"beyond Springfield & Moscow"
Alan F. Garratt
and the Armand Hammer myth.
The Amtorg Trading Corporation was based at 165 Broadway, New York City, and after 1929 at 261 Fifth Avenue. Amtorg is an acronym of American trade - American Trading. It was formed by the amalgamation of the Products Exchange Corp. (1919), Armand Hammer’s Alamerico and Arcos-America Inc. (1923). The latter was the US office of the UK based All Russian Co-operative Society (ACROS).
Although Hammer’s (photo bottom centre) name is often linked with the Dueber and Ansonia purchases but he was not involved. Indeed, he played no part in the organisation and was simply a facilitator and participant in the many concessions given to business men to maximise the acquisition of foreign currency. Hammer acquired many imperial treasures and impotered, amongst other things, ‘Hammer Pencils’.
Alamerico: The Hammer family (actor Armie Hammer is the latest generation) held three concessions in the Soviet Union. One covered the Alapievsky asbestos deposits; the second, granted in July 1923, was a general trading concession and the third was the pencil and stationery concession. The Hammers had been trading with the USSR. under a Soviet trading license, since 1918; the concession gave them the right to establish an office in Moscow and represent a number of large American companies. Previous to the grant of the concession, Hammer had been described as the ‘Soviet trade representative in the United States’. The Hammer trading concession represented thirty-eight large American companies. These had an aggregate capitalisation in excess of one billion dollars, and included Ingersoll-Rand, American Tool Works, Heald Machine, Ford Motor Company, US. Rubber, US. Machinery, and other companies of similar stature. Hammer also made contracts in the United
States for the sale of Soviet raw materials. The right was granted to conduct operations independently of the government trade monopoly: quite a remarkable situation, given the vehemence with which the Soviets normally defended their monopoly on trading rights. The only limitation on Hammer operations was that imports into the Soviet Union could not exceed exports. It appears that the Hammer concession was represented within the USSR by Soviet organisations.
Hammer was an enigma and was described by Lenin as a useful fool. Nevertheless as the signed photo (right below) Lenin gave to Hammer testifies, he was considered a Comrade. He distanced himself from Stalin and in his book Hammer: The Armand Hammer Story. he said “I never met Stalin, I never had any desire to do so, and I never had any dealings with him”.
Armand was not opposed to intimidation tactics and threats. According to his brother Victor, once when a railroad train carrying food to our asbestos mine was detained. … Armand complained, and the Cheka shot and killed the official who caused the delay. After another official hinted that he wanted a payoff, Armand reported him also and the Cheka arrested the man. Before they had a chance to shoot him, he committed suicide.
Presidents of Amtorg from 1924 to 1936...
• Isay Khurgin (1924–1925), died in suspicious circumstances in a boating accident in upstate New York.
• AV Prigarin (1925-1926)
• Saul Bron (1927–1930), executed during the Great Purge in 1938 (arrest photo left above).
• Pyotr Bogdanov(1930–1934), executed during the Great Purge in 1938
• Ivan Vasilyevich Boev (1934–1936), executed during the Great Purge in 1938.
For example, in the Northwestern oblast, the concession was represented by the Northwestern Trade Association, which institution carried out all the transactions of the Company. The concession was financedby the USSR.
Amtorg became the first Soviet trade delegation in the US when in May 1924 it was established to assist the USSR’s import and export companies seeking to conduct legitimate trade. It would continue in this role throughout the Soviet era.
Amtorg’s chief commissioner for the purchase of the Dueber-Hampden factory was Mr A. Vladiminsky. Although based in New York, he would spend much time in Canton negotiating with the Receiver Raymond Loichot.
Another major Amtorg contract was concluded with the American Architect Albert Kahn. Kahn was best known as the architect who
designed many Detroit car plants, including Ford’s. Around the time of the construction of the Moscow watch factory Kahn had set up a factory design bureau in Moscow. It is most probable that the factory was designed by Kahn’s company as it meets all the criteria he established for model Soviet factories.
Blumay, Carl. The Dark Side of Power: The Real Armand Hammer. Simon & Schuster, 1992
Epstein, Edward J. Dossier: The Secret History of Armand Hammer. Random House, 1996.