TRUMAN, Harry S. Photograph of Truman inscribed and signed ("Harry Truman"), n.p., [November 1948]. 8 1/8 x 10 in., ink stamp of Wide World Photo on verso, few tape remains on verso, otherwise fine.
WITH A WITTY INSCRIPTION BY TRUMAN: "Too bad! Harry Truman." This news photograph, taken the day after the 1948 election, is one of the most famous in American presidential history. On 2 November 1948, Truman and his family voted in Independence, Missouri. He went to bed unaware that the Chicago Daily Tribune was being printed with the bold-faced headline "DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN." The error was the result of a series of mis-steps: first, returns were coming in slowly and the staff at the paper was running out of time before the deadline, and second, most of the staff simply believed that Dewey was going to win. This erroneous perception in turn derived from the miscalculations of national pollsters who were unamimous in predicting Truman's defeat. A third contributing factor was the great inexperience of the typesetting staff at the paper. After the delivery of the paper, the gap between Truman and Dewey had closed significantly as late returns came in, and staffers at the paper were sent out to stop as many delivery trucks as possible.
On the morning of the 3rd, Truman awoke to learn that he had won the election. He traveled to Washington, D.C. that day by train and was presented with a copy of the Chicago Daily Tribune on a short stop in St. Louis. He held up the paper on the back of the train platform, giving photographers this famous image of the victorious President-Elect. When asked to comment, Truman said, "This is for the books." Strong support from labor, the agricultural Midwest and African Americans helped turn the election in his favor. Truman finished the election with 49 of the popular vote to Thomas Dewey's 45 "Mr. Truman always looked at that headline as if he had never seen it before. He never said anything about it. No need to. He just stood there and grinned..." (Merle Miller, Plain Speaking: An Oral Biography of Harry S. Truman, New York, 1974, p.406).