A DuPont ad for Orlon, 1953

What We Mean By “Better Living”

How advertising used the phrase “better living” to portray big business as a force for moral good and continuous progress.
Boxes of Cracker Jacks

The Invention of the Giveaway

The appeal of the free gift has always been, for the consumer, about the eternal dream of getting something for nothing.
A harmonica against a yellow background

How Harmonicas Came to America

Harmonicas were invented in Europe in the 1820s as an aid for tuning pianos, but they didn't really take off until they crossed the Atlantic.
Alice Guy

Hollywood Froze Out the Founding Mother of Cinema

French filmmaker Alice Guy-Blaché was the first female film director, and renowned as an innovator in the field. Then she moved to Hollywood.
green semi truck

The Populist Power of the American Trucker

How did truckers nudge the American economy toward deregulation?
credit cards on dollars

How Credit Reporting Agencies Got Their Power

Early credit reporting companies urged people to “Treat their credit as a sacred trust” and argued that keeping a good credit record was a moral concern.
Wrigley's gum painting

How Wrigley Chewed Its Way to Gum Greatness

William Wrigley, Jr. started off as a soap salesman and became a prodigy of consumerism. He sold Americans chewing gum with claims of health benefits.
big pharma

How Did Big Pharma Get Big?

One branch of the healthcare industry that receives particular opprobrium for its high costs in America compared to other countries is pharmaceuticals.
credit card decals

A Brief History of the Credit Card

For now-ubiquitous consumer credit cards, bad early results had a hidden benefit.
narcotic stimulants

America’s Workforce Runs on Uppers

Uppers like Benzedrine and cocaine provided a willing workforce for our capitalist economy. Now, Americans are turning to ADHD medications.