Election Year Flashback: Truman in Rockford, 1948
Yesterday in this space, I shared some video of John F. Kennedy's 1960 visit to Rockford, and his speech at the Coronado (click here if you missed it). Today, we look at another Rockford visit from an earlier president, Harry S. Truman.
JFK made his visit here about two weeks before the 1960 election. Things were tight in the race between Kennedy and his opponent, vice-president Richard M. Nixon, and Illinois was a must-win. Kennedy had been campaigning in Champaign-Urbana, Peoria, Moline, and Rock Island before hitting Rockford, then it was off to Chicago for the night, followed by another day of motorcades, appearances, and speeches in and around Chicago.
Harry Truman's visit was not a campaign visit. It was a victory tour by train. Truman had done the unthinkable just a short time before. He was elected president in his own right (after ascending to the presidency upon FDR's death in 1945). Not many gave the scrappy president from Missouri a chance to win against New York governor Thomas E. Dewey. Truman's approval numbers were low, and it looked like (to many) that he had zero chance of winning. One particular newspaper was so convinced that Dewey had it in the bag that the paper made a little mistake...
As you're no doubt aware, that headline was wrong. And, it wasn't even really that close overall. From the Truman Presidential Library:
President Truman managed to carry 24,105,812 popular votes to Dewey's 21,970,065. Carrying 28 states and 303 electoral votes, Truman easily defeated Dewey, who had only 189 electoral votes from 16 states.
After a win like that, you've gotta figure a guy might want to do a little celebrating. Truman did, and embarked on a "Victory Train Tour." That victory tour brought the president to Rockford: