Taking photos of 2 presidential candidates

Published 9:20 am Saturday, June 19, 2010

Editor’s note: This is the final part of a five-part series.

Photos courtesy of Richard Church, Mike Kruse and the Freeborn County Historical Museum

Maybe Robert Church reverted back to the time when he was a photographer for the Tribune when he attended the campaign visits to Albert Lea by two presidential candidates in 1948 and again in 1952. As a result, he took photos of these two men and the crowd of local people who went to the South Broadway Avenue railroad crossing during their short visits to the city.

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The first candidate he photographed was Thomas E. Dewey, then governor of New York. Dewey was the Republican Party’s candidate, challenging President Harry S. Truman for the nation’s highest office.

Dewey arrived in Albert Lea about 9:15 a.m. on Oct. 15, 1948, on a special Rock Island Railroad train with 17 cars. The last unit of this train was called an observation car and had a platform with a railing. And it’s from this platform above the tracks that Dewey made a short speech to the crowd. According to the Tribune, an estimated 5,000 people went to the area in front of Olson Manufacturing Co. and near what was then the Interstate Power Co. electrical generating plant.

After a short stop in Albert Lea, Dewey’s special train made a switch to the Milwaukee Railroad tracks and went to Austin, then north to Owatonna and on to the Twin Cities.

Despite the famous headline in the Chicago Daily Tribune declaring “Dewey Defeats Truman” (based in part on poor reporting and pre-election polls), Dewey was defeated and Truman served four more years as president.

The second visit by a political candidate came on Sept. 16, 1952, when Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower, Republican Party candidate for president, made a brief stop in Albert Lea as part of a campaign trip through the Midwest. He was also on a Rock Island train with an observation car and the brief stop in the city took place near the railroad crossing on South Broadway Avenue. The Tribune estimated that 3,000 people greeted the famous World War II general.

A few months later Eisenhower won the election, defeating Democrat Adlai Stevenson, to become the nation’s 34th president.