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Guide to People, Organizations, and Topics in Prosperity and Thrift
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Chain Stores
The 1920s saw a proliferation of chain stores for consumers at all levels of income. The growth of chain stores was aided by the tremendous popularity of the automobile, which greatly increased shoppers' mobility, especially in rural areas. Sears, Roebuck and Company was especially successful in taking advantage of these new market circumstances. In 1895, Sears was a mail-order company catering largely to rural demands for basic goods, but in 1925 it branched out into direct retailing, and by 1929 it operated a chain of 324 stores nationwide. F. W. Woolworth's, whose "five- and ten-cent" variety stores spread across the country by catering to lower-income consumers, was another successful chain; during the 1920s Woolworth's expanded into more and more working-class neighborhoods. Variety stores of this sort sold almost everything except fashions. An anniversary pamphlet, Fifty Years of Woolworth (1929), traces Woolworth's fifty-year history (1879-1929) in the United States and Europe. Other successful chains included the Great Atlantic and Pacific Tea Company (the A&P), Kroger's, J. C. Penney's, and Walgreen Drug. In addition to the grocery and five- and ten-cent store chains, drugstore chains, candy chains, shoe chains, cigar chains, and music chains flourished.

Mail-order buying continued during the 1920s, but the popularity of the new chain stores changed the way consumers shopped. Many documents of the time commented on this change and the problems that accompanied it. Examples in this digital collection include the economist Paul Mazur's pamphlet Some Problems of Distribution: The Development of Chain Store Merchandising and its Economic Effects (1929); the economist Paul Nystrom's Chain Stores (1930); "The Present Status and Future Prospects of Chains of Department Stores" (1927), a speech by department store magnate Benjamin A. Filene; a pamphlet, The Menace of the Chains (1924), revealing the fear that chain stores caused among local businessmen; and What is the Chain Store's Responsibility to its Community? (1929), by Earl C. Sams, president of the J. C. Penney chain.

Chase, Stuart (1888-1985)
Stuart Chase was an economist, consumer activist, and man of letters. From 1922 to 1939, Chase was a director of the New York-based Labor Bureau, Inc., an organization that furnished research, accounting, and other professional services to labor unions and cooperatives and published the newsletter Facts for Workers: A Monthly Review of Business, Industry and General Economic Conditions from the Point of View of Organized Labor.

Chase and Frederick John Schlink were the founders of Consumers' Research. Schlink converted a small consumers' club operating in a White Plains, New York, garage into a testing organization for consumer products. The establishment of Consumers' Research, Inc. followed Chase and Schlink's publication of Your Money's Worth (1927), a controversial exposé of the advertising and pricing practices used by manufacturers of consumer products. This work was widely distributed through the Book-of-the-Month Club.

The enthusiastic public reception of Your Money's Worth encouraged Chase and Schlink to expand their consumers' club into a national organization. In December 1929, two months after the Wall Street crash, the organization began to publish its findings both as consumer pamphlets and in a regular bulletin that compared and assigned ratings to consumer products. These reports were eventually published in the Handbook of Buying. By 1930, membership in Consumers' Research, Inc. had reached twelve thousand. It was the forerunner of the Consumers Union created by Arthur Kallet in 1936.

Although Chase had trained in engineering at MIT, his writings explored semantics, economic theory, the history of technology, and comparative cultures (Mexico and the United States). The Chase Papers at the Library of Congress include a notable exchange of letters with Theodore Dreiser on consumer purchasing power and corporate profits; they also discuss millionaires, banks, corporations, and unemployment. Chase also wrote critiques of consumerism and advertising for The Forum, The Nation, and The Outlook.

See also: Selections from the Stuart Chase Papers at the Library of Congress.

Clark, Edward T. (1878-1935)
Edward Tracy Clark began working for Vice President Coolidge in 1921 and continued his service through Coolidge's second presidential term, a span of eight years. Clark was the only one of Coolidge's private secretaries to serve him during his entire tenure in federal office. The job of presidential secretary combined personal and professional assignments of a highly delicate and demanding nature, requiring great skill and discretion. The more than fifty letters among Clark's papers that Coolidge wrote to him after leaving the White House convey the impression of an exceptionally cordial relationship.

Clark was so well regarded that following Coolidge's departure from office President Herbert Hoover invited him to return as his presidential secretary. After serving Presidents Coolidge and Hoover, Clark worked as a consultant on legislative, customs, and tariff matters for various businesses in Washington, D.C.

See also: Selections from the Edward T. Clark Papers at the Library of Congress.

