Anti-Chain Movement of the 1920s-30s: Articles, Books, Ads and Music
Corporate chains spread rapidly across the U.S. retail sector during the 1920s, increasing their market share from about 4% to 20%. The trend sparked a vigorous response, as some 400 communities formed coalitions expressly to fight chain proliferation. Local alliances of small business owners and concerned citizens drove the passage of many public policy measures to limit the spread of chains and the export of wealth from their communities to distant corporate headquarters.
Many state legislatures capped the number of outlets a chain could operate, enacted progressive (size-based) taxes on chain stores or limited
So what happened? The first few articles below are excellent sources for learning history and lessons of this movement as we advance a new wave of antitrust organizing. For fun, we sprinkled in some historic examples of ads and music touching on the independent v. chain battles, including contemporary songs.
Articles & Research Papers
Scroop, Daniel, The Anti-Chain Store Movement and the Politics of Consumption (pdf), University of Sheffield, 2008.
Ingram, Paul and Rao,
The articles above have extensive bibliographies or footnotes, but most publications cited are accessible only via paid databases or academic libraries.
Commentary and Analysis
Price, Ben. A Movement Diverted: How Corporations Neutralized Anti-Chain Store Campaigns, CELDF
Mattera, Philip. Fighting Chain Stores Past and Present, Corporate Research Project, July 2005.
Feldman, Brian S. The Decline of Black Business and What it Means for American Democracy. March 2017, Washington Monthly.
Lebhar, Godfrey M. Chain Stores in America 1859-1959, 1959. (Perspective from a professional chain store advocate
Mitchell, Stacy. Big Box Swindle: The True Cost of Mega-Retailers and the Fight for America’s Independent Businesses, 2006. Chapter 8 details the anti-chain movement and contemporary policy from a pro-local perspective.
Levinson, Mark. The Great A&P and the Struggle for Small Business in America, 2012.
Spector, Robert. Category Killers: The Retail Revolution and Its Impact on Consumer Culture, 2005.
Goodbye To Chain Stores
We Don't Need Another Wal-Mart Here
The founders of the United States feared concentrated corporate power and enacted strong protections to subordinate corporations to democracy. Learn more about The Hidden History of Corporations in the United States.