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U.S. museums (Smithsonian) agree with U.S. senator (Sanders) to sell more products made by U.S. workers

March 10, 2011 |  9:06 am

Smithsonian talking bobblehead of Vulcan Spock says buy American made productsIt took a senator to get the message across to the Smithsonian folks about a growing movement to buy products made in America.

Vermont's first-term Bernie Sanders is an independent who calls himself a democratic socialist and caucuses with Democrats.

He says he's extracted a commitment from Smithsonian Institution officials to begin selling more USA products within 90 days.

Or else, Sanders says, he's prepared to introduce legislation to force such a policy on the vast conglomerate of 19 museums and nine research centers with some 30 million visits annually and gift shop/catalog sales above $40 million.

In a January letter to the museum, the mayor-turned-senator wondered why a museum system owned by the people of the United States celebrating the history of the United States could not find United States companies employing United States workers to make mini-busts of United States Founding Fathers, among other things.

The word "pathetic" also appeared in Sanders' letter.

Many products on sale in the Smithsonian's network of shops, from stuffed space bears to jewelry and computer gear, are made you-know-where by you-know-Hu.

Initially, museum representatives made the familiar claim that American-made products were too expensive or hard to find. ABC News' Jonathan Karl and Ben Forer found one thriving USA-only shop just blocks away that helps support some 400 American craftsmen. 

However, now that politicians on committees controlling the museum are interested, museum officers this week decided to compromise and do it Sanders' way -- to do a better U.S. job of helping the U.S. economy with U.S. products on sale in the Air and Space Museum, the Natural History Museum and museums housing American artworks.

Sanders announced the museum commitments Wednesday, including one to open a new shop, called the Price of Freedom, selling only U.S-made products in time for this summer's busy Capitol tourist season.

Sanders, whose term expires next year, is himself made in the USA, having been born in New York City almost 70 years ago.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Smithsonian catalog (Even Vulcan Spock urges online customers to buy American-made).

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