London: Evening Standard, 1945. Photograph. This original press photograph captures Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill on 3 July 1945 delivering his final campaign speech of the 1945 General Election. Churchill is captured keeping the sun out of his eyes with a borrowed hat, befitting his borrowed time; his wartime premiership ended weeks later on 26 July 1945. The gelatin silver print on matte photo paper measures 11.625 x 10 inches (29.5 x 25.4 cm). Condition is very good minus. The paper is crisp with some edge wear, creases to the corners, a .25 x 1 inch area of loss in the center of the upper edge, and light scuffing visible only under raking light. The verso bears two stamps of the Evening Standard, and a received stamp dated 4 JUL 1945.
The General Election of July 1945 was Britain’s first since 1935. Churchill began campaigning on 26 May, just eighteen days after Britain celebrated VE Day. His first speech characterized the moment, opening with words of celebration before pivoting sharply to the reality at hand: “The great victory in Europe has been won. Enormous problems lie before us.” This photograph was taken on 3 July at the end of a two day election tour of the London area during which Churchill was met with both adoring crowds and detractors. In his speech before, some among the crowd “were rowdy and there was some stone-throwing”. (Gilbert & Arnn, Documents Vol XXI, p 1810)
Though Churchill had led the nation to victory, the Conservative party’s ability to achieve postwar reconstruction was viewed with growing skepticism. On 3 July Churchill delivered his final campaign speech before a crowd of over 20,000 at a stadium in Walthamstow at which a vehemently hostile faction was present. His 28-minute speech was interrupted throughout by catcalls and booing, as well as by cheers and applause. The environment was stormy enough that Churchill remarked upon the crowd’s participation many times throughout his speech. At the end of his speech he directly called out the opposition, “Where I think the booing party are making such a mistake is dragging all this stuff across the practical tasks we have to fulfil [sic]… They are going to be defeated at this election in a most decisive manner. Their exhibition here shows very clearly the sort of ideas they have of free speech.” (Complete Speeches, Vol VII, p 7203)
The opposite of the outcome predicted by Churchill would shortly come to pass. Churchill had warred with his own Conservative Party throughout the 1930s. Now, despite his personal popularity, his Conservative Party would cost him the premiership. On 26 July 1945, despite having done so much to win the war, Churchill faced frustration of his postwar plans when his wartime government fell to Labour’s landslide General Election victory over the Conservatives. He would be relegated to Leader of the Opposition for more than six years until the October 1951 General Election, when Churchill’s Conservatives outpaced Labour, returning Churchill to 10 Downing Street for his second and final premiership.
This press photo once belonged to a working newspaper archive. During the first half of the twentieth century, photojournalism grew as a practice, fundamentally changing the way the public interacted with current events. Newspapers assembled expansive archives, physical copies of all photographs published or deemed useful for potential future use, their versos typically marked with ink stamps and notes providing provenance and captions. Photo departments would often take brush, paint, pencil, and marker to the surface of photographs themselves to edit them before publication. Today these photographs exist as repositories of historical memory, technological artifacts, and often striking pieces of vernacular art. Item #005357