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Whistle Stop

How 31,000 Miles of Train Travel, 352 Speeches, and a Little Midwest Gumption Saved the Presidency of Harry Truman

Philip White

President Harry Truman was a disappointment to the Democrats, and a godsend to the Republicans. Every attempt to paint Truman with the grace, charm, and grandeur of Franklin Delano Roosevelt had been a dismal failure: Truman’s virtues were simpler, plainer, more direct. The challenges he faced—stirrings of civil rights and southern resentment at home, and communist aggression and brinkmanship abroad—could not have been more critical. By the summer of 1948 the prospects of a second term for Truman looked bleak. Newspapers and popular opinion nationwide had all but anointed as president Thomas Dewey, the Republican New York Governor. Truman could not even be certain of his own party’s nomination: the Democrats, still in mourning for FDR, were deeply riven, with Henry Wallace and Strom Thurmond leading breakaway Progressive and Dixiecrat factions. Finally, with ingenuity born of desperation, Truman’s aides hit upon a plan: get the president in front of as many regular voters as possible, preferably in intimate settings, all across the country. To the surprise of everyone but Harry Truman, it worked. Whistle Stop is the first book of its kind: a micro-history of the summer and fall of 1948 when Truman took to the rails, crisscrossing the country from June right up to Election Day in November. The tour and the campaign culminated with the iconic image of a grinning, victorious Truman holding aloft the famous Chicago Tribune headline: “Dewey Defeats Truman.”

E-book: $17.99
ISBN-13: 9781611686494
Pages: 332 | Size: 6 in. x 9 in.
Date Published: November 4, 2014
Imprint: 
Screenshot-2023-10-11-at-16.51.58

Reviews

  • A far more compelling account of just how Harry gave ’em hell-the campaign’s war cry-than the gauzy version that has hardened into legend.

    Wall Street Journal
  • An intimate and richly detailed view of one of the most colorful presidential campaign tours in American history.

    Candice Millard
    author of The River of Doubt and Destiny of the Republic
  • Whistle Stop tells in masterful fashion the story of the election that the smart money said Harry S. Truman would lose.

    Paul Reid
    author of The Last Lion: Winston Spencer Churchill, Defender of the Realm
  • [T]his reportage and analysis has much to commend Whistle Stop: How 31,000 Miles of Travel, 352 Speeches and a Little Midwest Gumption Saved the Presidency of Harry Truman. [It] is a dramatic page-turner. It is a worthy addition to the many books written about Harry S. Truman as well as an excellent addition to the growing body of work about presidential campaigns.

    The Missourian
  • A fascinating page-turner.

    Matthew Algeo
    author of Harry Truman’s Excellent Adventure

About the Author

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