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!
7 thoughts on “Who am I? . . . Presidential Style”
My goodness! You never fail to come up with a doozie.
I’ll tell you what I remember. Hugh told me he went to an inauguration while he was a student at EHS. He said he got a great seat because he went by Bob Doughton’s (sp?) office that very morning.( He was a friend of Hugh’s grandfather, I believe.) and was given a ticket that was not going to be used by one of the members of the Electoral College. (Is that the right name for the body of men who actual;l;y cast votes for the President?) Very unusual, I am sure.
Being Hugh, he always wanted to be where things were happening, and being Hugh he cared less for a good seat than a good photograph. It could be that they would not let him take his camera into the reserved section. Anyway, that is what I remember. If it was 1937. There is one more wild guess. Very wild. When he enlisted in the Army he may have done so in DC hoping to get to choose his posting. (Or whatever you call his future army assignment.) The draftable fellows were always trying to “work” the system doing things like that.
I will be very interested in what you decide. Great work, as always. Julia
How does this image of a 1941 Ford compare with the cars in the photograph?
Interesting story, Julia! Knowing he went to an inauguration while at EHS would lend some credence to the 1937. Another busman’s holiday to Archives II might revel more about his enlistment if such records exist.
Jack, I’ve been leaning toward the 1941 Ford Super Deluxe sedan, too. The difference between the image you linked and the autos in the photograph are three side windows, rather than two . . . more like this http://www.flickr.com/photos/autohistorian/6148673752/ or the “Fordor” shown near the bottom of http://www.american-automobiles.com/Ford/1941-Ford.html. Jury’s still out though!
Now that I”m looking even more closely (click on image, use zoom tool) . . . it may only be the lead car that has three side windows, while the second and third only have two windows.
Almost certainly 1941. The 1945 inauguration was held at an apparently different location and 1937 was (as mentioned) in the rain. Compare this image of the 1941 inauguration:
Thanks, Kris, and good to hear from you! Another feather in 1941’s cap.