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Q: History of protests against chain stores in the United States ( Answered 5 out of 5 stars,   1 Comment )
Subject: History of protests against chain stores in the United States
Category: Relationships and Society > Law
Asked by: sadied-ga
List Price: $50.00
Posted: 04 Apr 2005 12:59 PDT
Expires: 04 May 2005 12:59 PDT
Question ID: 504821
I'm looking for information on early community and legal protests against
chain stores in the United States. I've heard that in the 1900s - 1930s in
California, especially, there were legal cases and community actions
to try to stop chain stores from opening and putting locally owned
businesses out of business. But I've been unable to locate any of the
specific history. I'm not sure that the term "chain store" would have
been used then, but the basic issue is corporate, formulaic,
non-locally owned businesses vs. locally owned businesses. Stories of
what happened in specific communities would be great, as would a bit
of the legal history and whether any of the efforts were successful.

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 04 Apr 2005 14:49 PDT
Hello sadied-ga,

I've begun looking into your question, and the problem with it is --
there may be too much information out there!

Actually, if you're looking specifically for California stories that
narrows it down quite a bit...let me know if this is the case.

But if your question is national in scope, I'm finding 1920-30's era
apeeches about chain stores, pamphlets, special chain store taxes
imposed by states and cities, boycotts, protests, counter-protests,
economic studies, etc, etc.

Some of the information is on the web, but much of it comes from
newspaper databases -- for these, I can only cite the articles and
provide brief summaries, as I cannot reproduce copyrighted materials.

Help me out.  How shall I proceed in the face of this abundance of
materials, only some of which I can provide links for?


Clarification of Question by sadied-ga on 04 Apr 2005 19:11 PDT
Hello Pafala,

Wow, this is fabulous! 

Links to this kind of material would be great:

"1920-30's era speeches about chain stores, pamphlets, special chain store taxes
imposed by states and cities, boycotts, protests, counter-protests,
economic studies, etc, etc."

I understand that a lot of what you're finding comes from newspaper
databases. Are they databases that are accessible through a public or
university library? If I can get to the articles myself, and if I were
able to get sources, article citations (name of newspaper, date, page
#, etc), and brief summaries from you, plus links to whatever is
link-able, I would be thrilled!

And if you're willing, I'd be even more thrilled to find out what
research method you used to find this stuff. Thank you again!

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 04 Apr 2005 19:36 PDT
Hello sadied-ga,

I'll see what I can do in the way of consolidating things, and get
back to you, probably tomorrow.

Mean time, have a look at this:;cc=genpub;xc=1;sid=b5f5df41ef12940cd8dfd784f6a528d8;q1=chain%20store%2A;rgn=full%20text;idno=ADN9861.0001.001;view=image;seq=00000340

You might want to explore some of the surrounding pages as well.  Pretty cool, eh?


Clarification of Question by sadied-ga on 05 Apr 2005 08:20 PDT
Great link! Very cool indeed.

Again, if as part of this process, you could give me any ideas of HOW
you've found these things, it would be enourmously helpful, so that I
can continue to research. The hardest thing is knowing where to look!

Request for Question Clarification by pafalafa-ga on 05 Apr 2005 08:45 PDT

Glad you liked the Making of America link -- it's a great site.

It will be a while yet before I've compiled my information and
presented an answer (and I'll be sure to include my search strategy).

In the mean time, though -- since you seem eager to do some of your
own looking -- try this Google search for yourself:

"chain stores" (protest OR boycott) 1900..1939

The use of quotes tells Google to look for that exact phrase, the use
of OR (always in caps) will look for "protest" OR "boycott" but a site
doesn't have to have both.  And the numbers terms, 1900..1939, will
find any number between 1900 and 1939, which will give emphasis in the
search results to pages that mention these particular years.

Give it a try.  You won't get 100% relevant hits, but you should get a
fair number worth exploring.

I'll get back to you with my results as soon as I am able.

Subject: Re: History of protests against chain stores in the United States
Answered By: pafalafa-ga on 05 Apr 2005 16:25 PDT
Rated:5 out of 5 stars

This has been interesting and fun.  The topic of chain stores has a
bit of everything -- unions, protests, taxes, laws, kids, repeals,
Supreme Court decisions, communists, agitators, Eleanor Roosevelt --
you name it.

A search of a Proquest newspaper database for the terms:

chain stores AND (protest OR boycott) 

turned up 12 results in the decade from 1900-1919, 104 results from
1920-1932, and 243 results from 1933-1939, an indication of how the
topic grew from the sidelines early in the century into a major news
item in the 1930's.

