I stumbled upon today’s topic while searching for an anniversary around which I could build a blog post. April 12th is the anniversary of Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s’ death in 1945, so I searched the online collection, wondering if I might find something related to FDR. What turned up are three negatives depicting what looks like a presidential inauguration, but the description for the event provided a possible time span of several years—between Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry S. Truman presidencies. (There is a fourth negative, of people in the crowd, but it hasn’t been scanned.) This makes for a perfect opportunity to see if we can collectively narrow down that range, or even get the specific date.
To start things off, I’m guessing that the event is Franklin Delano Roosevelt’s third inauguration in 1941 and here’s why: it’s sunny.
OK, there’s a little more to it than that!
Here are the clues I’ve discovered thus far:
- The negative film stock is Agfa Superpan Press. (The words “Agfa Superpan Press” are on the bottom edge of the negatives.) Some background: according to a history of Ansco by William L. Camp, photographic manufacturers Ansco (United States) and Afga (Germany) merged in January 1928 and operated under the corporate name Agfa Ansco. The company introduced Superpan Press, the first ultra-high-speed sheet film, in 1938.
- FDR’s first inauguration on March 4th, 1933 predates Superpan Press, photographs of the event depict the capitol building more elaborately decorated with garlands, and Hugh Morton would have turned twelve years old just a couple weeks beforehand.
- It rained on the 1937 inauguration. A total rainfall of 1.77 inches fell on a cold day. Between 11 am and 1 pm, 0.69 inches of rain fell with a noon temperature of 33°F. Superpan Press would have been helpful on a gray day like that! (Want to know more about past inauguration days weather?) One fact that could support—or be a red herring—is that Hugh Morton went to Episcopal High School in Alexandria, Va. before attending UNC in the fall of 1939.
- It was sunny on Inauguration Day 1941. 29 degrees with a brisk wind chill of 10°F.
- Agfa’s American assets seized during WWII and become part of Ansco in 1941. In 1945, Agfa reemerges as a separate company in Germany.
- Agfa Ansco dropped “Agfa” from its corporate name in January 1944, so it’s not likely that “Agfa” remained on its film stock much after this date. (This probably also rules out Truman’s inauguration.)
- It snowed on January 20th, 1945, and FDR gave his speech on the south portico of the White House, (and Hugh Morton was in South Pacific!).
As a side note, resolving the background of these corporate histories and their film stocks would probably be useful when identifying images based upon dating film type.
The clincher for identifying the year may reside in automotive history. Can anyone identify the vehicles in the photograph? If so, we might have the pièce de résistance!