The exhibit was sponsored by the American government, and it followed a similar Soviet Exhibit in New York City earlier that year. It featured many displays of the latest "home appliances, fashions, television and hi-fi sets, a model house priced to sell [to] an 'average' family, farm equipment, 1959 automobiles, boats, sporting equipment and a children's playground, as well as books and vinyl records, this exhibit was intended to narrow the gap between the Americans and the Soviets and improve the political relations between them. However, the "exhibition was also a tool of cultural diplomacy against the Soviet Communist Regime" as the American politicians wanted to demonstrate the advantages of capitalism to the Soviets. This is evident in Vice President Richard Nixon's speech on the opening night of the Exhibition on July 24, 1959, as he congratulated USSR's Premier Nikita Khrushchev and the Soviets on their advances in astronomy and rocket science, but quickly returned to focus on the United States' strong points, especially the concept of freedom.
The various displays of the exhibit, which involved the designer George Nelson, were seen as successful in promoting the American way of life as superior to the Communist regime and lifestyle. For instance, the model of the modern kitchen was a great attraction for most visitors and even sparked the infamous "Kitchen Debate."
Controversy ensued within the U.S. State Department concerning certain American artists whose works were to be displayed in the Exhibit. Considering the fact that some of the artists had been linked to communist activities, "a few right-wing publicists and legislators claimed that communist sympathizers were undermining the reputation of the United States." After an investigation of each of these painters and sculptors, Francis Walter, Chairman of the House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC), revealed that thirty-four of the sixty-seven featured artists had been involved in some Communist organization. The Committee was prepared to remove these works from the Exhibit altogether, yet President Dwight Eisenhower intervened and allowed for them to be displayed as were originally planned. In order to appease the conservatives, he also decided to add several paintings, which dated back to the eighteenth century, to Moscow.
In 1959, the vice president of the Housing and Home Components department at Loewy/Snaith, Andrew Geller was the design supervisor for the exhibition, the "Typical American House," built at the American National Exhibition. The exhibition home largely replicated a home previously built at 398 Townline Road in Commack, New York, which had been originally designed by Stanley H. Klein for a Long Island-based firm, All-State Properties, headed by developer Herbert Sadkin. To accommodate visitors to the exhibition, Sadkin hired Loewy's office to modify Klein's floor plan. Geller supervised the work, which "split" the house, creating its nickname, "Splitnik," and a way for large numbers of visitors to tour the small house.
Subsequently, Richard Nixon (then vice president) and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev on July 24, 1959, began what became known as the Kitchen Debate — a debate over the merits of capitalism vs. socialism, with Khrushchev saying Americans could not afford the luxury represented by the "Typical American House". Tass, the Soviet news agency said: "There is no more truth in showing this as the typical home of the American worker than, say, in showing the Taj Mahal as the typical home of a Bombay textile worker."