Every year nearly 30 million people visit the 19 Smithsonian Museums in Washington, D.C. to see some of our nation’s most prized historical artifacts.
But visitors seeking souvenirs from "our nation's attic," as the museums are known, have recently been surprised to find one very un-American artifact in the museums' gift shops: a stamp that reads “Made in China.”
“I think it is utterly absurd and frankly insulting that the patriotic American mementos [visitors] are taking home today are stamped with the words ‘Made in China,’” said U.S. Representative Nick J. Rahall of West Virginia, top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.
Earlier this year, Rep. Rahall introduced the “Buy American at the Smithsonian Act of 2011” because “I don’t think our nation’s attic should be stocked with goods from China that could be made in the United States.”
The Smithsonian is an example of the state of American manufacturing today. As more steps of the manufacturing process are outsourced to other countries, American products are harder to find, and often more expensive to purchase.
Critics argue that as manufacturing moves overseas, American jobs go with it. However, some companies have committed to bringing manufacturing back home, recalling some of the “Made in U.S.” zeal of the 1970s.
Take bubble gum and baseball cards.
“Very few brands are part of the DNA when you're growing up, and Topps is one of them,” said Ryan O’Hara, the company’s CEO. Topps was founded in 1938 by the Shorn brothers as a gum company. In 1952, the company introduced its baseball cards.
“The company's been a pillar in America off the back of baseball cards ever since,” said O’Hara.
Topps executives recently made the tough decision to renew their lease in New York City’s Manhattan, a move that may cost more money but remains true to the company's American roots.