Did Dewey Really Defeat Truman In The 1948 Election?

One of the most famous images in United States presidential election history is that of a grinning Harry S. Truman proudly holding up a copy of the Chicago Tribune with the emblazoned headline: "Dewey Defeats Truman."

Even those with a passing knowledge of American history know that there never was a President Dewey, so the picture of Truman showing off the headline can be confusing. The picture was taken at the end of the 1948 presidential election which pitted incumbent President Harry Truman against the governor of New York Thomas Dewey.

According to Britannica, while Truman was responsible for guiding the United States through the end of World War II, his popularity quickly plummeted in the years that followed. A strong showing from the Republican Party in the 1946 mid-term elections was another sign that Truman would be facing an uphill battle in '48. Not helping Truman's case was a schism within his own Democratic Party, with many of the party's southerners disagreeing with Truman's civil rights policies.

Hardly anybody thought that Truman had a chance at winning a second term, aside from Truman himself. He told guests at a dinner in Washington, D.C. "​​I will tell you who is going to be the next president of the United States. You are looking at him right now!"

The Chicago Tribune calls the race early

According to Mental Floss, Harry Truman was not particularly fond of the conservative-leaning Chicago Tribune, which referred to him as a "nincompoop" in the run-up to the election.

The Tribune — like just about everyone else — was certain that Truman would lose the election. A printers' strike at the time meant that they had a rushed deadline for their first edition of the day. Editor Loy "Pat" Maloney made the decision to go with the now-infamous "Dewey Defeats Truman" headline after consulting the paper's Washington correspondent Arthur Sears Henning, according to the Chicago Tribune.

By the time the first edition was printed, the race had tightened, and Truman would ultimately go on to carry Illinois and large swathes of the Midwest. It wasn't until two days after the election when Truman's train, on its way to Washington D.C., stopped in St. Louis. Truman stepped onto the platform, and someone handed him a copy of the Chicago Tribune's early election-day edition (per History). Fortunately, photographers were able to capture the moment as Truman got the last laugh in his feud with the newspaper.