Examining Related Evidence: The Shopping Mall as New Town Square, 1960
This internet activity is based on the Examining the Evidence feature found on page 905 of The American Pageant, Thirteenth Edition.
In this photograph Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy is campaigning at the Bergen Mall in Paramus, New Jersey. Just one presidential contest earlier, a regional shopping center would have been a rare campaign stop. The Bergen Mall opened in 1957, a time when similar shopping centers were popping up in suburbanizing metropolitan areas all over the United States.
Shopping centers for their part went out of their way to sell themselves as modernstyle downtowns worthy of being the public core of new suburban communities, even though legally they were privately owned space.
- What kind of audience greeted candidate Kennedy at the Bergen Mall in 1960?
- How different might the crowd have looked in a more socially diverse urban center like Manhattan or in nearby Newark, the largest city in New Jersey at the time?
- What did it mean for sites of consumption, such as privately owned shopping centers, to take on the roles and responsibilities previously associated with urban streets, squares, and parks?
- How might current struggles of downtown merchants against big-box chain stores like Wal-Mart be related to this history?