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Harry S. Truman

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Truman signs the Chicago Daily Tribune's election night blunder:


Harry S. Truman, 1884-1972.  33rd President of the United States, 1945-1953.  Extremely rare copy of the Chicago Daily Tribune's November 3, 1948, front page, declaring dewey defeats truman, signed From Harry S. Truman Kindest Regards.

The image of a grinning Truman displaying a copy of this newspaper, with its banner headline blunder, is is the quintessential image from Truman's presidency.  Signed copies of the newspaper itself are extremely rare.  Our research found only two original newspapers, and no copies, signed by Truman that have been sold at auction in the last 38 years.  Both of those sold in 2009.  One, a complete 54-page copy also signed by New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey, brought $8,500.  The other, a 26-page copy inscribed and signed by Truman, brought $6,500.

This is a reproduction of the famous Tribune front page from the two-star home edition.  Truman has inscribed and signed it in black ballpoint in the upper right corner.  A note in another hand says that he signed it at the Truman Dinner in Indianapolis, Indiana, on April 28, 1962.

In 1948, virtually no one—except Truman himself—expected Truman to be elected.  Three years after he became President upon the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt, Truman had an approval rating of only 36%.  To run against him, the Republicans had nominated Dewey, who had made a strong showing against Roosevelt in the 1944 election and who by 1948 had a well-financed campaign.  The Democrats were split into three factions, resulting in two third-party candidates to pull votes from Truman:  Many liberals supported former Vice President Henry A. Wallace, who had a soft attitude toward the Soviet Union and Communism, and many Southern conservatives who opposed Trumans stand on civil rights supported South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond.  Those Democrats who stayed in the mainstream party sought to woo General Dwight D. Eisenhower, Supreme Court Justice William O. Douglas, and others for the nomination—anyone but Truman, who they all thought was a sure loser. 

The press agreed.  For its October 11 issue, Newsweek polled 50 of the country's top political writers.  The experts unanimously predicted that Dewey would be elected.

Truman was philosophical.  When aide Clark Clifford tried to hide his copy of Newsweek from Truman, the President insisted on seeing it, studied it, and handed it back to Clifford.  “Don't worry about that poll, Clark,” he said.  “I know every one of those fifty fellows, and not one of them has enough sense to pound sand into a rat hole."

On November 2, the night of the election, the Tribune, which Truman detested, also jumped the gun. Its early November 3 edition headline boldly declared, emphatically, DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN.  Truman clearly savored the moment when his train stopped at St. Louis' Union Station on November 4 and he was handed a copy of the paper as he stood on the rear platform.  Flashing a big smile, Truman held up the paper for the crowd.  “That,” he exclaimed, “is one for the books!" 

Truman's gutsy whistle stop campaign in the face of virtually certain defeat earned him the nickname “Give 'em Hell Harry,” and his upset won him a revered place in the annals of American politics.

Truman's inscription and signature on this piece are a bit faded but still nicely readable.  We have replaced the original regular glass with conservation glass to forestall further fading.  The black ink printing on the piece itself is still bold. 

This is a nice, bright white piece that is printed on a better grade of paper than the Tribune's original newsprint.  It has been framed in a custom, period-looking brown and gilt wood frame.  We examined it out of the frame and scanned it when we replaced the glass.  Note that the scan below shows the bright white color of the piece.  The photograph of it in the frame is darker and does not show how nice the actual item is. 

The 17½" x 23" page has been dry mounted to a backing board, but there are a few small ripples near the center of the page.  A light toning line extends about ¼" from the edges, where the piece sits underneath the frame.  One horizontal and one vertical fold line show from where the piece was once folded, but they are flat and not obtrusive.  Names of two men to whom the piece was given have been added in blue ballpoint in another hand, there are a couple of stray blue ballpoint marks below the subheadline, and there is a dime-sized stain in the bottom blank margin.  Overall the piece is in fine to very fine condition.

dewey defeats truman is the most memorable headline from the 20th Century's most memorable presidential campaign.  Original copies of this newspaper are among the most desirable and collectible newspapers in American history.  Because this is a reproduction, we have priced it accordingly.  Still, Truman's inscription and signature make this piece extremely rare, and it belongs in the finest of presidential or political collections.


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The framed image is a photograph.

The unframed image and the close-up of Truman's signature are high-resolution scans

that accurately show the bright white color of the piece.




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