The 1948 Presidential Election and Political Americana

President Franklin D. Roosevelt passed away early in 1945, less than three months into his fourth presidential term. Shortly after his death, Harry Truman was sworn in as President of the United States.

When Truman was first given the honor and daunting task of completing Roosevelt’s term, the war in Europe was clearly coming to an end, but the war in the Pacific was raging on. Truman was afforded no time for a honeymoon; his responsibility had immediately begun to lead the USA  to peace.

Under Truman, the decision was made to end the war with Japan by dropping atomic bombs, he blocked Stalin’s attempt to conquer Europe by way of the Berlin airlift, he gave financial aid to both Greece and Turkey as part of a containment policy, he also helped create the state of Israel, and fought for changes toward equal rights for all.

Fast forward to the election month of November in 1948. The biggest issues of the day were the Marshall Plan and the Berlin Airlift.

Truman was not well liked by the public or the media, and political writers believed it was a sure bet that Truman would lose in a landslide against his well liked Republican opponent; Thomas E. Dewey, who ran sort of a low key and vague campaign. The predictions that Dewey would win were nearly unanimous, and were believed until the very end.

It wasn’t to be. “Give ’em Hell, Harry” had other plans.

The biggest upset in American politics, everyone had written off Truman as losing to Dewey. In fact, the morning after headline from the Chicago Daily Tribune read “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN.”  Truman holding that newspaper is one of the most famous newspaper photos ever.


Watch highlights below (Parts I and II) of recorded broadcasts from 1948 and the very early days of television as the first ever election results are televised live on NBC. This is an historical treasure.

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