Petty cash and ‘positive statements’
Weekly Petty Expense Account by Gordon Converse, c. 1951. Box 20198, Folder 119855. Courtesy of The Mary Baker Eddy Library.
On February 8, 1951, Walter W. Cunningham was signing off on this weekly petty expense account, now in the Library’s archive. You can be sure the City Editor of The Christian Science Monitor did not expect to have to reimburse a photographer for “One Ice Cream Cone and One Spun Sugar Candy for Baby Elephant” at 15 cents apiece.1
Photo of Elephant at the New England Sportsmen’s and Boat Show by Gordon Converse, c. 1951. Box 20198, Folder 119855. Courtesy of The Mary Baker Eddy Library.
When that photographer, Gordon N. Converse, had attended the New England Sportsmen’s and Boat Show to take some photos for the Monitor, he must have known those props would set up a perfect scene for his picture, “in which children posed with the pachyderm, whose attention was effectively centered on them while the shutter clicked.”2
Converse was no stranger to capturing newsworthy images—from playful to profound—with his camera. During the nearly 40 years that he worked for the Monitor (1946–1984), he travelled to over 120 different countries, on the lookout for what he called “positive statements about man.”3 One memorable assignment came late in 1958, when he was told to photograph world leaders in their respective cities. William Stringer, Chief of the Monitor’s Washington bureau, joined him and interviewed each subject.4
In 1959 the National Press Photographers Association named Converse “Newspaper-Magazine Photographer of the Year.” Twice he received the Brotherhood Award of the National Conference of Christians and Jews. When he won that award in 1960, the Conference dedicated Converse’s contribution to “promoting friendship and brotherly love between the peoples of the world.”5
Whether it was photographing serious world leaders or joyful delight in an elephant snacking on ice cream, Converse strove to represent in all his photography the profound objective that Mary Baker Eddy gave the Monitor—to “injure no man, but to bless all mankind” (The First Church of Christ, Scientist, and Miscellany, 353). In 1979 he said, “Our greatest need today is to understand each other. Photography is a universal language—a tremendous tool in building bridges between nations.”6
Gordon Converse (Left) and William H. Stringer in Egypt during their tour of 1958. Box 534067, Folder 335948. Courtesy of the Mary Baker Eddy Library.
- Gordon Converse, “Weekly Petty Expense Account,” 8 February 1951, Church Archives, Box 20198, Folder 119855.
- Don Messenger, “New Twist Given to Dollar Query,” The Christian Science Monitor. February 10, 1951.
- David T. Cook, “Gordon N. Converse, photojournalist,” The Christian Science Monitor, February 17, 1999, https://www.csmonitor.com/1999/0217/p9s1.html.
- John Faber, “56. Global Assignment,” Great News Photos and the Stories Behind Them (New York: Dover, 1978), 122-23.
- Advertisement for The Christian Science Monitor, 6 June 1979, Church Archives, Box 534067, Folder 335948.