The two workmen looked up as a car went by.
‘That almost looks like F.D.R. himself.’
Answered the other:
‘Yep, but he’s at the White House.’
They went back to work.”
It was FDR. He was on a secret nationwide tour of defense plants and military installations. The press was ordered not to cover his trip until two weeks after it was over. His stop in North Idaho took place on September 21, 1942.
The president’s relationship with the press during that time of war has received much analysis in later days. For one thing, the press seemed to shy away from any reference or photograph that might show FDR as anything less than at the top of his game. Pictures of him using a cane were rare. Even rarer were pictures of him in a wheelchair.
John Wood, well known for his history of railroads in the Coeur d’Alene mining area, shared with me a press photo of FDR on his visit to Farragut. He was going to PhotoShop out a few scratches, but when he looked closely at the picture he noticed someone had beaten him to it on the original. That is, the photo was altered in some interesting ways. First, someone seems to have dodged out a cigarette from FDR’s mouth. John also noticed that something was going on with the car’s visor on the right. It looks like there was a map clipped to it, most of which has been retouched to oblivion. When I looked at the photo I noticed one more little history-altering touch. Someone obliterated a hearing aid from FDR’s ear. In a way, it’s the most obvious alteration because it leaves a hearing-aid-shaped void.
For history buffs, this is interesting because it further illuminates to what extent the president’s public image was manipulated. To me the human frailties everyone was hiding only further emphasize the strengths FDR had.