Obviously, I can't present hundreds of results here, but I scanned the
headlines for what seemed the major stories and themes in each decade,
and identified the following:

Difficulties in the Way of Thus Trying to Meet Competi- tion of the Chains.
New York Times 
 Aug 26, 1923

Aroused by what he considers the menace of the increasing growth of
chain store operations to independent merchants who have to compare
with such institutions, a South Carolina dry goods retailer has issued
a call to other dealers in that State to fight back through the medium
of co-operative buying.

Chain Stores Hurt Marts Trade, Roberts Declares
Says Small Stand Dealers Unable to Compete With Quantity Buyers, at
Hearing Before House District Group
The Washington Post 
Mar 4, 1928

System, It Is Held, Does Not Stifle Enterprise of Individuals but
Forces the Unfit Out of Business
New York Times, Letters to the Editor 
Aug 12, 1928


Only Against Discrimination, Lyons Says--Some States Need Revenue
New York Times 
Oct 12, 1930

The National Chain Store Association is not opposed to retail sales
taxes in principle or as sources of revenue for the States which see
fit to enact them, it was stated yesterday by R.W. Lyons, executive
vicepresident of the association.

Famed in Painting and Story, It Is Unsanitary and Must Be Cleaned Up. 
An Attraction to Tourists, but Chain Stores Have Taken Trade and
Something Must Be Done
Feb 15, 1931

Supreme Court, 5 to 4, Says Businesses Differ From Independent Units. 
The Washington Post 
May 19, 1931

Counsel to Protest Measure Before Illinois Senate as Oppressive 
Jun 18, 1931

They Benefit Their Localities in Several Ways
New York Times -- Letter to the Editor
Aug 13, 1931

National Dealers' Group Attacks Mail Order and Oil Chain Retailing 
Wall Street Journal 
Feb 26, 1932

Automobile tire dealers are expressing growing dissatisfaction with
many of the selling practices now prevalent in the tire trade. While
discontent among the independent dealer body has existed for some
time, it has recently assumed more definite and audible form, with the
backing of the National Tire Dealers' Association and of some of the
smaller manufacturing companies in the field.

Officials of Cloak and Suit Group Aim to Stop the Purchase of Sub-Standard Goods. 
Quest for Bargains In Women's Wear Declared Threatening Both Workers
and Employers.
New York Times 
Sep 8, 1932 

A campaign aiming to prevail upon chain stores and large retailers to
stop buying their women's garments from substandard and sweatshop
sources and make possible thereby a general improvement of conditions
in the garment industry was begun yesterday by the cloak and suit
commission at a meeting in the office of George W. Alger, impartial
chairman of the industry

Tobacconists Charge Big Operators With Evasion in Demanding Reductions of Rentals. 
New York Times 
Oct 10, 1932

Quebec Cafes Protest Competition of Chains
New York Times 
Aug 20, 1933

Delivery Companies and Chain Stores in Boston Area in Bitter Battle. 
Restaurant Men, Hospitals, More Efficient Dealers, Farmers All Lodge Objections. 
New York Times 
Nov 12, 1933

Mrs. Roosevelt Pleads Cause Of Booksellers
Tells NRA Meeting of Peril to Them in Chains and Large Stores. 
The Washington Post 
Feb 28, 1934.

Mrs. Franklin D. Roosevelt yesterday intervened in the small business
protest meeting arranged by the NRA to defend retail book stores
against competition of chain or large department stores...

Supreme Court Backs West Virginia by 5 to 4 in Standard Oil Case. 
Cardozo Opinion Declares Lawmakers Have Right to Impose 'Harsh' Burden. 
New York Times 
Jan 15, 1935.

Pennsylvania Tax On Chains Opposed
Wall Street Journal 
Mar 21, 1935

Consumer Resistance Hits Retail Grocery And Meat Trades
Agitation Against Rising Cost of Living Spears Profit Margins of Chain Stores 
Reduced Consumer Resistance 
Wall Street Journal 
Jun 7, 1935

Consumer resistance to the rising prices of foodstuffs, which became
noticeable in a moderate measure some months ago, is now assuming
substantial proportions and threatens to present a serious problem to
the retail grocery and meat trades.

