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Battleground 1948

Battleground 1948

Truman, Stevenson, Douglas, and the Most Surprising Election in Illinois History

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Robert E. Hartley


E-book (Other formats: Hardcover)
14 illustrations


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About the Book

The election year of 1948 remains to this day one of the most astonishing in U.S. political history. During this first general election after World War II, Americans looked to their governments for change. As the battle for the nation’s highest office came to a head in Illinois, the state was embroiled in its own partisan showdowns—elections that would prove critical in the course of state and national history.

In Battleground 1948, Robert E. Hartley offers the first comprehensive chronicle of this historic election year and its consequences, which still resonate today. Focusing on the races that ushered Adlai Stevenson, Paul Douglas, and Harry Truman into office—the last by the slimmest of margins—Battleground 1948 details the pivotal events that played out in the state of Illinois, from the newspaper wars in Chicago to tragedy in the mine at Centralia.

In addition to in-depth revelations on the saga of the American election machine in 1948, Hartley probes the dark underbelly of Illinois politics in the 1930s and 1940s to set the stage, spotlight key party players, and expose the behind-the-scenes influences of media, money, corruption, and crime. In doing so, he draws powerful parallels between the politics of the past and those of the present. Above all, Battleground 1948 tells the story of grassroots change writ large on the American political landscape—change that helped a nation move past an era of conflict and depression, and forever transformed Illinois and the U.S. government.


Robert E. Hartley is the author of a number of books for Southern Illinois University Press, including Paul Powell of Illinois: A Lifelong Democrat and Paul Simon: The Political Journey of an Illinois Original. He was a journalist for Lindsay-Schaub Newspapers in Illinois from 1962 to 1979 and served as executive editor of the Toledo Blade and as publisher of the Journal-American in Bellevue, Washington.


Battleground 1948 tells the exciting story of thefinal performance of Jake Arvey as Illinois Democratic boss, who picks a well-balanced ticket to save Harry S. Truman as President of the United States. It brings to the scene Adlai Stevenson, twice our candidate for president, in 1952 and 1956, and tells the story of Paul Douglas, a three-term U.S. senator from Illinois, voted ‘best senator’ by the national press. The tale includes several terrible Illinois coal mine disasters and the shenanigans of the Shelton Gang. Even Paul Powell and John Stelle have their moments. You should not miss this one.”—Alan J. Dixon, former U.S. Senator from Illinois

“Few election years have been more exciting or pivotal in Illinois than 1948.  And nobody is better qualified than Robert Hartley to reveal the explosive currents that brought Adlai Ewing Stevenson and Paul Douglas to political prominence and helped ensure President Harry Truman’s triumph in the state. Battleground 1948 shows again that Bob remains a master at documenting chapters in Illinois history that never should be forgotten.”—Taylor Pensoneau, Illinois author and political historian

“This is an easy-to-read analysis of 1948 national and state politics in the swing state of Illinois. All the major players are covered as Hartley weaves a story of both political intrigue and hard-nosed electoral politics.”—Paul Green, director, Institute for Politics, Roosevelt University, Chicago

"Battleground 1948: Truman, Stevenson, Douglas and the Most Surprising Election in Illinois History is an in-depth examination of the first American general election since World War II, centering on Illinois politics.  This was the race destined to put Adlai Stevenson, Paul Douglas, and Harry Truman into office, with Truman winning by a sliver.  A month-by-month chronicle of key events in the 1948 election season, as well as an era snapshot of Illinois politics (including the dark influences of media, corruption, and crime) make Battleground 1948 a welcome addition to American History and Political Science shelves."--The Midwest Book Review

“Given our state’s convoluted, complex, and at times outright Byzantine political history, tagging any election as the 'most surprising' sets up great expectations in a reader’s mind. Robert E. Hartley . . . more than fulfills that standard. A smooth writer who melds significant facts into flowing prose, Hartley examines a significant election for the nation – and the state . . . [and] provides all sorts of treats and insights in telling this story.”Illinois Times