Colored Merchants' Association (CMA)
The Colored Merchants' Association (CMA) was a cooperative established in Montgomery, Alabama, in 1928 to help African American businesses compete successfully in the marketplace. Its goals were to strengthen the profitability of black stores, offer more attractive shopping opportunities to black consumers, and alert national advertisers to African Americans' buying power. National Negro Business League president Robert Russa Moton participated in the growth of the cooperative.

Coolidge, Calvin J. (1872-1933)
Calvin John Coolidge was born July 4, 1872, in Plymouth, Vermont, and died January 5, 1933, in Northampton, Massachusetts. His father was John Calvin Coolidge, a village storekeeper, and his mother was Victoria Josephine Moor Coolidge.

Coolidge graduated with honors from Amherst College, Massachusetts, in 1895 and entered the practice of law in the city of Northampton. His political career began in 1899, when he was elected a city councilman there. Over the next twenty years he served in a variety of political positions in Massachusetts, including mayor of Northampton, state senator, and lieutenant governor. In October 1905 he married Grace Anna Goodhue (1879-1957); they had two sons, John (1906- ) and Calvin, Jr. (1908-24). In 1918 Coolidge was elected governor of Masachusetts and then nominated for vice president at the 1920 Republican National Convention. He served as the vice president to Warren G. Harding and became the thirtieth President of the United States upon Harding's death in 1923. He was nominated for president in 1924 and using the slogan "Keep Cool with Coolidge" easily won the 1924 election. He refused renomination in 1928 and retired to private life in Northampton.

Cooperatives were nonprofit organizations through which individuals or small businesses provided themselves with goods and services at cost. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries the cooperative movement was a widespread response to the stresses of modern industrialization. Workers banded together to ensure the fulfillment of members' needs at a time when the scale of most economic institutions was expanding. Through cooperatives, workers could take advantage of discounts for large-purchase orders and increase their power when dealing with national economic forces. By eliminating profits, consumer cooperatives saved members the difference between wholesale and retail costs. Members of a cooperative usually owned or controlled its resources and business policies.

Cooperatives were especially popular in America during the 1920s. In addition to farmers' cooperatives, there were many cooperatives for workers and consumers, including credit unions, which sought to address the credit needs and resources of lower-income consumers. During the Coolidge administration, Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover supported the development of associationalism, a term used to describe trade, industrial, professional, and social-welfare associations.

See also: The Cooperative Movement in the United States in 1925 (Other than Agricultural) (1927); "Co-operative Marketing--Agriculture, 1923-28" (Coolidge Papers); Credit Unions: Their Operation and Value (1926); Consumers' Cooperative Societies in New York State (1922) and The Story of Toad Lane (Chase Papers, ca. 1926).

Couzens, James (1872-1936)
James Couzens was a close associate of Henry Ford at the Ford Motor Company in Michigan from 1903 to 1915. He served as commissioner of police and then as mayor of Detroit (1919-22), and as a Republican senator from Michigan (1922-1936). He advocated voluntary reform of business ethical practices led by business leaders. The James Couzens Papers at the Library of Congress include valuable materials about the Ford Motor Company before 1920.

See also: Selections from the James Couzens Papers at the Library of Congress; Truth-in- Fabric and Misbranding Bills (1924).

Department Stores
Growth in retailing and merchandising during the 1920s was spectacular. Department stores in the major urban centers sought to attract middle- and upper-income customers by presenting the latest fashions in artistic surroundings or through the use of marketing extravaganzas. The promotional publication A Friendly Guide Book to Philadelphia and the Wanamaker Store (1926), for instance, describes the attractions of Philadelphia and the charms of Wanamaker's department store. A drawing of the store's Grand Court shows its Great Organ (a large pipe organ) in a setting reminiscent of a cathedral, and the building itself is described as a "merchant cathedral." Macy's in New York used its annual Christmas Parade as a sales pitch for the children's toy industry. The parade, featured in the December 1924 issue of Merchants Record and Show Window, was timed to coincide with Thanksgiving, heralding the beginning of an extended Christmas shopping season.

The Art-in-Industry Movement of the 1920s significantly affected the advertising and sale of retail goods in department stores. Drawing on French and other European trends, museums such as New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art created rooms of high-style contemporary design that influenced the look of furnishings marketed to department store customers. Museum personnel sometimes served as consultants to stores planning to design exhibition sales rooms. Strategies for incorporating artistic design in consumer products are outlined in How the Retailer Merchandises Present Day Fashion, Style and Art (1929), an essay by Austin Purves, a design consultant at Macy's.

See also: The Saleslady (1929); "Bernays Typescript on Art in the Fashion Industry, 1923-27: Cheney Brothers" (Bernays Papers); and The Present Status and Future Prospects of Chains of Department Stores (1927).

