In the OP-Ed section today’s NY Times, William Safire has a fascinating account of how he came to take the iconic photo of Nixon & Khrushchev discussing the kitchen of the “typical American home” in the 1959 exhibition at Sokolniki Park in Moscow. Awesome product placement for S.O.S (and for future Russian leader, Leonid Brezhnev, as well). Some excerpts:
I was in that kitchen, not because I then had anything to do with Nixon, the exhibition’s official host, but as a young press agent for the American company that built the house. The exhibit was designed to show Russians that free enterprise produced goods that made life better for average Americans…
Nixon: “I want to show you this kitchen. It’s like those of houses in California. See that built-in washing machine?”
Khrushchev: “We have such things.”
Nixon: “What we want to do is make more easy the life of our housewives.”
Khrushchev: “We do not have the capitalist attitude toward women.”
… Because the Russian press had derided the American claim that the house was affordable to workers — calling it “a Taj Mahal” — Nixon noted that this house cost $14,000, and a government-guaranteed veterans mortgage made it possible for a steelworker earning $3 an hour to buy it for $100 a month. Khrushchev was sarcastic: “We have peasants who also can afford to spend $14,000 for a house.”
… originally slugged “the Sokolniki summit” but Harrison was willing to change that slug-line to the equally alliterative “kitchen conference” at my plea (my client was the house builder, not Nixon and certainly not the Russian park).
… A few hours after the kitchen conference, at our ambassador’s residence, I was introduced to Nixon, who showed his grasp of capitalism’s priorities by commenting, “We really put your kitchen on the map, didn’t we?”
William Safire NY Times
The Cold War’s Hot Kitchen
NY Times, July 23, 2009
Funny how “modern conveniences” and consumer packaged goods figured into the idealogical debates of that period.