Adlai Stevenson bares his sole


Flint Journal photographer, Bill Gallagher had a reputation for getting comedic pictures, and he took this picture of Democratic presidential candidate and Illinois Gov. Adlai E. Stevenson (right) and Michigan Gov. G. Mennen Williams on the Labor Day 1952. Kneeling in front of the podium to cover Stevenson’s speech, Gallager noticed a hole in Stevenson’s shoe. Gallagher set his focus on six feet, set the lens opening and removed the flash gun so as not to attract attention. He set the camera on the floor of the platform and fired one bulb.

Stevenson looked over at him and uncrossed his legs. But Gallagher had the image–which would became one of the great political photos of all time. The next day, it the airwaves and papers. The hole was totally out of character for the aristocratic, wealthy, intellectual Stevenson, who was having difficulty establishing himself as a candidate of the people in his race against Dwight D. Eisenhower.  The photo was so loved by Stevenson’s campaign that it even sold silver lapel pins, T-shirts and posters to memorialize the symbol of everyman frugality (below)*. The witty candidate himself responded, Better a hole in the shoe than a hole in the head,” but it was not enough for him to win the presidency. The photo, however, won a Pulitzer and Stevenson sent a telegram congratulating Gallagher: “Glad to hear you own with a hole in one.”

Stevenson’s head was also at the centre of attention that year. His opponent Eisenhower’s vice presidential candidate Richard Nixon called him an “egghead”, referring to his baldness. Constantly under mockery for his hair, Stevenson remarked,“Via ovicipitum dura est” (The way of the egghead is hard) in a lecture he gave at Harvard on March 17 in 1954. A week later on March 23 he made another joke, “Eggheads of the world, unite; you have nothing to lose but your yolks.”

Adlai Stevenson silver shoe pin

* In 2008, another intellectual democrat from Illinois would also don similar everyman frugality with old shoes. [link]

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