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  • Crowds #2: Speaking to Crowds June 18, 2012

    Author: Beach Combing | in : Contemporary, Modern , trackback

    W.B.Yeats once wrote that the most important thing for a ‘man’ was, in his day, no longer a sword but a tongue to speak to the masses. Yeats was living in an age when that was still true. Microphones were allowing the amplification of voices and transport meant that a politician or preacher could travel up and down the country making three or four speeches a day. Today, the ability to speak to a crowd is no longer as important. It would be quite possible to win the nomination, say, for the Democratic or Republican party without being a first-class public performer: whereas if you couldn’t speak well on television you might as well go and work with a pick underground. In any case, in tribute to the now past golden age of public-speaking Beach has – ever since his post on crowds and August 1914 – been collecting photographs showing outstanding orators speaking to tens, hundreds and if possible thousands of people. Most date from about 1880-1950. Any other contributions greatly appreciated: drbeachcombing AT yahoo DOT com There is a premier on photos showing the obvious interaction between speaker and public.

    First up, one of the masters. Michael Collins speaks his truth to the Irish. A lot of these crowd pictures seem to gain force from the speaker being little bigger than those he is addressing in the camera’s eye.  Perhaps it gives that all important where’s-wally quality to the picture?

    On just that note, MC’s most able enemy, Lloyd George speaking, intensely, to a similar-sized group. The spirit of demagogues past…

    Fabulous shot here of Mussolini, clowning around in front of the crowd: if you weren’t a Yugoslav, an Italian communist or one of his illegitimate sons, BM had, very occasionally, an almost loveable side.

    Lenin didn’t (have a loveable side). Note Trotsky off to the side, who had to be cut out of later versions of this photograph by censors. For the record the two are instructing the revolutionary army to go and wipe out Poland.

    Beach looked and looked for a good one from the Third Reich of the ‘great communicator’. But was disappointed.Here is a speech in Dortmund. If you want the real thing go and look up the scary final sections of  Triumph of the Will.

    Still in Germany but a generation later, a moving picture of Kennedy speaking for freedom in Berlin when these things mattered.

    More modern crowd-speaker photographs are difficult to come by: your best bet are rock concerts. But this one of Obama (on the drive for nomination) is powerful, perhaps because the then not-nominee for the democratic party looks so damn lonely down there.

    On the subject of rock concerts here is Douglas Fairbanks selling liberty bonds from 1918. Just a glance and you know that he is not a politician. BTW that’s Charlie Chaplin on his shoulders.

    We can hardly leave this subject without a religious shot or two. John Paul II in the US with some deeply uncool but cute priests in the foreground.

    And Billy Graham speaks to the (very staid) British in Trafalgar Square: we let you down Billy…


    23 June 2012: Sword&Beast writes in: Peron´s speeches immediately came to my mind. Here are a couple of pictures.

    But my favourite, by far, is the one in which Eva, already severely affected with cancer, finds rest in Juan´s arms amidst her 1st of May speech, in front of a large multitude (It speaks volumes).’


    Beach loves the second one particularly. Then Invisible with some awesome photographs of speakers:

    A series of suffragettes in 1908.

    Glamorous evangelist, Aimee Semple-McPherson (who later went down in disgrace over a faked abduction) at the Royal Albert Hall in 1908.

    Also see her here:

    Warren G. Harding delivering a campaign speech from the porch of his home in Marion, Ohio during the “front porch campaign” of 1920.


    Emmeline Pankhurst addresses a crowd in New York City, 1913

    Evangelist Billy Sunday

    This is an engraving, but captures Sunday’s gyrations for the Lord as you can see from other photos of him, solo.

    Thanks S&B and Invisible!