Lindbergh, Earhart, FDR-all were part of a new celebrity culture that was growing up around the mass media
In November, the Mirror ran for its readers a short word of advice similar to thousands of similar items published in small town newspapers all over America during the twenties and thirties and later:
“If you want to keep your town going there is no better argument in the world than to trade at home. It is the hometown merchant who helps to keep the schools, the churches, the streets and parks in condition for the enjoyment of all. We’ve heard of people right in our town, business men if you please, who buy out of our town, when the identical goods at just as good a price can be bought here. We do not deny the fact that persons can spend money where they please but by exercising that right to our mind displays poor business policy. Of course some will take the attitude that the other fellow does not buy from him. ” 21
“Buy at home” became the battle cry of small-town businessmen and newspaper in the decades after automobiles and better roads began to increase the range of American shoppers. The early 1930s witnessed a growing reaction against seniorpeoplemeet the chain-store “invasion” of small-town America, and it saw efforts by some state legislatures to tax them out of business or at least make them compete fairly with locally?owned stores. In 1930, 33-year?old Philip La Follette made his attack on chain stores and chain banks the central theme of his successful bid for the governorship of Wisconsin. The Great Depression heightened concerns of Main Street store owners that the unfair competition of the chains would put them out of business. 22
In 1936, Congress passed the Robinson?Patman Act, making it illegal for manufacturers or wholesalers to give preferential discounts or rebates to chain stores or other large buyers
If the full implications for small towns like Mansfield of industrial change, improved highways, and the chain store “menace” still lay several decades in the future, the rise of a media culture was making itself felt with increasing insistency by the early 1930smercial radio, sound movies, and mass circulation print media had already begun to colonize people’s consciousness, diverting attention from traditional local subjects and concerns. 23 In addition to the Lindbergh kidnapping, the year saw the publication of Erskine Caldwell’s Tobacco Road, the introduction of the “Buck Rogers” program on CBS Radio, the opening of Radio City Music Hall, and Amelia Earhart’s becoming the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic. Radio programs, Time magazine, movie newsreels, and other media outlets were transforming celebrityhood into something larger, more pervasive, and more influential than it had ever been before. 24 By the end of the decade, despite the fact that she was writing about her own and her family’s personal experiences on the prairie frontier-an obscure family whose only distinction was that its story was being read by thousands of eager readers-Laura Ingalls Wilder had become something of a celebrity herself. Unlike her daughter Rose, who didn’t mind the limelight being directed at her, Laura felt uncomfortable away from home and familiar surroundings and almost never strayed very far from Mansfield. Except for several visits back to De Smet (one by way of California) with her husband, the only major exception to this was her trip to Detroit in 1937 when she was one of several speakers spotlighted by the J. L. Hudson Department Store during a book fair it was sponsoring.