TwHP Lessons

Thaw in the Cold War:
Eisenhower and Khrushchev
at Gettysburg

[Cover photo] Eisenhower NHS
(Eisenhower National Historic Site)

Perhaps a change of scene would make a difference. Dwight D. Eisenhower and Nikita Khrushchev, opposing leaders of the United States (U.S.) and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) at the height of the Cold War in 1959, had reached an impasse. Even at the informal setting of Camp David, with occasional escapes from the intrusive protocol and ever present advisers, the leaders were making little progress in their effort to lessen the tensions. As he and Khrushchev boarded the helicopter for the short flight from Camp David to the president's Gettysburg, Pennsylvania farm, Eisenhower hoped that the quiet, rural atmosphere would have the intended effect on Khrushchev.

Eisenhower always found the farm "an oasis of relaxation." He and his wife, Mamie, purchased the farm in 1950; it was the only home the Eisenhowers ever owned. Though originally intended as a retirement home, it also served as a weekend retreat after Eisenhower's 1952 election to the presidency. The Eisenhowers especially enjoyed the glassed-in porch where they entertained family and friends, played cards, read, and watched television. Eisenhower also pursued his hobby of oil painting on the porch. He once wrote that if they ever built another home "it would be built around such a porch." On adjoining farms, Eisenhower raised his prize-winning herd of Angus cattle.

Sharing this private side of his life with world leaders had proved beneficial for Eisenhower when he met with allies of the United States, including West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer and British Prime Minister Harold Macmillan. But would it work, he wondered, with his Cold War adversary? As they landed at the edge of the farm field in front of his home, he hoped this private meeting with Khrushchev would move the world toward peace.


About This Lesson

Getting Started: Inquiry Question

Setting the Stage: Historical Context

Locating the Site: Maps
 1. Eisenhower NHS and surrounding region

Determining the Facts: Readings
 1. The Invitation to Nikita Khrushchev to
 Visit the U.S.

 2. State Department Memorandum
 3. Khrushchev Visits Eisenhower's Farm
 4. Khrushchev Speaks of His Gettysburg Visit

Visual Evidence: Images
 1. Eisenhower and Khrushchev
 2. Eisenhower NHS
 3. Porch, Eisenhower home

Putting It All Together: Activities
 1. Researching Why Eisenhower Never Visited
 the Soviet Union

 2. International Diplomacy
 3. Preparing for Nuclear War

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Eisenhower NHS

Teaching with Museum Collections: Eisenhower's Presidency

Teaching with Museum Collections: The Eisenhower Farm: Leaving the Land Better Than He Found It!

American Presidents & First Ladies: Dwight D. Eisenhower and Mamie Eisenhower

This lesson is based on the Eisenhower National Historic Site, one of the thousands of properties listed in the National Register of Historic Places.




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