Frederick & Nelson, Seattle. A Division of Marshall Field & Company

How the Marshall Plan Sold Europe to Americans

Department-store bazaars let consumers see how glamorous and sophisticated imported goods could be. Ooh, la la!
Walmart employee Clara Martinez stocks the shelves at a Walmart store on February 19, 2015 in Miami, Florida.

How Retail Sales Became “Unskilled” Work

There's a big difference between how salespeople in traditional department stores and big-box retailers interact with their customers.

How Show Business Went Union

Since the nineteenth century, the IATSE union has organized behind-the-scenes workers, first in theater, then in the movies.
This statue in front of US Steel's Edgar Thomson Works in Braddock, PA depicts Joe Magarac, a mythical steelworker deriving from local legend.

Joe Magarac, a Boss’s Idea of a Folk Hero?

The Paul Bunyan of the steel industry never went on strike. He was too tied up working the twenty-four-hour shifts that unions were fighting.
An advertisement for Eagle Pencil Co's fine arts lead pencils, c. 1870-1900

Why You’ll Never Get Lead Poisoning from a Pencil

Some of the greatest moments in international pencil history involve discoveries of a different mineral.
Woman recycling glass, Wallingford neighborhood, Seattle, Washington, 1990

You’ll Never Believe Who Invented Curbside Recycling

Far from ushering in a zero-waste world, the switch from returnables to recycling provided cover for the creation of ever more packaging trash.
Beachgoers at Myrtle Beach, SC

How the Beaches of the South Got There

The government funded beach construction for private developers, which displaced Black farmers from their coastal lands.
A bunch of flowering sweet peas

Boosters Used the Sweet Pea to Define California

In the late 19th century, Californians were eager to part with their reputation for wildness, so they adopted an "English" flower as their symbol.
1 Dollar, Farmers' and Mechanics' Bank of Rahway, New Jersey, 1850

Banks’ Own Private Currencies in 19th-Century America

Before the Civil War local banks issued their own money. It was totally legit, too.
A recumbent bicycle in 1935

Who Killed the Recumbent Bicycle?

How a dominant technology became viewed as the only option, with no need for better-designed competitors.