President Truman and the 1948 National Plowing Match at Dexter, Iowa

After Dexter was chosen to hold the 1948 National Plowing Match, the town leaders had nine months to prepare. Thomas E. Dewey, who was running for President against Harry Truman, was invited but he declined. Dexterites then asked President Truman, and he decided to make it a whistle stop along the Rock Island RR route.

The Dexter high school band met the train September 18, 1948, playing the “Iowa Corn Song” followed by “The Missouri Waltz,” since Truman was from Missouri. 

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The Dexter Museum has pictures of the parade out to the contest site on the R. P. Weesner farm north of town–at least a dozen open convertibles, including a robin’s-egg blue Cadillac for the president and his family, the Dexter band, and even Iowa Highway Patrolmen. 100,000 people attended, one of the largest crowds ever assembled in Iowa in those ten acres of farmland.

It was sponsored by WHO-Radio, which also broadcast the speech and other news and information about the demonstrations from the plowing match.

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100,000 people on 10 acres!
Harry S. Truman left his autograph.



The large scoreboards behind the president listed names of the contestants in the plowing match, their counties, and type of plowing. Those original tally boards were found in John Bunnell’s shed and donated to the museum in 2008. KCCI’s Eric Hanson’s grandfather was one of the contestants. (The Reflections Along the White Pole Road book shows Eric pointing to his grandfather Donald Hanson’s name on the scoreboard.)

Harry Truman
The Chicago Tribune took it for granted that Dewey would win!

But Truman ended up beating Dewey!

Scoreboard and mementos of the 1948 National Plowing Match at the Dexter Museum. Donald Hanson, the second name down, was the grandfather of KCCI’s Eric Hanson.
Marker along Dexfield Road north of Dexter, Iowa.

Sources: 1968 Dexter Centennial history; Reflections Along the White Pole Road by White Pole Road Development Corporation, 2008.

Photos courtesy the Dexter Museum, plus some of my own.


    • I was even there–perched on Dad’s shoulders and told to look at the man on the stage! First president I ever saw. The only other one was Eisenhower when he was at the Iowa State Fair with former president Taft in the 1950s.

  1. Amazingly wonderful historical post. I absolutely love that the tablecloth and napkin were framed, and signed! Signed or not I love that it was framed. I have a interesting “signed” connection to Truman as well but your post was awesome ~ Sharon

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