An All-New Exhibition at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

Opening May 30, 2024

With the world watching the pivotal 2024 election, a new Truman Library exhibition recalls the biggest political upset in U.S. history. Promising Americans a “Fair Deal” while campaigning against a “do-nothing Congress,” Truman changed the nation’s tune—from MILD to WILD about Harry.


A new temporary exhibition, UPSET! Harry Truman and the 1948 Election, allows visitors to travel back in time to see how the most stunning surprise in U.S. presidential election history came about. The exhibit, which includes more than 100 artifacts, original political cartoons, interactive displays, diary entries, photographs and videos, opens May 30, 2024, and runs through February 1, 2025, at the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum in Independence, Missouri.

“Harry Truman had been written off by pollsters, by most of the press, and even by members of his own staff,” said Kurt Graham, Director of the Truman Library. “The large crowds that came out to see him during his 1948 Whistle Stop campaign were explained away as curiosity-seekers hoping to catch a last glimpse of the outgoing president. But Harry Truman believed in himself, and he pulled off the election surprise of the century.”

The new exhibition takes museum visitors behind the scenes of the Whistle Stop campaign to share a political story that continues to resonate today. The exhibits, drawn entirely from the Truman Library’s collection, include:

  • Political cartoons, including more than 20 originals, that trace the highs and lows of the Truman Presidency and the campaign against New York Governor Thomas Dewey.
  • Vintage campaign memorabilia, including campaign buttons promoting Truman, Dewey and third-party candidates such as Dixiecrat Strom Thurmond and Progressive Henry Wallace.
  • Historic video footage highlighting the beleaguered Truman facing a myriad of economic and political challenges, the confidence of the Republicans, the dysfunction of the Democratic National Convention, the distinctly different campaign speaking styles of the two leading candidates, and Truman’s vindication after the surprise victory.
  • Family-friendly interactives designed to spark curiosity and conversations, including a peek-and-learn map of the Whistle Stop campaign, a make-and-take station, and an interactive voting booth.

Walking into UPSET! is a bit like walking into a time capsule of the post-war 1940s,” said Mark Adams, Museum Curator at the Truman Library. “America was at peace, the economy was booming, but the nation and the world were in the midst of extraordinary change.”



Following the successful conclusion of the Second World War, Harry Truman and the Democrats gradually suffered political setbacks as the nation converted from wartime back to a peacetime footing. In the 1946 mid-term elections, Republicans broke the 14-year Democratic control of the House and Senate and hindered much of Truman’s domestic agenda. As Truman’s popularity fell, Republicans sensed they could reclaim the White House in 1948.


After enjoying a brief initial honeymoon at the end of the Second World War, Harry Truman quickly became a lightning rod for criticism of both his international and domestic policies. Many political cartoonists found creative ways to lambast the president in caricature.


Having regained control of Congress in the mid-term elections of 1946, and with the cratering popularity of the incumbent Democratic president, Republicans were confident of capturing the White House in 1948. At their convention in Philadelphia, following a brief struggle between the moderate and more conservative factions, the party nominated moderate New York Governor Thomas E. Dewey to be their standard bearer. Having lost the presidency to Franklin D. Roosevelt four years earlier, Dewey was optimistic that he could win the second time around.


The 1948 Democratic Convention in Philadelphia reluctantly re-nominated Harry Truman, but at a price. Objecting to the party’s progressive civil rights platform, conservative southern Democrats bolted from the convention and formed the State’s Rights Party with J. Strom Thurmond as a candidate to rival Truman. On the left, more Democrats abandoned the party to support the campaign of Progressive Party candidate, former Vice President Henry Wallace. With the Democrats in disarray, Truman’s prospects for election were dim, as almost all of the nation’s pollsters confirmed.


Starting in June—prior to his nomination—Harry Truman began campaigning around the country by train, eventually traveling to all parts of the country except the Deep South and far northern plains states.  His message was simple:  attack the “80th do-nothing Congress,” and explain to average Americans why the policies of the Democrats benefited them.


With his election victory, Harry Truman was vindicated, and he entered his new term in office with confidence, optimism, and renewed popularity.  In carrying with him new Democratic majorities in Congress, he hoped – but would later be largely disappointed – to push his initiatives through the legislative process.


UPSET! features four dozen political cartoons selected from the Truman Library’s collection of more than 1,200 original pieces of art. Many of the drawings are autographed and inscribed to President Truman. Together, the 48 original cartoons offer an engaging visual narrative of the 1948 presidential campaign.


Hours: Open daily: Monday-Saturday 9 am–5 pm; Sunday 12-5 pm

Museum admission is $12 with discounts for seniors, students, veterans and active members of the U.S. military. Admission is free for members and children 12 and younger. There is no admission to visit the Museum store.

As a 2024 Blue Star Museum, the Truman Library is proud to offer free admission to military personnel and their families beginning May 18 (Armed Forces Day) through Labor Day.

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Truman Library Institute Member Benefits include free museum admission, Museum Store discounts, and member-exclusive events.

Annual memberships start at just $35 and open the door to all of America’s presidential libraries. Become a member today and enjoy free admission to UPSET! and the all-new, nationally acclaimed museum experience at the Truman Library.




Truman Library Institute

The Truman Library Institute is the member-supported nonprofit partner of the Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum, one of 15 presidential libraries operated by the National Archives and Records Administration.