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October 14, 2011
Marc Levinson to Present “When Washington Bailed Out Mom and Pop,” Oct. 26
For much of the 20th century, the Great Atlantic & Pacific Tea Co. (A&P) was the largest retailer in the world. In 1929, when A&P became the first retailer to sell $1 billion of goods in a single year, it had 16,000 stores and dozens of warehouses and factories. The company's efficiency lowered food costs, transforming the way Americans shopped.
A&P’s growth, however, posed a severe threat to hundreds of thousands of neighborhood grocery stores and 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.
Economic historian Marc Levinson will present "When Washington Bailed Out Mom & Pop" at 11:30 a.m. 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 Library’s Science, Technology and Business Division, the event is free and open to the public.
Levinson 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.
Under the leadership of brothers George L. and John A. Hartford, A&P grew into a grocery giant with a nationwide reach. When the independent grocers and wholesalers complained to the government, the Hoover, Roosevelt and Truman administrations investigated the company repeatedly. Eventually, in 1946, the U.S. Justice Department succeeded in convicting A&P and the Hartfords of criminal antitrust violations for selling groceries too cheaply.
Levinson is an economist and historian whose professional life has centered on disentangling complex economic issues. He was senior fellow for international business at the Council on Foreign Relations. He spent a decade as an economist at J.P. Morgan Chase. Earlier, he had a long career in journalism, serving as finance and economics editor of The Economist and as a writer on business and economics at Newsweek. In addition to writing for many leading publications, he is author of five books. "The Box: How the Shipping Container Made the World Smaller and the World Economy Bigger" was praised as one of the best business books of 2006 for showing how a seemingly simple invention helped reshape the world economy by driving down the cost of freight.
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