Abstract: A store is a citizen: Civic Culture and Consumer Culture at Lord & Taylor Department Store, 1945-1959

Stephanie Amerian


The trailblazing president of Lord & Taylor department store in New York City, Dorothy Shaver, summed up her belief in her store's social responsibilities with the simple phrase, "a store is a citizen." Shaver thereby marketed her store as a civic, as well as a cultural, institution, making it an important intersection between consumer culture and civic culture in the postwar "Consumers' Republic." This paper focuses on Shaver's efforts to build civic culture through the annual Lord & Taylor American Design Awards (1937-1958). While she began the awards to promote American fashion designers, they soon reflected her far-reaching civic engagement and liberalism. Shaver used the awards to advocate for racial and religious tolerance, defend the United Nations against conservative critics, and support the arts and sciences. All the while, the American Design Awards were also a key public relations vehicle for the store. This examination of Dorothy Shaver's civic activism as the head of her firm furthers our understanding of how business people, in addition to government officials and consumers, played important roles in linking citizenship to consumption in postwar America.