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When I started my research on the arrival of mass marketing and mass distribution in Italy my aim was to explain the origin of a peculiar phenomenon Thousands of small shopkeepers were still the only traders in the 1950s while supermarkets and department stores were already common in Europe and the United States These small shops were usually run on a family basis and they did not sell processed food or frozen products Hence there was a kind of displacement between the level of development enjoyed by the production industry and the backwardness of the retail trade world The first supermarket in Italy finally opened in Milan in 1957 starting a rapid diffusion of the new sales systems The International Basic Economy Corporation IBEC an American corporation based in New York and owned by Nelson A Rockefeller created that supermarket Until my visit to the Rockefeller Archive Center RAC I had been able to gather little information on the story or about the companys motivations and final results Newspapers and local archives were not particularly helpful The documents I found at the Archive Center were fundamental to understanding what really happened at that time and to gaining a better insight into the beginnings of the mass market in Italy Among the RAC collections the records relating to the IBEC story were especially interesting as were the personal papers of Nelson A Rockefeller who closely followed the whole IBEC experience in Italy The Wayne G Broehl papers also were very useful because they contained papers and documents collected by a professor at Dartmouth College who had written a book about IBEC in 1968 The International Basic Economy Corporation Washington DC International Planning Association 1968 Here I found important evidence concerning the corporations economic and financial status and also lively reports from different witnesses Nelson A Rockefeller created IBEC in 1946 with the aim of promoting economic development in Latin America after he had observed the poor
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