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Stop the Presses!

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With Election Day upon us and votes soon to be counted, the nation waits with bated breath to see who our next president will be. Here in D.C., crowds gather in local bars and pubs, as if it were Monday Night Football, to catch the news of which candidate won what state and taking bets on who will be elected president.

But history has shown that it might be better to hedge those bets. Case in point: in the 1948 election pitting incumbent President Harry S. Truman against Republican Thomas E. Dewey, most predicted that Dewey would win. In fact, The Chicago Daily Tribune was so sure of his victory, they printed the front-page headline, “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN,” that Tuesday before any polls closed. According to the paper’s website, a printers’ strike on election night forced editors to go to print hours before the normally scheduled time. However, as the night wore on and reports filtered in, it became clear that Truman would again be president.

The photograph with Truman raising aloft the newspaper with its headline has become one of the most famous newspaper photos of that century. The Library holds a copy of that issue, dated Nov. 3, 1948, in its Serial and Government Publications Division.

Truman won the election by winning three big states: California, Ohio and Illinois. Dewey won New York, Pennsylvania and Michigan, but it was too little too late. The president managed to carry 24,105,812 popular votes to Dewey’s 21,970,065.

According to political experts, while Truman may have been unpopular in the polls, his aggressive campaign style attributed much to his success, compared to Dewey, who appeared complacent and distant in his approach.

(This is the final post in a series of posts featuring presidential campaign items from the Library’s collections. Read the others here, here and here.)

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