Introduction

American Enterprise exhibition logo

How does American business affect you? How and why has it changed since the United States began? Come explore stories of business men and women who have changed the world. See hundreds of intriguing objects that illustrate transformations in society. Think about how Americans have mixed capitalism and democracy, in an effort to balance individual opportunity and the common good.

Click on the icons below to investigate four major eras in American business history:

Picture of a canal with green overlay and text, Merchant Era
In the Merchant Era, a market revolution affected enslaved and free people, transforming relationships between buyers and sellers and replacing face-to-face bargaining with less personal business.

Picture of a factory workers with blue overlay and text, Corporate Era
During the tumultuous Corporate Era, America became an urban nation. Business got big. While the gap between the rich and poor grew, the growing middle class earned and consumed more.

Picture of a suburban family in their home with yellow overlay and text, Consumer Era
During the Consumer Era, production boomed and consumerism shaped the American marketplace, which spread from cities to suburbs.

Picture of laboratory with purple overlay and text, Global EraIn the Global Era, the United States became a nation of fewer limits, but also fewer guarantees.