the largest innovation celebration Philadelphia has ever seen. Critically though, it wasn’t the first. As any academic pursuit will remind you, explosions of new thinking come at intersections and legacy.
That Exposition, 100 years after the Declaration of Independence, only happened because of rare coordination between civic and business leaders in notoriously fractured Philadelphia. Before the Exposition, there were decades of large-scale gatherings of pro-Union fundraisers, Abolitionists and early suffragists — all public convenings of big ideas and innovations of the day. Specifically, historians routinely note there would have been no Centennial Exposition in 1876 without the Great Central Fair held a decade earlier as a community fundraiser for the Civil War effort. They all had big ideas and new companies and professionals advancing their fields.
Celebrating communities of thinking can only sustain if you honor what has come before you.
Inventors and entrepreneurs and engineers built companies and influenced life for their neighbors dating back to the American Revolution and farther back still. When Lenni-Lenape Chief Tamenend met with William Penn sometime after October 1682, that, too, was the beginning of a convening around big ideas and doers. If not for the loss of the oral history tradition, we know this idea of gathering around big, new ideas would go back even farther.
In planning the extra special edition of Philly Tech Week, we’ve paid extra attention to what has come before us. When we kick off six months from now, we’ll aim to tie history to our future.
When the 10th annual PTW takes place in May, we’ll honor that past. We’ll tell our story with the theme of “Innovation Been Here,” and call back to these and other lesser-known moments of convening new thinking in Philadelphia.
To honor that history, we couldn’t have a better kickoff event planned: Mark your calendars to join us Friday, May 1, in Old City, in partnership with dozens of galleries, showrooms, businesses and more for a night celebrating those kinds of collisions that predate all of us.
Then, Technical.ly’s company-building conference Introduced will happen Thursday, May 7, and the 10th annual closing Signature Event will take place Friday, May 8. Between those bookends, there will be 100 events exposing the ideas, processes and people that point to a brighter future.
We’d love if you told us when your first @phillytechweek was by sharing on social with the #PTW20 hashtag, and join us Nov. 19 for our launch, which will include a slate of early announcements. Then help us get there.
Over the next six months, you’ll see designs, stories and reminders of the mix of the past, the present and the future. Want to get involved? Tell us. Email Director of Partnerships Jeanette Lloyd at firstname.lastname@example.org.
We won’t yet bring the next World’s Fair, but the spirit remains true.
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