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Dewey Still Doesn’t Defeat Truman

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No one can doubt Thomas Dewey’s (1902-1971) impressive resume. As a federal prosecutor and then as Manhattan District Attorney, he convicted the head of the New York Stock Exchange for embezzlement, and his relentless pursuit of Mafia crime bosses turned him into a national celebrity and the inspiration for the radio show Gangbusters. As Governor of New York from 1942 to 1954, he earned a reputation for probity and integrity while improving the state’s education system, care for the mentally ill, and public housing.

Thomas Dewey (Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress)

His national profile was such that he toyed with the notion of seeking the Republican nomination for President in 1940, but eventually committed to the contest in 1944, winning his party’s nomination. At 42, he was the youngest Presidential nominee in Republican Party history, a distinction he retains to this day. Although he lost to Franklin D. Roosevelt, he was once again the Republican standard bearer in 1948, this time running against President Harry Truman.

As a public service, Warner Bros.—as part of its newsreel series Warner-Pathé News—produced a ten minute informational short for each candidate to be shown in movie theaters across the country. In that sense, it’s a forerunner of the kind of the biographical film now a standard feature of political conventions. Although we do not have a copy of the Truman film, we do have The Dewey Story as a 16mm print received as a gift in 1951.




The Dewey Story (Warner-Pathé News / Republican National Committee, 1948)


You probably know how the election turned out. It reduced Thomas Dewey’s illustrious career to this single iconic photograph.

[Harry S. Truman, president-elect, holds up edition of Chicago Daily Tribune with headline “Dewey Defeats Truman”] (Prints & Photographs Division, Library of Congress)

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