USSR Exhibition, New York City, 1959
|Why It's Interesting|
History well remembers the U.S. exhibition in Moscow when Vice President Nixon debated Premier Khruschchev about life in America in what became known as the Kitchen Debate. The Soviet Union responded by mounting this USSR Exhibit in New York the following year. The show was divided into 12 sections addressing: Industry and Agriculture; Science and Technology; Radio and Electronics; Peaceful Uses of Atomic Energy; Optics; Transport; Public Education; Public Health; Sports; Construction; Culture; and Well-being of the people. Photos showed off technological wonders like “the world’s largest proton synchrotron,” the atomic ice-breaker Lenin; radio telescopes; a computer at the Soviet Academy of Sciences; and spinal-cord anesthesia. One fascinating photo shows “The First Ball-Bearing Plant in Moscow, Art Studio in the Plant’s Palace of Culture.” The very first photo showed off “New Chaika cars,” cars that remain laughingstocks of automotive design and quality to this day.
The cover, of course, features a space capsule such as would soon allow the Soviets to send the first person into space, giving it what would prove to be its last technological lead over the United States and the West in general.
This website seeks to encourage researchers and collectors to discover and study obscure ephemera that document American culture and life. Worldcat reveals that most of the items that I post cannot be found in more than a few research libraries–often none at all. Alternately, research libraries do not bother to catalog ephemeral publications like these. I believe, however, that because these were distributed free, or at nominal cost, to consumers, they were the publications most likely to make their way into homes and be read by large numbers of Americans.
I acquire pre-1960 examples of the kinds of publications that prove so useful when scholars study 19th-Century America. The limited competition that I encounter for them suggests that libraries, which could easily outbid me, have little interest in post-Civil War and 20th-century ephemeral publications in general.
I try to anticipate what materials future historians will find useful. Being an historian first and a collector second, I organized this website to encourage others to do this too—even if this means new competition for me. I am aware that I could be wrong in prizing particular ephemera or even whole classes of ephemera. I may even be wrong to encourage scholars to study obscure ephemeral publications; these may be obscure for good reason.
Ephemerastudies.org will permit me to share with others the information and imagery that I am acquiring, and to benefit from the knowledge, intelligence and experience of other scholars and collectors. Please contact me with your impressions of the site.