London: Acme Newspictures Inc., 17 January 1950. Photograph. This original press photograph captures Winston S. Churchill on 17 January 1950, the first day of his campaign for the 1950 General Election. The gelatin silver print on glossy photo paper measures 8 x 6 in (20.3 x 15.2 cm). Condition is very good. The paper is crisp and clean with only minor edge wear, cockling along the left edge, and light scuffing visible only under raking light. The verso bears the copyright stamp of “Acme Newspictures Inc.”, an additional illegible though apparently Swedish copyright stamp, and a typed caption reading “Mr. Winston Churchill holds a copy of to-day’s (Tuesday’s) ‘Evening Standard’ with the headline – ‘Churchill starts Tory campaign to-day’ as he arrives at Hyde Park Gate from his country home at Westerham (Kent), to start the Conservative General Election campaign. His first task, after seing [sic] the Conservative ‘Shadow Cabinet’ is to give his final approval to the Conservative Manifesto, which will be issued next week. January 17th. 1950.”
Having done so much to win the war, Churchill faced frustration of his postwar plans when his wartime government fell on 26 July 1945 to a Labour landslide in the General Election. He would be relegated to Leader of the Opposition for more than six years. The 1950 General Election was the first General Election held after a full term Labour government. Churchill seems very much the “happy warrior” in this image, wearing a half smile, holding his cigar, and presenting the newspaper with the headline “Churchill starts Tory campaign to-day” almost as a challenge. As Conservative Party Leader, “Churchill took an active part in the preparation of the Conservative Party’s election manifesto… ‘Incentive’ and ‘stimulus’ were two words Churchill wished to see given prominence in the sections on production and industry. He also tackled the style of the Party’s prose. ‘It is our intention to initiate consultations with the Unions’ became, under Churchill’s pen, ‘We shall consult with Unions.’ (Gilbert, Vol. VIII, p.501).
On 19 January, two days after this image was captured, the 75-year-old Churchill wrote to his wife, Clementine, “I have an immense programme but not more than I can carry.” In his Party Political broadcast of 21 January, Churchill framed the choice before the electorate as “whether we should take another plunge into Socialist regimentation, or by a strong effort regain the freedom, initiative and opportunity of British life... whether we shall take another deep plunge into State ownership and State control, or whether we shall restore a greater measure of freedom and choice and action to our people, and of productive fertility and variety to our industry and trade.” The General Election of 23 February 1950 saw a major shift in favor of Churchill's Conservatives, who gained 90 seats, leaving the Labor Government on borrowed time with a tiny majority of only 5 seats. Labour’s Prime Minister, Clement Attlee, changed his own constituency while Churchill experienced a decisive victory in his re-election at Woodford; his vote tally was double that of his challenger. The General Election of 25 October 1951 saw the Conservatives return to majority and Churchill to 10 Downing Street for his second and final premiership.
This press photo originated from the Acme Newspictures Inc. press agency. 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. 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 #005571