Dewey and Oregon Cavemen

As photobombs go, it was a terrible one. In May 1948, Thomas Dewey went to Oregon to campaign in the state’s Republican primaries. A local organization asked his aides to let them onto the bus he was traveling on, and to escort the New York governor to their club. It would have been fine had the club not be Oregon Cavemen, a club created by group of business men who dressed up as cavemen to attract more tourism in the area.

Dewey smiled dementedly as the cavemen initiated him into their club. He went further and let another organization prick his arm so that he could sign his membership card in his own blood (things politicians will do for votes!). Dewey realized that a defeat in Oregon would end his chances at the nomination, and did everything he could. He sent his powerful political machine into the state and spent large sums of money on campaign ads in Oregon. He debated his main opponent Minnesota Governor Harold Stassen on national radio — the first-ever radio debate in electoral history.

The main issue of the debate was Communism. Dewey, who vehemently detested red-baiting famously stated that “you can’t shoot an idea with a gun” when Stassen mentioned outlawing the Communist Party of America. Dewey won the debate, state primary, and his party’s nomination, and nearly won the actual election. An ironic footnote of the above photo was that it was picked up on the wire in the Soviet Union. Pravda published the picture, and with characteristic economy for truth, noted that men dressed as cavemen were protesting against the Wall Street.

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