The beginning of July is always a great time to reflect back on Walmart history. After all, it was July 2, 1962, when Sam Walton opened his very first Walmart discount store in Rogers, Arkansas.
This year, the Smithsonian has a special birthday present for Walmart: Inclusion in the American Enterprise exhibit at the National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C. Open July 1, the exhibition “chronicles the tumultuous interaction of capitalism and democracy that resulted in the continual remaking of American business – and American life.”
The exhibition is an 8,000-square-foot space “focused on the role of business and innovation from the mid-1700s to the present.” So if you’re heading to our nation’s capital this summer, take a look at where our country’s curators see Walmart’s place in American history.
Before you visit, here are a few things to know:
1. Sam’s Walton’s Cap
This iconic piece of headgear is now on display in the Smithsonian. According to Peter Liebhold, Chair and Curator, Division of Work and Industry, if an artifact is in the Smithsonian archives, it’s officially in America’s collective memory. Of the more than 3 million artifacts in the archives, only about 1% are ever on display at one time. Sam’s cap is part of that 1%.
One other identical cap that’s been confirmed to have been worn by Sam in his final days is located in his office, on display at The Walmart Museum. Rob Walton donned it at Walmart’s shareholders meeting last month.
2. Photo of Sam
The photo of Sam Walton that accompanies the display of Sam’s trucker ball cap is one that had been selected by associates in a Walmart World poll to be their favorite. While in the photo he’s not wearing the hat that’s on display, it was selected because of the disarming warmth the photo exudes.
3. Rosalind Brewer, “Game Changer”
Also part of the American Enterprise exhibit is a video of Sam’s Club CEO Rosalind Brewer. In this particular display, visitors select from a gallery of business leaders that the Smithsonian’s curators deem “Game Changers.” For good reason, Roz Brewer is included in the gallery, having been recognized repeatedly as one of the world’s most influential businesspersons.
4. Valeda Snyder
Walmart’s very first 50-year associate is featured in a timeline along with other retail and industry employees out there on the front lines. Sadly, Valeda passed away in 2012 in her hometown of Lebanon, Missouri, before her inclusion in the Smithsonian.
5. Save money. Live better.
In its section on marketing and advertising, the American Enterprise exhibit includes the best-known and most important taglines and slogans in the history of the industry. Of all of them, SMLB stands out because of its simplicity and its origin: Sam Walton.
6. Walmart Organic Produce
In the “Green Business” section of the exhibit, a colorful and vibrant photo of organic produce is on display as part of the story of the greening of American grocery.
make it this summer? No worries. American Enterprise is a permanent exhibition set to be open to the
public for at least the next 20 years.