Photos Reveal Candid Moments from Yalta Conference | Newberry

Photos Reveal Candid Moments from Yalta Conference

Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt during the Yalta Conference, February 1945. Photograph by Ralph Graham.

Winston Churchill and Franklin Roosevelt during the Yalta Conference, February 1945. Photograph by Ralph Graham.

U.S. Secretary of State Edward Stettinius inspects German artillery before the Yalta Conference, February 1945.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt

February 2015

The Newberry has acquired a set of artifacts that may shed new light on the Yalta Conference, the diplomatic gathering of Allied leaders who, in the final months of World War II, established the terms for peace and the new boundaries of postwar Europe. Consisting primarily of never-before-seen photographs of the American, British, and Soviet politicians in attendance, the acquisition offers a different perspective from the official visual record of the conference’s proceedings.

These photographs were taken by Ralph Graham, who, in 1945, was a young staffer in the U.S. State Department. Graham traveled to Yalta as the private secretary of Secretary of State Edward Stettinius. He was also an amateur photographer, and he used the behind-the-scenes access he was afforded to document his trip. His photos capture spontaneous interactions involving British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet Foreign Minister Vyacheslav Molotov, as well as the frail dignity of President Franklin Roosevelt. (Roosevelt would die just two months after the conference.)

“The candid nature of the photographs is what makes this acquisition so special,” says Martha Briggs, Lloyd Lewis Curator of Modern Manuscripts at the Newberry. “It’s important for historians to have access to visual evidence that doesn’t just preserve the staged, orchestrated moments of major events.”

After his travels, Graham was presented with a scrapbook as a souvenir. The scrapbook is also part of the Newberry acquisition. It does not include Graham’s personal snapshots but rather dozens of official photographs from the conference, newspaper clippings, and personal travel documents. In addition to the mementoes related to the Yalta Conference, the scrapbook documents subsequent diplomatic missions to Egypt and Mexico.

The Newberry’s Department of Digital Initiatives and Services is in the process of digitizing the negatives of Graham’s photography so that the images will be accessible to the public. In the meantime, anyone interested in viewing Graham’s photos or scrapbook may arrange to do so through the Newberry’s reference team, which can be reached at or (312) 255-3506.

The scrapbook and photographs were generously donated by Mary L. Graham, Sharon M. Graham, and Terry McGuire. The acquisition enriches the Newberry’s existing collections comprising journalistic materials from the twentieth century.