New York City: Unknown, Unknown. Photograph. This is a set of three photographic negatives of Winston S. Churchill at the Waldorf Astoria on 15 March 1946 staunchly defending the content of his “Iron Curtain” speech delivered ten days earlier. Churchill is pictured with New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey, who would lose the 1948 presidential election to Truman. The third man in the images appears to be Grover A. Whalen, Chairman of the Mayor's Committee on Receptions to Distinguished Guests (despite the Waldorf's own website identifying him as Conrad Hilton Sr.)
On 9 January 1946 Winston S. Churchill boarded the Queen Elizabeth for his first trip to the U.S. since losing his premiership on 26 July 1945 to a Labour Party general election landslide. As he had in the 1930s, Churchill found himself warning of a clear and imminent danger that neither a war-wary public nor their leaders wanted to face. This time it was not the ambitions of the Third Reich, but those of the Soviet Empire.
On 5 March Churchill delivered his famous “Iron Curtain” speech in Fulton, Missouri. Churchill incisively framed and defined the Cold War that would come to dominate postwar politics. “From Stettin in the Baltic to Trieste in the Adriatic, an iron curtain has descended across the Continent…” He continued, calling for increased cooperation between the U.S. and U.K. against the growing Soviet threat. The response to his speech was immediate and almost universally negative.
Then-President Harry S. Truman had traveled with Churchill by special train from Washington D.C. specifically to introduce Churchill in Fulton. Before the speech, Truman was shown a copy of the speech and told Churchill that he “thought it was admirable” and “would do nothing but good, though it would make a stir.” (Gilbert, Vol. VIII, pp.196-7) After the speech, Truman claimed he had not known in advance what Churchill was going to say. Truman even instructed Dean Acheson not to attend a New York reception for Churchill. Although Churchill had explicitly said “I repulse the idea that a new war is inevitable; still more that it is imminent... If we adhere faithfully to the Charter of the United Nations…” the Soviet newspaper Pravda accused him of sabotaging the United Nations and Stalin dubbed Churchill “a warmonger” who was “strikingly reminiscent of Hitler”. Prime Minister Attlee pointedly declined to comment in the House of Commons on “a speech delivered in another country by a private individual”, and over one hundred Labour MPs signed a motion formally denouncing the speech.
On 15 March Churchill was invited to a reception at the Waldorf Astoria Hotel held in his honor by the Mayor of New York – where these images were taken. Newspapers reported more than 2,000 protesters assembled outside of the hotel, chanting “Churchill Wants War; We Want Peace.” Churchill showed the steadfastness that had brought him through his 1930s wilderness years to the unequivocal vindication of his wartime premiership. “… at Fulton ten days ago I felt it was necessary for someone in a unofficial position to speak in arresting terms about the present plight of the world. I do not wish to withdraw or modify a single word.” Echoing his warnings about Nazi Germany of a decade prior, Churchill went on to say “The only question… is whether the necessary harmony of thought and action between the American and British peoples will be reached in a sufficiently plain and clear manner and in good time to prevent a new world struggle or whether it will come about, as it has done before, only in the course of that struggle.” The Cold War would define post-war international relations and substantially dominate Churchill’s second premiership (1951-1955).
These three negatives, measuring 4 x 5 in. (10.2 x 12.7 cm) on Kodak Safety Film, are in very good condition. The negatives are clean and free of scratches and finger prints and quite flat and uncurled. The numbers 44, 47, and 60 are written in the corners of the film, but are quite unobtrusive in scans. Item #005016