American Enterprise will continue to grow as the museum collects new objects and stories. The exhibition's "New Perspectives" case, located in the Global Era section, will highlight new acquisitions and interpret old collections in novel ways.
Starting Up: The Tucker Sedan
Great ideas do not always lead to successful businesses. In 1948 automotive entrepreneur Preston Tucker promoted a futuristic car to enthusiastic consumers. The car featured many safety and technological innovations. Fifty-one automobiles were eventually produced, but the company struggled as it tried to set up factory production. While Tucker sought investment capital the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) investigated the company’s financial practices, and the business failed. Was Tucker overly optimistic, thwarted by government intervention, or just a poor manager?
Black Main Street: Funding Civil Rights in Jim Crow America
Black businesses provided a vital foundation for African Americans at a time when violence and racial segregation structured public life in the South. Black storefronts provided safe spaces for political organizing; they also provided profits that helped sustain black community institutions and fund the struggle for civil rights. This case explores this dimension of U.S. history through the lives of two historical figures: Harold Cotton, who owned and operated Bob’s Hat Shop in Greensboro, N.C., from 1953 to 2005, and Marjorie Stewart Joyner, who supervised the training of thousands of African American beauticians as vice president of the Madam C. J. Walker Company.
The objects in this case follow the corporate movement, beginning in the industrial era, to better motivate employees. This provided increased worker productivity and satisfaction, encouraged innovation, and sought to reduce the growing appeal of labor unions.