The 1948 Presidential Campaign: Editorial Cartoonist Reg Manning in the Allentown Morning Call
by NCM Historian Martha Capwell Fox
This cartoon appeared in over 170 US newspapers on U.S Constitution Day in 1948, including the local Allentown Morning Call. The presidential election of 1948 was considered to be (until 2020) the most contentious campaign of the past century. Democratic incumbent Harry Truman was faced not only by the Republican nominee and supposed shoo-in, New York governor Thomas Dewey, but by two candidates from factions that had split off from his own party: the Progressive Party’s Henry Wallace, and the segregationist States’ Rights Party’s Strom Thurmond.
The two main parties’ platforms were actually quite close on the major issues: a hard line against the Soviet Union and support for civil rights and the desegregation of the military. The Republican platform even called for a constitutional amendment for full rights for women. But the Republicans, who had held both houses of Congress since 1946, were determined to destroy the programs of the Democrat’s New Deal; the Progressives believed that the Soviet Union was not directly a threat to the US, and were supported by the American Communist Party; and the State’s Rights party, known as the Dixiecrats, was implacably racist.
The Republican convention was the first to be televised, but with few people owning TVs at the time, the campaign was carried out in newspapers and on the radio. Much of the vitriol and bitterness came from the campaigns and supporters of Wallace and Thurmond. Dewey ran a restrained campaign and held large leads in polling right up to election day. Truman remained confident and his “whistle-stop” cross-country train trips speaking directly to millions of voters, won him the election.
This cartoon is by Reg Manning (1905-1986), the editorial cartoonist for the Arizona Republic. Manning’s work was syndicated in over 170 US newspapers and he won the Pulitzer Prize in 1951. He is said to have inserted the caricature of himself, tagged “UNO WHO,” only when he believed most strongly about a subject he was drawing.