Current Exhibits

Strom Thurmond & the 1948 Presidential Election

May 14, 2016 – August 16, 2016


On November 3, 1948, the morning after the 1948 presidential election, the Chicago Daily Tribune‘s headline read, “DEWEY DEFEATS TRUMAN.” That’s what the Republicans, the polls, the newspapers, the political writers, and even many Democrats had expected.

The Democratic Party had been split into thirds, making it appear impossible for President Harry S. Truman to win. Former Vice President to Franklin Roosevelt, Henry Wallace, had joined the Progressive Party, courting votes of far-left leaning voters. The newly formed States’ Rights Democrats, held their own convention in Birmingham, Alabama, selecting one of the most influential people in 20th century American politics, South Carolina Governor Strom Thurmond, as their candidate. Meanwhile, the Republicans had full faith that popular New York governor, Thomas Dewey, would easily take the White House.

Against the odds, the polls and the headlines, Americans awoke on Wednesday, November 3 to discover Harry S. Truman was President, winning 57% of the Electoral College.

The Election of 1948 is more than just an underdog story. Thurmond’s candidacy highlighted the fracturing within the once Solid South and the gradual party realignment that would conclude in 1964, when Thurmond joined the Republican Party. But most importantly, it was his coming out party. Following Thurmond’s Senate write-in victory in 1954, he would remain there until 2003, casting over 16,000 votes. When he retired, at 100, his last words were “that’s all.”

In this Presidential Election year, look back at one of the most dramatic moments and biggest upsets in American History. The Upcountry History Museum-Furman University is proud to present this important part of South Carolina’s, and the United States’, history.

Exhibit Partners: Clemson University’s Special Collections, the Harry S. Truman Library, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Portrait Gallery, and the National American History Museum.

Sponsored by: American Services, Erwin-Penland, Nelson-Mullins, Blue Cross Blue Shield of the Carolinas, and WSPA.


Sign of the Times: The Great American Political Poster, 1844-2012


unidentified artist, Republican Party candidates Dwight D. Eisenhower and Richard M. Nixon, 1952; offset lithography, 11 x 13 inches; Courtesy of Hal Wert.

May 14, 2016 – August 16, 2016

On November 8, 2016, Americans will elect the 45th President of the United States.

Commemorating this time honored tradition, in a Presidential election year, the Upcountry History Museum – Furman University presents Sign of the Times: The Great American Political Poster, 1844-2012, a traveling exhibition from the Mid America Arts Alliance.

Departing from the monarchical tradition of Britain, the founding fathers of the United States created a system in which the American people had the power and responsibility to select their leader. Under this new order, George Washington, the first U.S. president, was elected in 1789. At the time, only white men who owned property could vote, but the 15th, 19th, and 26th Amendments to the Constitution have since expanded the right of suffrage to all citizens over 18.

Taking place every four years, presidential campaigns and elections have evolved into a series of fiercely fought and sometimes controversial contests. The stories behind each election – some ending in landslide victories, others decided by the narrowest of margins – provide a road map to the events of U.S. history.

The short-lived hardworking political poster tells the story of American politics through the years and how a dignified portrait, a catchy slogan, bold graphics, and the selling of the American dream are part of the campaign process. The exhibition traces the political campaign posters humble beginnings in the 1840s, to its modern day message, tested tag lines and trendsetting designs. Exploring a variety of styles, design trends, and printing technology the exhibit encourages visitors to contemplate past political contests and look more closely at the 2016 Presidential race to the White House.

Sign of the Times was curated by Hal Wert, Ph.D., collector and professor of history at Kansas City Art Institute, and organized by Exhibits USA/Mid-America Arts Alliance.

Sponsored by: American Services, Erwin-Penland, Nelson-Mullins, Blue Cross Blue Shield of the Carolinas, and WSPA.

The Ripple Effect: How Saving a River Revitalized a Community

February 14 – August 2016

Markley Manufacturing on the banks of the Reedy River in downtown Greenville

The Ripple Effect: How Saving a River Revitalized a Community tells the story of the Reedy River and Lake Conestee, Greenville’s own environmental crisis and the community’s response to it. Decades of industrial waste polluted the Reedy’s water and created hazardous conditions in Lake Conestee. Through the diligence of local citizens and the Environmental Protection Agency, the Reedy was cleaned up, Lake Conestee transformed from a chemical wasteland to a nature preserve, and Falls Park created to become the pride and icon of Greenville.

This project is funded in part by The Humanities Council (SC), a state program of the National Endowment for the Humanities.