The Whistle Stop Campaign

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The Whistle Stop Campaign


In 1948 Harry Truman decided to run for president. He had been elected vice president in 1944 but became president when Franklin Roosevelt died in 1945.

Bess and Margaret would have preferred to return to Independence but Harry

said he had “unfinished business” he needed to complete. Although very few people, including his wife and daughter, thought he had a chance of winning, he

knew he could and would win if he took his message directly to the people. President Truman decided that the best way to reach the voters was to travel by train and make speeches from the train’s platform.

On September 17, 1948, his campaign train, the Ferdinand Magellan, left the station in Washington D. C. to begin a 30,000 mile journey through 28 states.

This was no ordinary train. The Ferdinand Magellan was the only private railroad

car built for a president (FDR) in the twentieth century. The car was 85 feet long and weighed 142½ tons. The windows were made with three inch bulletproof glass. The train had an escape hatch in the center of the car and in the ceiling of the observation lounge. The roof had three loud speakers so the crowds could hear President Truman’s speeches. The code name for the train was “Potus” which stood for “President of the United States” and all other trains had to yield the right-of-way. There was always another train running five miles ahead of the Ferdinand Magellan checking the safety of the railroad tracks.
President Eisenhower was the last Chief Executive to use the Ferdinand Magellan for travel. The train has been on exhibit at Florida’s Gold Coast Railroad Museum since 1959.
Time: 20-30 minutes

1. Whistle Stop Campaign: Trains sounded a whistle when stopping in a town;

thus the term “Whistle Stop” is used in reference to Truman’s 1948 campaign.
Materials needed:

1. copies of the map and the list of states.

2. a map of the United States

3. pencil


1. Read or discuss Background information.

2. Review directions for labeling the map

Students will label all states visited by President Truman and answer the following questions:

1. Why do you think President Truman thought traveling by train was the best

way to take his campaign message to the people?

2. How do today’s presidential campaigns differ from the 1948 Whistle Stop tour?
Whistle Stop Campaign Trail
Directions: Label all of the states that President Truman visited on his famous Whistle Stop campaign. Place a star (*) on our national capital.
Michigan Colorado Florida Pennsylvania

Nevada North Carolina Ohio California

Massachusetts Illinois Texas Connecticut

Iowa Oklahoma Missouri Indiana

Rhode Island Kansas Kentucky Utah

West Virginia New York Arizona New Mexico

Delaware New Jersey Wisconsin Minnesota
From September 17th until the evening of October 30th, President Truman traveled more than 30,000 miles and made 350 speeches from the platform of the Ferdinand Magellan. On the average, how many speeches did he give per day?
Just for Fun

Use this template to create a button encouraging people to vote.

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