History, origin & usage of term ‘Showroom’ instead of shop/ store/ storefront?
How/ where did it come about?
Who came up with it?
The OED confirms the Merriam Webster assertion of 1616. It gives in all three senses of the word but I believe the one you are looking for is sense 1. But clearly its importance takes off with the arrival of a consumerist society in the late-eighteenth, and early-nineteenth centuries.
- A room used to display goods for sale, (now) esp. large items such as vehicles, appliances, or furniture. Also figurative.
1616 R. Cocks Diary 2 Jan. (1883) I. 95 To keepe the shopp or shew
1617 R. Cocks Diary 23 July 283 We delivered divers sortes
merchandiz to Jno. Japon to sell in the shopp or shew roome over the
1781 S. Neville Diary 30 Oct. (1950) xii. 280 The finished goods
are placed in a long shew room for the inspection of strangers.
1829 T. Carlyle Voltaire in Crit. & Misc. Ess. (1840) II. 163
Voltaire’s knowledge is not a mere show-room of curiosities, but truly
a museum for purposes of teaching.
1839 Dickens Nicholas Nickleby x. 93 Madame Mantalini’s show-rooms
were on the first floor.
1879 F. W. Robinson Coward Conscience II. xxi. 160 From the busy
workshops into the great show-room.
1936 Motorboating Jan. 78/2 The importance to a customer of seeing
his prospective purchase in the water and not only on the showroom
1959 News Chron. 28 Nov. 6/8 At many hi-fi showrooms you can hear
the relative performances of different speakers.
2007 Independent 10 Feb. (Save & Spend section) 9/1 One of the
first Audi R8 supercars, coming to a showroom near you.
The other two senses given are:
A room in which a show (in various senses) takes place. Now esp.: a room in a hotel, nightclub, etc., in which entertainment is performed.
Any of the rooms in a mansion, stately home, or the like which are regularly open to the public for viewing. Usually in plural.