Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Trust me, I know what I'm doing!

A. Hammer. American Industry Concession. Pencils and Pens. Moscow – New York.
Unknown artist, 1927

In the early twenties Soviet Union desperately needed ample funding to restore the economy. The hopes for foreign investments were vague, as gross nationalization had been only three years before. Moreover the process of international recognition had just started and there were only a few countries the diplomatic relations were established with.

But as the large international consortiums were cautious about doing business in the USSR, those young and ambitious were trying to snatch a roll. The Soviet Government was selling out masterpieces of art, furs, jewelry, caviar. Armand Hammer – a young businessman from New York had huge plans for purchasing some of those valuables for cheap. He came to Soviet Union with medical supplies for soviet citizens and made several deals with Lenin for importing of furs. Later he moved to Russia to supervise those operations, opening his most famous venture – a pencil factory. Although these factory products made him quite famous as every pupil in the country dreamt about getting Hammer pencils, which were of excellent quality, Hammer’s main source of income was in oil and coal. Somehow, he managed to talk Lenin into granting him exclusive rights to develop several asbestos and coal mines.

He returned to USA in the early 30s but his business ventures in the USSR remained. Although it is not known how Bolsheviks and Hammer shared expenses and profits later, but Hammer was the one and only multimillionaire, who had personal acquaintances with all the leaders of the Soviet Union starting from Lenin (died 1924) up to Yuri Andropov (died 1984) – 60 years of successful business in Russia.

Note the way the Armand Hammer's logo is emblazed on the red flag on the poster above. Instead of the original “Hammer and Sickle” is has got colors of the Star Spangled Banner and the Statue of Liberty image. This was quite a familiarity doing such things with a national anthem, but nevertheless Hammer could get away with it, as his enterprises were too valuable for the Soviet Union.