The American National Exhibit
The American National Exhibit opened in Moscow on July 25, 1959. It followed the USSR’s exhibit in New York City. This was a cultural exchange between the USSR and the USA during the height of the cold war in an attempt to cover the entire lifestyle of the two super-powers.
Vice President Richard Nixon represented the US in Moscow. Soon after the opening of the Moscow exhibit, he had a fairly “barbed” debate with Nikita Khrushchev, the USSR’s representative. This was in the kitchen of the model house that the US had erected. Fortunately the tension waned as the exhibition progressed. Khrushchev praised the exhibition saying: “There are good things here and we envy you for them. They are things that Russia will have.” He even drank Pepsi Cola, formerly considered a symbol of American decadence and imperialism!
The Institute of High Fidelity Manufacturers sponsored several audio displays, including “the ultimate”, a Klipschorn/Heresy 3-channel array. This employed PWK’s derived center channel process, an outgrowth of Bell Telephone Laboratories work from the 1930’s [see PWK’s Stereophonic Sound with Two Tracks, Three Channels by Means of a Phantom Circuit published in the JAES the previous year]. Don Davis, Vice President* of Klipsch & Associates, acted as audio consultant to the Department of Commerce at the exhibit. This resulted in Don and his wife Carolyn making their second trip to Europe to demonstrate Klipsch technology.
Jazz was clearly the favorite music, and it was played almost exclusively, although the official communist party line suggested that jazz was decadent. Don indicated that the Russians preferred to withhold “audio judgment” until after experiencing 120 dB levels. Several times when the system was left operating without a guide present, a Russian observer would crawl out onto the framework of the display and crank it up to full volume. He also said that many Russian enthusiasts were quite knowledgeable, being up to date with American publications such as the AES, IRE, and AIEE journals.
*At home Don was often referred to as “President of Vice.”