On this date in 1959, Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev began a two-week tour of the United States.
Here are some things you may not have known about it.
Khrushchev’s visit was preceded by American Vice President Richard Nixon’s visit to Moscow in July of 1959.
During Nixon’s visit, he engaged in a wide-ranging debate with Khrushchev during a tour of the American National Exposition, which was part of a cultural exchange with the Soviets. Earlier that year, the Soviets held a similar exhibition in New York.
The Nixon-Khrushchev debate, better known as the “Kitchen Debate,” focused on the differences between communism and capitalism, with the bulk of the interaction taking place in the kitchen of a model home on display during the exhibition.
Video of the debate was shown on American and Soviet television. The debate helped improve Nixon’s profile back home and helped lead to his nomination as the Republican Party’s presidential candidate in 1960.
During Nixon’s visit to Moscow, he invited Khrushchev to the United States, the first such visit by a Soviet premier.
Khrushchev arrived in Washington on the morning of September 15. His motorcade made its way into downtown Washington, where he met with President Dwight Eisenhower for two hours of informal talks. At a state dinner that night, Eisenhower and Khrushchev agreed that improved understanding between the two countries was of utmost importance.
The Soviet leader’s trip would culminate with an official summit meeting at Camp David outside Washington, but before that Khrushchev toured the United States.
He began with a trip to New York, where he was greeted by Mayor Robert F. Wagner, and attended a dinner hosted by the decidedly capitalist Economic Club of New York. The next day he visited former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt at her home in Hyde Park and visited the grave of her husband, former President Franklin Roosevelt. That afternoon he made a speech before the United Nations General Assembly.
The next day he flew to Los Angeles, where he was greeted with a luncheon at the studio of 20th Century Fox. Among the guests were Gary Cooper, Frank Sinatra, Elizabeth Taylor and Marilyn Monroe. However, a planned visit to Disneyland was canceled after the police chief said he couldn’t guarantee Khrushchev’s safety at the Happiest Place on Earth. That evening during a speech, the mayor of Los Angeles excoriated Khrushchev, who threatened to cut short his visit.
His reception in San Francisco was more cordial, and included a boat tour of the city, and a visit to the headquarters of the longshoreman’s union. Khrushchev traded hats with a union member and wore the longshoreman’s hat the rest of the day. In nearby San Jose, he toured an IBM facility, where it’s said that he was more interested by the self-service cafeteria than the computers. Later that same day, he visited a supermarket which caused a media frenzy.
Khrushchev would make stops in Iowa, where he sampled an American hot dog, and Pittsburgh, where he was presented the key to the city, on his way back to Washington.
Eisenhower and Khrushchev met for two days at Camp David in Maryland, but reached no new agreements. Khrushchev and his entourage flew back to Moscow on the evening of September 27.
Our question: Who preceded and succeeded Khrushchev as General Secretary of the Soviet Union?
Today is Independence Day in Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua and Costa Rica.
It’s unofficially National Thank You Day, National Linguine Day, and National Creme de Mente Day.
It’s the birthday of writer James Fenimore Cooper, who was born in 1789; former U.S. President William Howard Taft, who was born in 1857; and actor Tommy Lee Jones, who is 70 today.
Because our topic happened before 1960, we’ll spin the wheel to pick a year at random.
This week in 1974, the top song in the U.S. was “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love” by Barry White.
The No. 1 movie was “Chinatown,” while the novel “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy” by John le Carre topped the New York Times Bestsellers list.
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