Anti-Chain Store Moves Being Made
Action May Be Delayed
Senate Leaders Expect No Proposals To Come Up This Year--Sharp Debate Anticipated 
Wall Street Journal 
Feb 14, 1936 

Effective moves to have Congress enact anti-chain store legislation at
this session are being made by sponsors of price discrimination
legislation. The subject, however, is filled with political dynamite
and, according to leaders in the Senate, there will be no action on
any of the numerous proposals this year.

Logan Assails 'Flood of Telegrams' and Asserts He Will Try to Speed Measure. 
Plan, Called Move to Stop Trade Discrimination, Is Upheld Also by Robinson. 
New York Times 
Feb 16, 1936. 

Charging that a lobby was operating to defeat the "Chain Store" bill,
labeled as intended to prevent trade discriminations, several angry
Senators today shouted their disapproval of such actions and promised
to bring up the measure for action possibly next week.

Hold Measure Does Not Correct Abuses, but Enters Field of Legitimate Business. 
New York Times 
May 21, 1936

Strikers in 5 Cents-to-$1 Chain Expect Negotiations to Begin Tomorrow 
Management Stays Passive--Members of Union Bar Non-Guild Reporters
Police Take in Food
New York Times 
Mar 15, 1937.

More than 200 employes, mostly girls, of four H. L. Green Company
5-cent-to-$1 chain stores continued their sit-down strikes yesterday
after spending the night in the establishments. They said they would
remain there until ordered out by the Department Store Employes Union,
Local 1250, the strike organization.

Convention Also Seeks Levy Upon House-to-House Wagon Stores 
New York Times 
May 26, 1937

Albers Super-Markets Publish Comparisons With Private Brands in Midwest 
Campaign Staged by a Former Executive of Kroger Co.
Private Brand Seller Quality Is Stressed 
Kroger Compared Brands 
New York Times 
Aug 17, 1937

A vigorous defense of nationally advertised brands, stressing the
economies possible in purchasing such goods in contrast to private
label merchandise, launched by the W. H. Albers chain of super-markets
in the Midwest, attracted the attention of grocery manufacturers here

Great Chain Store Industry At Crossroads, Hartford Says
President of A. & P. System in One of His Rare Public Statements,
Accuses Wholesalers and Middlemen as Selfish
The Washington Post 
Jan 3, 1939

The year 1939 opens with the chain store industry approaching a
crossroads in its history. During the coming year the full force of
public opinion against the use of punitive taxes to destroy chain
stores -- which became increasingly evident during 1938 -- will be
focused on those politicians and business groups who would levy such
prohibitive taxes on chain stores that all their economic benefits to
the consuming public would be wiped out.

Minnesota Court Rules a Law, Since Repealed, Violated the Constitution 
Classification by Volume for Taxes Held a Breach of 14th Amendment 
New York Times 
Jun 17, 1939.

Labor Leader, in Second Day's Testimony, Again Declares He Is Not a Communist 
Attacks National Guard, Legion, Chain Stores, Manufacturers' Groups as
Foes of Workers Groups "Opposed to Workers"
New York Times 
Aug 4, 1939


In addition to the newspaper articles (of which there are many, many
more), the Library of Congress hosts a wonderful collection of
original, digitzied materials from the 1920's era, which includes a
good collection of articles, pro and con, on chain stores:


Chain Stores

The 1920s saw a proliferation of chain stores for consumers at all
levels of income. The growth of chain stores was aided by the
tremendous popularity of the automobile, which greatly increased
shoppers' mobility, especially in rural areas. Sears, Roebuck and
Company was especially successful in taking advantage of these new
market circumstances. In 1895, Sears was a mail-order company catering
largely to rural demands for basic goods, but in 1925 it branched out
into direct retailing, and by 1929 it operated a chain of 324 stores
nationwide. F. W. Woolworth's, whose "five- and ten-cent" variety
stores spread across the country by catering to lower-income
consumers, was another successful chain; during the 1920s Woolworth's
expanded into more and more working-class neighborhoods. Variety
stores of this sort sold almost everything except fashions. An
anniversary pamphlet, Fifty Years of Woolworth (1929), traces
Woolworth's fifty-year history (1879-1929) in the United States and
Europe. Other successful chains included the Great Atlantic and
Pacific Tea Company (the A&P), Kroger's, J. C. Penney's, and Walgreen
Drug. In addition to the grocery and five- and ten-cent store chains,
drugstore chains, candy chains, shoe chains, cigar chains, and music
chains flourished.

