FOOD: Transforming the American Table

Supermarkets as Symbols

During the 1950s, as the United States waged a cold war against Soviet communism, supermarkets became symbols of the superior living standards made possible by the American capitalist system.

Showcasing food abroad, 1958

Showcasing food abroad, 1958

Courtesy of National Archives

The U.S. Information Agency used the abundance of supermarket food to represent the benefits of the “American way of life.”

Telescoping shopping carts, around 1949

Gift of Edith Watson

In 1946, Orla E. Watson of Kansas City developed the familiar telescoping shopping carts that nestled together for compact storage. Watson claimed that each additional parked cart required “only one-fifth as much space as an ordinary cart.”

View object record
 Flier, around 1950

 

Flier, around 1950

Courtesy of Archives Center, National Museum of American History

The advent of telescoping carts meant more carts for shoppers as well as more retail space for store owners.

Publicity stunt, around 1957

Publicity stunt, around 1957

Courtesy of Publix Super Markets, Inc.

Called the Taj Mahal of supermarkets, Publix promoted its spacious aisles by driving a shopper around the store in a car.

Showcasing food at home, 1959

Showcasing food at home, 1959

Courtesy of AP Images

Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev surveying a Safeway supermarket in San Francisco.