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National Museum of American History Exhibition Funded by Mars Incorporated

Mars, Incorporated is the principal sponsor of “American Enterprise” (the working title), an 8,000-square-foot exhibition that will trace the development of the United States (1750s–2010s) from a small dependent agricultural nation to one of the world’s largest economies. The “American Enterprise” exhibition will be located in the Mars Hall of American Business, in recognition of the company’s $5 million donation. It will open in 2015, following renovations to the West Exhibition Wing that begin this fall.

American Enterprise Business Exhibition National Museum of American History

This exhibition will tell the story of the nation’s business, centering on themes of opportunity, innovation, competition and the search for common good in the American marketplace.

“American Enterprise” will convey the drama, breadth and diversity of America’s business heritage along with its benefits, failures and unanticipated consequences, through four chronological eras: the Merchant Marketplace (1770s – 1850s), the Corporate Marketplace (1860s – 1930s), the Consumer Marketplace (1940s – 1970s) and the Global Marketplace (1980s – 2010s).

Objects such as John Deere’s plow, Eli Whitney’s cotton gin, Barbara McClintock’s microscope and Stanley Cohen’s recombinant DNA research notebook will demonstrate the development in American agriculture from machines that increased productivity to science that gave insight to the genetic structure of plants. Alexander Graham Bell’s first telephones, a New York Stock Exchange booth from 1929, Alfred Bloomingdale’s personal credit cards, an early Monopoly board game and one of Michael Dell’s early computers will be among the artifacts that will illustrate manufacturing, retail and service, and communications technology in American business.

Complementing the marketplace sections of the exhibition will be larger personal and family stories featuring biographies of innovators and entrepreneurs. America’s growing consumer culture will be illustrated with a variety of engaging materials, from displays of popular advertisements from landmark campaigns to a look at the growth of advertising from the 19th century to the present. These marketing moments include ads from companies as diverse as DuMont Television and Goya Foods to familiar brand names from 1950s radio and television ads to recent campaigns that all created new ways of thinking about the relationship between consumers and products.

Interactive displays and experiences, in a section of the exhibition called “The Exchange,” will provide visitors with a hands-on understanding of innovation, markets and business practice. These activities will include choosing marketing campaigns for target audiences, making or losing simulated money through “trades” and matching wits against historical figures in actual case studies.

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