London: Supplied by The Topical Press Agency, published by The Daily Telegraph, 3 July 1945. Photograph. This original press photograph captures Prime Minister Winston S. Churchill on 2 July as he raises his hat to the crowd on a campaign tour for the 1945 General Election. The gelatin silver print on matte photo paper measures 5.25 x 9.5 in (13.3 x 24.1 cm). Condition is very good minus. The paper is clean and free of scratches with some edge wear, creasing to the corners, and pin holes to the four corners. This image of Churchill in the final days of his storied wartime premiership is compelling in both quality and composition; Churchill is in crisp focus at the center of the high contrast image. This press photo once belonged to the working archive of The Daily Telegraph.
The verso bears the copyright stamp of “The ‘Topical’ Press Agency Ltd.”, a published stamp of the Daily Telegraph dated 3 JUL 1945, handwritten printing notations, and a typed caption reading “MR. CHURCHILL, FRESH FROM HIS ROUSING RECEPTION LAST WEEK IN THE MIDLANDS, THE NORTH AND SCOTLAND MADE THE FIRST OF HIS ELECTION TOURS OF THE LONDON AREA YESTERDAY EVENING. WAVING A GREETING ON HIS ARRIVAL AT WALHAM GREEN.” This photograph is housed in a removable, archival mylar sleeve within a rigid, crimson cloth folder.
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 2 July, as Churchill embarked on a two-day tour of London during which he was met with both adoring crowds and detractors. Though this image shows an apparently enthusiastic throng, 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.
The following day 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 throughout his speech. At the end 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... Their exhibition here shows very clearly the sort of ideas they have of free speech.” (Complete Speeches, Vol VII, p 7203) The opposite outcome shortly came to pass.
Churchill had warred with his own Conservative Party throughout the 1930s. Now, despite his personal popularity, his Conservative Party 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. He was 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.
During the first half of the twentieth century, photojournalism fundamentally changed the way the public interacted with current events. Newspapers assembled expansive archives, including physical copies of photographs, their versos typically marked with ink stamps and notes providing provenance and captions. Photo departments often took brush, paint, pencil, and marker to the surface of photographs to edit them before publication. Today these photographs exist as repositories of historical memory, technological artifacts, and often striking pieces of vernacular art. Item #005198