Mail-order buying continued during the 1920s, but the popularity of
the new chain stores changed the way consumers shopped. Many documents
of the time commented on this change and the problems that accompanied
it. Examples in this digital collection include the economist Paul
Mazur's pamphlet Some Problems of Distribution: The Development of
Chain Store Merchandising and its Economic Effects (1929); the
economist Paul Nystrom's Chain Stores (1930); "The Present Status and
Future Prospects of Chains of Department Stores" (1927), a speech by
department store magnate Benjamin A. Filene; a pamphlet, The Menace of
the Chains (1924), revealing the fear that chain stores caused among
local businessmen; and What is the Chain Store's Responsibility to its
Community? (1929), by Earl C. Sams, president of the J. C. Penney

The actual documents they mention are a bit difficult to retrieve from
the LoC site, so I've included direct links to them:
Some problems of distribution; the development of chain store
merchandising and its economic effects,
Chain stores
The present status and future prospects of chains of department stores
The menace of the chains, a discussion of chain store distribution and
its serious menace to the manufacturer, whose business success depends
on his finding and keeping a market for his product
What is the chain store's responsibility to its community? 


Earlier, I provided you a search strategy for finding even more
materials on the web, and I think it will be a good way of adding to
the above collection, if you feel the urge.

However, if you'd like me to find more materials for you, just say the
word.  Please don't rate this answer until you have everything you

Thanks again for a fascinating question.


Request for Answer Clarification by sadied-ga on 06 Apr 2005 13:49 PDT
Thank you for the fabulous answer! I'm not going to be able to delve
into this in any detail until the weekend, probably, but I can't wait!
Do you need an answer or "rating" sooner than that?

Thanks especially for the tips on how to get more information. It's
amazing what you can find if you know where to look and how to ask the
question. I'm nearly as excited about my new search skills as I am
about the chain store information itself!

Is the Proquest newspaper database you mentioned a specific or special
Proquest newspaper database, or is there only one? I'll check my local
public and university libraries to see if I can access it.

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 06 Apr 2005 19:08 PDT

There's few things we GA researchers like to hear better than someone
who's excited not only by an answer, but by learning some new
searching strategies.  Your comment made my day!

Take your time in reviewing and digesting the answer I gave you --
there's absolutely no need to rush.

As for Proquest, it is generally available through subscriptions to
universities or public libraries, and each one has a somewhat unique
combination of materials available, and different rules for accessing
them.  You'll just have to poke around in the libraries available to
you to see what's up.

Proquest does have one point of public access to historical newspaper
and magazine archives, which you'll find here:

I don't use it much myself as it's an awkward interface, and not
nearly as valuable to me as the library sources that I have available.
 Nonetheless, it's there for everyone to use (for a fee!), and it's
certainly better than not having access at all.

Hope that helps.  I'll be looking forward to hearing your thoughts
after you've had time to review the full answer.



Request for Answer Clarification by sadied-ga on 09 Apr 2005 11:10 PDT
Hello Paf,

I assume that once I add a rating I'm not able to ask for any more
clarifications, so I wanted to pick your brain one more time.

I've spent the past couple of hours "digesting," and what you've
provided really is a wealth of resources. My only complaint is in
being overwhelmed with new ideas and directions, and that's a very
nice problem to have!

Just to clarify, the two suggestions you had for further research on
my own were to try these search terms:

chain stores AND (protest OR boycott) 

"chain stores" (protest OR boycott) 1900..1939

You also sugggested trying Proquest. I'll also do some more digging on
the Library of Congress site.

Was there anything else that you used and found useful in this search? 

And might you be able to suggest how to research the history of court
cases involving chain stores in this era? Part of my interest is how
the chain stores have gained power through victories in the courts. I
already have some background info on how corporations in general used
the courts to gain constitutional rights. I think I'd need to go to a
legal library, or on online legal library database research cases with
chain stores specifically. But I've never done legal research before,
so I'm not sure how it's done, or if a non-law student can have access
to law libraries.


Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 09 Apr 2005 15:28 PDT
Hey there.  Nice to hear back from you.

I don't mind follow-up questions at all, especially from an
enthusiastic learner like yourself.

Yes, there are certainly other sources, though I hesitate to pile on
even more to the pretty sizable hill you have already.

But here goes...

First off, I'd steer clear of actual court case documents, if I were
you...they are hard to research, hard to retrieve, and hard to make
sense out of once you have them in hand.  A good alternative would be
to search law journals for review articles of cases pertaining to
chain stores...a legal librarian should be able to help you with this
(probably via Lexis-Nexis), and no, I can't imagine the resources
being off-limits to a non-law student.

