Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

1948 Election: Rockwell Painting
Diane Haywood
American Government
Time Frame:
one class period and homework assignment or two class periods
Electoral College
1948 Election

Grade Levels:

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

Assignment is both individual and cooperative.  Students will use the Norman Rockwell Post cover entitled “Family Squabble”.  Students will work in pairs to analyze the painting using the attached worksheet.   Following pair analysis, students will share thoughts and conclusions.  After student conclusions teacher will share background information about the contentious Truman/Dewey election of 1948.  As a follow-up assignment the student will write an essay drawing conclusions about most current Presidential election. 


This will be used in a unit on national elections and the election process.  I will use the lesson after students have studied our election process for Congress and the President, including the Electoral College.  This lesson will give students a chance to see the power of one person’s choice in an election, analyze our election process on the electorate and draw conclusions about current national and international issues and their impact on families


District, state, or national performance and knowledge standards/goals/skills met:

Missouri Standards

Goal 1 (Gather, analyze and apply information and ideas),

SS1(Principles of a constitutional democracy)

Goal 1, SS2 (continuity and change in the history of the United States)

Kansas Standards

Benchmark 3: The student uses a working knowledge and understanding of individuals, groups, ideas, developments, and turning points in the era of the Cold War (1945-1990).

1. (K) explains why the United States emerged as a superpower as the result of World War II.

Benchmark 5: The student engages in historical thinking skills.

1. (A) analyzes a theme in United States history to explain patterns of continuity and change over time.

2. (A) develops historical questions on a specific topic in United States history and analyzes the evidence in primary source documents to speculate on the answers.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • Teacher will need some background information on the 1948 Election to share with students following the analysis. 
  • Analysis worksheet for each student (Although students are working in pairs, I suggest each keep a copy of the analysis to facilitate the individual essay in part two of the assignment.)
  • Any secondary source or reading from an American history text for the teacher to share information about the Election 1948, closeness of election, contention of election and events that might have swayed election for Truman.

1948 Election


Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • copy of Norman Rockwell’s October 30, 1948 Saturday Evening Post cover entitled “Family Squabble”  The poster can be purchased in three sizes from www.allposters.com beginning at a cost of $19.99 with $4.99 shipping and handling.

Full description of activity or assignment.

Each student will receive a copy of the analysis worksheet and access to a copy of the Rockwell poster.  One large poster can be used per classroom, or several smaller ones.  Students will have approximately 30 minutes to analyze the painting using the attached worksheet.  At this time the teacher can backfill some information about the Truman/Dewey election of 1948. (I choose to have the students work without background so that I do not influence them.) After all pairs have finished, students will share and discuss their conclusions and ideas.  For either homework of day two of the assignment each student will answer the last question from the worksheet as a classroom essay. This activity can be used in off election years by changing the worksheet telling the students to use the last national election rather than the current election



Full explanation of the assessment method and/or scoring guide:

Assessment for the analysis will be one day’s classroom credit for participation. 

Each essay will be graded individually.  My scoring for essays includes grammar, spelling, format (opening, closing, transitions, margins, and ink or typewritten), appropriate title, and content supported by examples, facts and personal opinions.  I grade essays on a 25 point scale.  For this essay, I will require a minimum of two current election issues explained and included in the essay.  In addition, I will require the student to share ideas on the way each current issue could create a family discussion and /or argument at a modern family dinner table.