Harry S. Truman Presidential Library & Museum

From Paper Lanterns to Pop Up Ads: Evaluating the evolution and influence of media on presidential campaigns
Emily Williams
US History
Time Frame:
1 class period
Grade Levels:
9, 10, 11, 12

Classroom/Homework Activity to be performed:

Using the primary sources provided, students will work in groups to evaluate six difference presidential campaigns from 1952 – 2008 and draw conclusions concerning the effects of evolutions in television advertising on those presidential races. They will complete a CREI chart to document their findings. We will then debrief their conclusions during a whole-class discussion.


To demonstrate the power and influence of television media on politics and society as we begin our studies of the Cold War Era in the 1950s.

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

KS Standards for History, Government, and Social Studies (adopted April 2013):

  • Standard 1, Benchmark 2: The student will analyze the context under which choices are made and draw conclusions about the motivations and goals of the decision-makers.
  • Standard 3, Benchmark 1: The student will recognize and evaluate significant beliefs, contributions, and ideas of the many diverse peoples and groups and their impact on individuals, communities, states, and nations.


Best Practices & Literacy Expectations:

  • The use of primary sources - Interpret a variety of primary sources in traditional and digital formats provides the opportunity for students to recognize the discipline’s subjective nature, directly touch the lives of people in the past, and develop high level analytical skills.
  • Higher order thinking - Grappling with content knowledge beyond remembering and understanding, to applying, analyzing, evaluating, and creating.
  • Literacy within the Social Studies - Reading, comprehending, analyzing, and interpreting complex texts and media from various social studies disciplines.

Secondary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
  • Course textbook - American Anthem:  Modern American History.  Austin, Texas:  Holt, Rinehart and Winston, 2009.

Primary materials (book, article, video documentary, etc.) needed:
Full description of activity or assignment.

Bellringer: As a class, examine the following two artifacts from Truman’s 1948 presidential race and analyze their influence on his election. Then discuss the changing role of media during Truman’s second term. How would media affect the next presidential race? Life during the 1950s? The second half of the 20th Century?





The Story of Harry S. Truman, ca. 1948. Comic book depicting the achievements of Pres. Truman during his previous term in office in order to persuade the reader to reelect Truman to a second term in office.




Speech by Pres. Harry Truman in Junction City, KS on Sept. 19, 1948 while on his Whistlestop Campaign Tour for reelection.



  • Arrange the students into groups of six and assign each group one of six different presidential races ranging from 1952 to 2008.
  • Provide each group with a link to the primary source analysis tool - http://www.loc.gov/teachers/primary-source-analysis-tool/ - as well as a copy of the CREI chart (attached).
  • TSW go to the following website - http://www.livingroomcandidate.org/ - and select their assigned election year from the column on the left.
  • They will then view and analyze at least 2 commercials for each candidate in the presidential race. They should download each primary source analysis sheet after completing it so that they can email their completed sheets to me as attachments.
  • After viewing, discussing, and analyzing the commercials as a group, TSW then complete a CREI chart in which they make a claim concerning the effects of media advertising on that presidential campaign, provide reasons to justify that claim, supply evidence to support those reasons, and draw inferences/interpretations to explain their conclusions.
    • The website provides helpful information such as information about the era, the message of the candidates, transcripts of the ads, and even campaign results.
  • The groups will have the approximately 60 minutes to complete the group portion of this activity. We will then come back together as a class for the last 20 minutes of the block and debrief the assignment together.

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







Claim (hypothesis):