London: Sport & General Press Agency, published by The Daily Telegraph, 27 October 1950. Photograph. This original press photograph captures Winston S. Churchill, cigar in mouth, patting his champion race horse Colonist II on 26 October 1950. The gelatin silver print on matte photo paper measures 8 x 10 in (20.3 x 25.4 cm). Condition is good plus. There is some edge wear, creasing to corners, two short closed tears at the right edge, and a small loss at the top edge. This press photo once belonged to the working archives of The Daily Telegraph and features extensive original hand-applied retouching and airbrushing, as well as original crop marks. The verso bears the copyright stamp of “Sport & General”, three published stamps from The Daily Telegraph dated 27 OCT 1950, 20 APR 1952, and 25 JAN 1965, numerous handwritten printing notations, and an original typed caption. The caption reads “Colonist II (T.Gosling up) battling out the finish of the Jockey Club Cup at Newmarket yesterday to win by 1 1’2 lenths [sic] from Pas de Calais. This is the sixth race in succesion [sic] that he has won for Mr. Churchill, who was at Newmarket to see his victory.”
Owning racehorses was a later life manifestation of Churchill’s lifelong love of horses. At Sandhurst, training for the cavalry, Churchill graduated second in the arduous riding competition. At Omdurman he participated in “the last significant cavalry charge in British history”. He was a talented polo player who did not play his last game until age 52. And as soon as his finances allowed in the last decades of his life, Churchill kept a stable of racehorses and found some success as an owner and breeder. In 1949 the septuagenarian Churchill purchased Colonist II, a three-year-old French race horse. Colonist became something of a sensation, winning eight of his nine races in 1950, including one in which King George VI’s horse, Above Board, was running. When Colonist II beat Above Board, Churchill wrote to Princess Elizabeth “I wish indeed that we could both have been victorious – but that would be no foundation for the excitements and liveliness of the turf.” (Gilbert, Vol VIII, p. 613)
“One of the most popular and remarkable horses of his era, the French-bred thoroughbred won thirteen of twenty-four races and placed in five others, all in distances between one and two and one-quarter miles. Beloved by Churchill and thousands of admirers for his courage and steadfastness, Colonist II was known for preferring always to race in front of his competition and never seemed to know when he was licked—which drew comparisons to his indomitable master.” (Glueckstein Finest Hour 125, Winter 2004-05, p.28)
Churchill’s new hobby was not met with approval by all. Clementine wrote to a friend “I do think this is a queer new facet in Winston’s variegated life. Before he bought the horse (I can’t think why) he had hardly been on a racecourse in his life. I must say I don’t find it madly amusing.” (letter of 28 May 1951) When Colonist’s trainer suggested that Colonist be put up to stud Churchill allegedly retorted, “To stud? And have it said that the Prime Minister of Great Britain is living on the immoral earnings of a horse?” (quoted in Kay Halle, The Irrepressible Churchill, p. 241) Churchill continued to own horses throughout the remainder of his life, 38 in total, but none quite matched the success of his first.
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 #005582