Out of Many, One: Glimpses of the USA and morePosted June 1, 2014
Out of Many, One: Glimpses of the USA by Charles and Ray Eames, The Family Of Man by Edward Steichen, and Universal Thought in Cold War Propaganda is Elizabeth Lane Altimus’ MA thesis, the conclusion to her studies at Louisiana State University.
America at mid-20th century was experiencing unprecedented growth and a flourishing economy. After surviving the devastating events of the Great Depression as well as World War II, the United States had emerged a superpower. But the US was not alone in this new role as the Soviet Union also experienced tremendous growth. From the late 1940s to the mid-1950s, the United States and the Soviet Union entered into the darkest days of the Cold War. The threat of Communism worked citizen and politician alike into a frenzy of fear while Joseph McCarthy became an infamous figure whose name is still synonymous with red-baiting.
By the late 1950s, however, there seemed to be a thaw in US-Soviet relations and an attempt to repair the damage between the two countries commenced. In the summer of 1959, the American National Exhibition took place in Sokolniki Park in Moscow. During a six week period, over 2,700,000 Soviets were introduced to American manufacturing and culture. The exhibition was also an example of the dominant architectural style preferred by the US during the 1950s, that of Modernism. George Nelson, Charles and Ray Eames, Jack Masey, and Buckminster Fuller all participated in the overall design and look of the exhibition.
While the exhibition’s architecture proudly displayed American design and manufacturing, the individual side shows were much more universal in their intent. The film by Charles and Ray Eames, Glimpses of the USA, and Edward Steichen’s famous photography exhibition, The Family of Man, were both used to help portray America to a Soviet audience. Since Cold War rhetoric often relied upon domestic imagery to justify foreign policies, the American family was key to US-Soviet understanding. The universal idea that man is essentially the same the world over was a message US government agencies promoted and should be studied in relation to the Civil Rights era that preceded it.
To read the entire thesis, please see this page.