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When Washington Bailed Out Mom and Pop

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Our guest author today is  Gulnar Nagashybayeva a Business Reference Specialist. Gulnar has been with Business Reference Services of the Science, Technology & Business Division for almost three years. Previously she worked as Government Documents librarian/contractor at the Central Library of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. She holds a Master’s in Library Science degree from University of Maryland College of Information Studies and a Bachelor’s degree in English and Russian languages from Kazakh State University of  World Languages in Almaty, Kazakhstan. Gulnar is the subject specialist for small business, business and economic statistics, and international business.

A & P Storefront, ca. 1924

For much of the twentieth century, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A & P) was the largest retailer in the world. Under the leadership of the brothers George L. and John A. Hartford, the company grew into a grocery giant with a nationwide reach. In 1929, when it became the first retailer to sell $1 billion worth of goods in a single year, A & P had 16,000 stores and dozens of warehouses and factories. At a time when many urban households spent more for food than for their rent, A & P’s efficiency lowered food costs, transforming the way Americans shopped.

A & P’s growth posed a severe threat to hundreds of thousands of neighborhood grocery stores as well as the wholesalers and manufacturers who supplied them. The independent grocers and wholesalers fought back, enlisting state and federal governments to limit A & P’s ability to cut prices. The Hoover, Roosevelt, and Truman administrations investigated the company repeatedly. Eventually, in 1946, the Justice Department succeeded in convicting A & P and the Hartfords of criminal antitrust violations for selling groceries too cheaply.

Marc Levinson, an economist and historian, is the author of  The Great A & P and the Struggle for Small Business in America, which was published in September 2011 and lauded by The Atlantic, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times.

Levinson will present “When Washington Bailed out Mom & Pop” from 11:30 am – 12:30 pm on Wednesday, Oct. 26, at the Library of Congress in the Mary Pickford Theater, located on the third floor of the Madison Building at 101 Independence Ave. S.E., Washington, D.C.  Sponsored by the Science, Technology and Business Division, this event is free and open to the public.

The webcast of this event is available for viewing.

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