Skip to main content
Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

Save up to 20% on the price of your tickets!

It's easy... Become a member today! If you are already a member, log in to get your member rate.

Presidential Elections of 1912 and 1948

Daytime Program

Monday, October 26, 2020 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1H0538
$20 - Member
$25 - Non-Member
Reserving your tickets...
The 1876 Democratic National Convention, editorial illustration (Cornell University Library/Collection of Political Americana)


  • This program is part of our Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.
  • Platform: Zoom
  • Online registration is required.
  • For multiple registrations, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses.


The United States has held 57 presidential elections since the first in 1789. Voters are invariably informed that the current one is “the most important ever,” but some elections have proven more significant and historic than others. These led to landmark political changes including a Constitutional amendment, the dissolution of major political parties, or changes in national policies—including those that altered civil rights for decades to come. Several elections had contested results in which the winner remained in doubt weeks after the ballots were counted. As the 2020 presidential election approaches, historian Ralph Nurnberger looks back on the elections of 1912 and 1948.

The 1912 election was the first to include all 48 of the contiguous states. The explosive four-candidate race was the only time that three men who all served in the White House ran in the same year. The contest pitted two former presidents, Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft, against future president Woodrow Wilson, as well as Socialist Eugene Debs. Wilson emerged victorious even though he received just under 42 percent of the popular vote. The election of 1948 is considered the greatest upset in American voting history. Virtually every prediction and public-opinion poll indicated that incumbent President Harry S. Truman would be defeated by Republican Thomas E. Dewey. Truman achieved a surprise victory, overcoming a three-way split among Democrats when both the Progressive and Dixiecrat wings established their own parties.

If you are interested in a program about the elections of 1800 and 1876, click here.


  • Once registered, patrons should receive an automatic email confirmation from
  • Separate Zoom link information will be emailed closer to the date of the program. If you do not receive your Zoom link information 24 hours prior to the start of the program, please email Customer Service for assistance.
  • View Common FAQs about our Streaming Programs on Zoom.

This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.