What started as a photo contest in 1946 among canvas goods manufacturers has become a prestigious international awards competition honoring excellence in awnings and canopies, shade sails, marine fabrication, geosynthetic projects, tent rental and manufacturing, tensile structures, fabric graphics, unique fabric art and fabric environments, and more. The International Achievement Awards (IAAs), sponsored by Industrial Fabrics Association International (IFAI), have been commending the best finished projects the industry has to offer for 75 years.
An early example is a canopy project at the historic Hotel Dennis in Atlantic City, N.J., by Walter Eshbach, which took the overall Grand Prize and First Prize in “Classification 1” in 1947 at the 34th convention of the National Canvas Goods Manufacturers Association (NCGMA—an early name of IFAI). The contest featured four “classifications” or categories that year, with submissions in a range much narrower than today’s projects: interior and exterior canopies, awnings, and tents and party canopies made up the competitors.
The January 1948 issue of Review touted the superiority of cotton in its report of the 1947 contest winners: “As one looks at the splendid work and structural ingenuity shown in these photographs … no other material can or could be used to such advantage in getting around corners and completing a job of which any Awning and Canvas Goods Manufacturer should be proud.”
Early winners took home a cash prize—$100 for the first-place winner (about $1,350 today when you account for inflation). J. L. Stuart, NCGMA first vice president in 1947 and the force behind the establishment of what we know today as the IAAs, hoped that the industry would become more “prestige conscious,” according to Review: “The competitive spirit always results in something different and worthwhile and, it is hoped, at all future National Conventions, many more of our manufacturers will contribute some worthy accomplishment in the field.” Stuart’s vision has most certainly been achieved.