Associated Press Photos, 8 May 1945. Photograph. This is an original press photograph of a portrait of FDR taken by his official 1944 campaign portrait photographer, Leon A. Perskie, at Hyde Park on 21 August 1944. This image, measuring 9 x 7.125 in (22.8 x 18.1 cm), is a silver gelatin print on glossy photo paper. Condition is very good. The paper is crisp and clean with a small scratch on FDR’s upper lip and some light scuffing visible only under raking light. The verso bears the copyright stamp of “Associated Press Photos”, purple ink stamps reading “FILED TU. MAY 8 1945” and “Return to Library”, and clippings from the photograph’s late use in print on 1 January 1982 and 17 January 1997.
This portrait of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt was taken by renowned portrait photographer Leon A. Perskie (1899-1982). Leon had previously assisted his father Jacob H. Perskie, a noted photographer, painter, and etcher, in photographing FDR for each of FDR’s previous elections in 1932, 1936, and 1940. Upon the death of the elder Perskie in 1941 FDR wrote a letter of condolence to his widow for the passing of the man “who was my faithful friend."
On 20 August 1944 Leon received a mysterious call, instructing the photographer to bring his equipment to Poughkeepsie, go to a specific restaurant, and call a telephone number for further instructions. Leon left Baltimore right away and arrived at the instructed location at 1:00 am on the 21st. The Secret Service answered his call, and he was collected and taken to a nearby hotel. After a few hours of rest, he was picked up and taken to Hyde Park, the home of President Roosevelt. “Upon arriving at the Roosevelt home, Leon was instructed to select a room to take a portrait. He chose the spacious library with its fireplace and walls of books.” (FDR Library) Of the portrait session taken in the President’s library Leon would later recall “the President – famous smile and all – came into the room… I made several takes – and I can say without reservation that he is the most patient man I ever had sit for a picture.” This black and white image taken by Perskie became the official 1944 portrait used throughout FDR’s fourth and final campaign. Perskie would ultimately make portraits of four Democratic presidents – including Truman, Kennedy, and Johnson.
Such was the singular nature of both the man and his presidency that no mere biographical sketch of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (1882-1945) seems to suffice. “Even those critical of his achievements recognize their magnitude” (ANB). America’s only crippled president and the only president ever elected to four terms in office was the indispensable leader of his country during its greatest economic crisis and its greatest foreign war. By any reasonable assessment, Roosevelt fundamentally reshaped social, political, and geopolitical expectations and realities not just of his nation, but of large parts of the world. FDR, as he became widely known, served as thirty-second president of the United States for twelve years, from 1933-1945, dying in office on 12 April 1945, only months after the beginning of his fourth term and less than a month before VE Day.
This is an original press photo from the Associated Press. 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, including 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. The stamps on this photo indicate archive use over a span of more than half a century. 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 #005496