Dry Goods Economist
The Dry Goods Economist, a trade journal for the textile industry, provided instruction in retailing methods from 1852 onwards. The journal showed merchants and managers how to display and sell their merchandise most effectively in order to attract consumers and make a profit. The Dry Goods Economist was published weekly by the Textile Publishing Company in several sections, each devoted to a category of goods. In the 1920s sections of the journal were devoted to electrical goods, furnishings and furniture, and equipment, as well as to traditional dry-goods products. The journal also sponsored the publication of books dealing with chain-store history and with fabrics such as cotton, linen, silk, wool, and rayon.

See also: National Retail Dry Goods Association Bulletin, August 1926; Rayon and Other Synthetic Fibers (1929).

Federal Reserve Board
The Federal Reserve Board was established by Congress on December 23, 1913, through the Federal Reserve Act, which enabled the federal government to create currency or bank reserves in periods of crisis. The act provided for the appointment of five board members, with the secretary of the treasury serving as ex officio chairman. Secretary of the Treasury Andrew Mellon held this position during the Harding and Coolidge administrations. The comptroller of the currency was also an ex officio member. The Federal Reserve Act marked a significant expansion of government's management of the money supply.

See also: "Hamlin Memorandum and Diary Extracts, Showing Federal Reserve Board Response to 1927 Recession and Stock Market Speculation: July 1, 1927 - January 4, 1929" (Charles S. Hamlin Papers); "Downtown" feature in The Forum (July 1929).

Federal Trade Commission
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) was established in 1914 to help enforce both the Sherman Antitrust Act (1890) and the Clayton Antitrust Act (1914). Under the Harding administration, the FTC began assuming a friendlier stance toward business and antitrust suits declined. In 1926, the creation of a new FTC division, the Division of Trade Practice Conference, forestalled legal action against alleged violators of antitrust laws by organizing business conferences to forge voluntary, industry-by-industry agreements about what constituted fair trade practices. Such voluntarism reflected the Coolidge administration's faith in business's capacity to regulate and reform itself without government intervention. Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover played a major role in establishing the conferences.

Filene, Edward A. (1860-1937)
Edward A. Filene was a business theorist and visionary whose retailing ideas and practices acquired considerable influence in the 1920s. Filene gained his early retailing experience in his father's dry-goods and clothing-store business in Boston. He later became president of his father's company, William Filene & Sons, specializing in women's fashions. Filene experimented with retailing to customers of different income levels, establishing dress departments in different price ranges within the same store. In 1902 he opened Filene's Basement in the lower level of his company's main store, selling marked-down goods to shoppers of modest income and anyone looking for bargains. By 1912 Filene's was one of the largest specialty stores in the world, occupying a full city block in downtown Boston. In the early 1920s, the store's Clothing Information Bureau began a campaign to educate consumers about color. With the help of a color chart that the store devised, clothing experts at Filene's demonstrated to customers what colors to wear. Interest in the "color readings" ran so high that in early 1924 the company published its "Colorscope," which was hailed as a great advance in the education of the general buying public.

Filene also promoted paid leave for employees, a minimum wage for women workers, and the establishment of the Filene Employees Credit Union, which influenced the credit union movement throughout the country. He planned and helped organize the Boston Chamber of Commerce and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. In 1919 he established the Cooperative League of Boston, which became the Twentieth Century Fund, a research group specializing in the study of social trends.

In The Present Status and Future Prospects of Chains of Department Stores (1927), Filene argued that the growth of chain stores was irreversible, an inevitable byproduct of the age's movement toward mass production and mass consumption. While many still thought chain merchandising was an unproven innovation, Filene declared that other stores would have to adopt the chain stores' efficient methods or be driven out of business.

Frederick, Christine (1883-1970)
Christine Frederick advanced the field of home economics by demonstrating how management techniques and scientific efficiency could be applied to household tasks. Frederick was a widely published author, consulting household editor of the Ladies' Home Journal, and home economics editor of the Butterick Publishing Company magazine The Delineator. She also founded and directed the Applecroft Home Experiment Station at her home in Greenlawn, Long Island. Here labor-saving food preparations were tested in the kitchen, while a laboratory investigated household products from appliances to foodstuffs.

Frederick's most important work was Selling Mrs. Consumer (1929), a highly influential source of information about consumer opinions and how the consumer could be reached most effectively. Her other publications include You and Your Laundry (1922), a consumer-education pamphlet sponsored by the Hurley Washing Machine Company. A portrait photograph of Frederick appears in the introduction she wrote for the Butterick Publishing Company's publication Midas Gold. A Study of Family Incomes, "Overselling" and Time-Payments as a Broadener of Markets (1925).

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