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President Truman Comes to Adams County


The Day the President Came to Adams County

Harry Truman’s Whistle Stop Campaign Made a Stop in Adams


Early on a Wednesday morning in 1948, a train named the Ferdinand Magellan made a ten-minute stop in Adams to change crews. As the train was stopped in Adams, then President Harry S. Truman stepped out on to the rear platform of the train and was greeted by some 2,000 local citizens and school children from all over Adams County.[1]


Truman’s Campaign in Trouble


 Having become President of the United States from the Vice Presidency on the death of Franklin D. Roosevelt in 1945, Harry S. Truman had served almost a full term by 1948.  His prospects for winning a second term were hampered by a strong Republican candidate and by splits within his own party.

The popular New York Governor Thomas Dewey was the Republican candidate.  He had been soundly defeated in 1944 against President Franklin Roosevelt in the midst of World War II.  Dewey’s prospects looked much better in 1948 as the war was over and he faced a less popular opponent.  The national press was unanimous in predicting a Dewey victory, and public opinion polls showed Dewey the likely winner.[2]

The splits in the Democratic Party further darkened Truman’s prospects. Truman’s civil rights initiatives led to Strom Thurman breaking away and running for president on a State’s Rights, or “Dixiecrat” ticket.  Also, Henry Wallace (FDR’s Vice-President prior to 1945) broke with the party and ran for president on the Progressive Party ticket. Faced with an uphill climb to keep his job, Truman decided to take his campaign to the people by train.


Enthusiastic Reception in Adams


   So it was that early in the morning on Wednesday, October 13, 1948 Truman’s train stopped in Adams.  Adams was the train’s first stop of the day.  The sun was just rising.  Over 200 cars and several school buses were parked near the station. Country school students had risen as early as 4:00 a.m. to be bused to the train station.  Nearly all the students in the county were in attendance.

President Truman stepped out on the rear platform as the train came to a stop and expressed his surprise at seeing so many people gathered there at a town with a listed population of 1310.[3] Those who remember the day say that several other people accompanied President Truman on the train’s rear platform.

Truman spoke mostly to the many school students, who were there to meet him,

“I understand that you came from all over the county very early this morning to come down here and see me. I sincerely hope you are not disappointed.

The country is going to be in your hands in the next generation, and you ought to inform yourselves on all the things that affect your country, and the world, because the United States has assumed the leadership in the world unequaled in the history of the world, and we have got to assume that responsibility.

If you young people familiarize yourselves with things as they go along, when it comes your turn to do my job, then you can do it well. I am glad you are here.

Someone asked me about Democratic literature. That is aside from the point. There is just one issue in this campaign and that is the people against special interests. Wisconsin has never been for special interest. I remember old Bob LaFollette started out first thing to make Wisconsin conscious of the fact that people come first and not the people who have the pull.

You know, he ought to have been a Democrat. He preached Jefferson, Jackson, and Woodrow Wilson right along.

What time do you have to go to school–9 o’clock? You still have an hour, and you can’t get any sleep in that time, so maybe it will be helpful and you can do some early morning studying. I hope you young people will take an interest in things as they go along in the country and the world, and if you do that, I am perfectly happy.”[4]


After the president’s remarks, Adams-Friendship High School cheerleader, Geraldine Peterson (later Mrs. Jack Oppedeson) knelt down on one knee between the rails, and as the train left the station, led the crowd in a cheer for Truman,

“What’s the Matter with Truman?

“He’s all right.”

“ Who’s all right?”


“Who says so?”

“We all say so!”

“Who are we?”

“A-F High School”

“Rah! Rah! Rah!  Truman!” [5].

Local men on the crew that brought in the 16-coach train to Adams included Engineer Jack Johnson and Fireman Lloyd Edwards.  Local Inspectors checking the train while it was in Adams included Ed Leach, Fred Solchenberger, William Jorgenson and Harold Greeley.[6]



The Train Moves On Into History


 Following his stop in Adams, Truman proceeded up the line, stopping in Altoona at 10:30 a.m., Spooner at 12:45 p.m. Superior at 2:40 p.m., Duluth, Minnesota at 3:15 p.m. and finishing the day in St. Paul, Minnesota at 7:35 p.m.[7]

In the entire course of the Whistle-Stop Campaign Truman traveled nearly 22,000 miles trying to “keep [his] job” as President of the United States. During the tour, people saw a new relaxed and confident Harry Truman who spoke their language and understood their needs. His campaign strategy worked. On November 2, 1948, in an incredible upset over Thomas Dewey, Truman elected.  The success of the Whistle-Stop campaign has, according to many experts, influenced how subsequent campaigns have been run: a historical milestone in which Adams County was a part. [8]



This article previously appeared in the Spring 2005 edition of the Adams County Historical Society’s newsletter, The Quatrefoil.


[1] The Friendship Reporter, Thursday, October 14, 1948, p.1.

[2] Truman Library:  Lecture Series Examines the 1948 Presidential Campaign, Press Release: April 20, 1998. The 1948 Campaign: The Dewey Perspective”

[3] The Friendship Reporter, Thursday, October 14, 1948, p.1.

[4] Truman Library Website:  < index> Published there courtesy of The American Presidency Project.  John Woolley and Gerhard Peters. University of California, Santa Barbara.

[5] The Friendship Reporter, Thursday, October 14, 1948, p.1.

[6] The Friendship Reporter, Thursday, October 14, 1948, p.1

[7] Truman Library Website courtesy of The American Presidency Project.

[8] Truman Library “The Legacy of the Whistle stop Campaign”