While you're at the library, also ask the librarian to find you a copy of:

By Godfrey M. Lebhar Editor-in-Chief, CHAIN STORE AGE 

The book gives the history of chain stores, and pays a good deal of
attention to the period you're interested in:

-Part II: Struggle 
-Chapter VI: The Chains Encounter Opposition 
-Chapter VII: There Ought to Be a Law 
-Chapter VIII: The Hue and Cry Gathers Volume 
-Chapter IX: The "Superlobby" Investigation 
-Chapter X: What the Investigation Disclosed 
-Chapter XI: In the Court of Public Opinion 
-Chapter XII: The "Death Sentence" Bill 

By the way, the book is available online at, but you will
need a subscription to this service in order to access the text.

The very first resource I steered you towards was the Making of
America site, but I didn't really talk about how to explore it.  This
is a very rich source of information, but be warned, it is also a very
clunky site, and hard to get used to you.  But if you decide you
simply don't have enough information yet, and want to have a look
around, then be my guest:

a search on [ chain store* ]

which finds both "chain store" and "chain stores" in the text of the
works, returns 25 results, listed at:*&rgn=full+text&sid=c4a5228fa8ff6e8063fcc8d978e3a2eb&c=moa&c=moajrnl&view=reslist&ALLSELECTED=1&subview=short&start=1&size=25&cc=moa


Author: Artman, Charles Enos, 1888-
Title: Food costs and city consumers : significant factors in
metropolitan distribution of perishables / by Charles Enos Artman.
Publication date: 1926.

Author: National Industrial Conference Board.
Title: The cost of living in New York City, 1926.
Publication date: 1926

Author: Consumers' League of New York City.
Title: Behind the scenes in candy factories.
Publication date: 1928.

Making of America is part of a larger, and even *more* cumbersome
collection, which you can see in full at:;xg=1;page=simpleext;ALLSELECTED=1

A search of several of these resources (including the largest one, the
Digital General Collection) returns quite a few additional works with
content on chain stores:*&c=crossc&c=gandf&c=genpub&c=moa&c=moajrnl&c=philamer&view=reslist&subview=short&start=1&size=25


Title: Encyclopaedia of the social sciences, editor-in-chief, Edwin R.
A. Seligman; associate editor, Alvin Johnson ...
Publication date: 1937.

Author: United States. President's Research Committee on Social Trends.
Title: Recent social trends in the United States; report of the
President's research committee on social trends; with a foreword by
Herbert Hoover.
Publication date: 1933

Title: The World tomorrow.

Hope that helps.  But as always, feel free to ask any follow-up
questions you might have.


Request for Answer Clarification by sadied-ga on 18 Apr 2005 16:27 PDT
Hello Pafala,

Before I rate this and sign off for good, just wanted to say thank you
again for all of your help. I spent the weekend at the library and
found buckets more information, with huge thanks to your guidance on
where and how to look. I'm surprised to find how much material exists
on the subject -- especially since there seem to be no references to
it in the recent debates about Wal-Mart, etc. Those who forget the
past are condemned to repeat it, eh?

If I use Google Answers again, I'd love to be able to specify you as a
researcher, as my experience has been just wonderful. Is it legal to
put your name in the subject line, in hopes you'd pop up again?

Clarification of Answer by pafalafa-ga on 18 Apr 2005 17:23 PDT
I'm thrilled to hear that you're having a researcher's epiphany.  Have fun with it.

I hope we do see you back here one day soon, and by all means, feel
free to ask for me.

Just put something like "For pafalafa-ga" both in the subject line and
in the question text itself.  I'll be sure to see it.

Thanks again for a fun question.

sadied-ga rated this answer:5 out of 5 stars and gave an additional tip of: $25.00
If there were a couple more stars, I'd add them on. I had a wonderful
experience with Pafalafa. S/he had a wealth of resources to offer, and
was helpful both in digging up information on my question and in
pointing me towards tools I could use to keep digging on my own.
Service received was above and beyond the call of duty, and very fun
to boot!

Subject: Re: History of protests against chain stores in the United States
From: pafalafa-ga on 19 Apr 2005 08:31 PDT
Thanks so much for some thoughtful and very generous feedback.

This was a lot of fun for me as well.  Hope to see you back here one of these days.

(Mr.) paf

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