This paper provides systematic quantitative evidence on the innovative activities of Italian firms in the early twentieth century, as well as on their relation to business performance. It retrieves information on patents, trademarks, and international exhibition participation for a large sample of Italian joint-stock manufacturing firms in 1913 and 1936, and relates these innovation measures to short-term profitability and long-term survival. In either period, around 40% of firms took either patents or trademarks, though typically with low frequency and intensity. The share further rises to 50% if exhibiting is added (in 1913). Conditional on other firm-level covariates, own patents and trademarks were not significantly related to profitability; however, competing firms’ activities were, pointing to the possession of effective absorptive capabilities. Furthermore, most crucially, patenting and trademarking firms were significantly likelier to survive in the long run. Results are specular for exhibiting.