Local man ran for vice president in 1948 election

Political promotion for the 1948 Prohibition Party candidates, Dr. Claude A. Watson, running for president, and Dale H. Learn, running for vice president.

By Amy Leiser, Executive Director

Monroe County Historical Association

The 2016 U.S. presidential election is more than a year away, yet candidates have been on the campaign trail for several months. From shaking hands and kissing babies to sharing their political platforms both on social media and during debates, many candidates are seeking the support of their party and the public. Now whispers of possible running mates are starting to be heard.

Monroe County had one of its own citizens run for office at the national level. Dale Harold Learn ran as the vice presidential candidate under the Prohibition Party in the 1948 election.

Dale H. Learn was born on December 8, 1897 in Paradise Township to Milton S. and Nettie (Bush) Learn.

Educated in the public school system, Learn continued his education at East Stroudsburg State Teacher’s College where he graduated in 1916. Learn went on to Dickinson College where he earned a bachelor of arts in law and a master of arts in law before graduating in 1922.

Learn returned to Monroe County and settled in East Stroudsburg, where he became a prominent real estate agent. He was the youngest man ever to have served as the president of the Pennsylvania Real Estate Association.

A devout Methodist, Learn was a member of and served as a lay minister for the United Methodist Church in East Stroudsburg. He was an officer in the Sunday school program and was secretary of the official board of the church. In 1932, Learn was the first reserve delegate to the Methodist Church General Conference sessions.

Politically, Learn was registered with the Prohibition Party, which was founded in 1869 and is best known for its disapproval of the sale and consumption of alcohol. Because of his active participation in the Temperance movement and the fight for national prohibition, Learn received the his party’s nomination for governor of Pennsylvania in 1942.

The Prohibition Party, which remains active today, is historically the oldest existing third party in the U.S. Thomas Nast, a popular 19th century political cartoonist and illustrator, created the iconographic images that represented the top political parties of the day. He drew an elephant to represent the Republican Party, a donkey to represent the Democratic Party and a camel to represent the Prohibition Party.

The 1942 platform of the party, and of Learn, had 12 principles. In addition to the more common platform ideals at that time including lowering taxes, conserving Social Security, supporting farmers and laborers, and supporting the war efforts, additional talking points centered on once again abolishing alcoholic beverages in the U.S.

(In 1919, the 18th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution had been passed prohibiting the manufacture, sale, and distribution of alcoholic beverages, but that amendment was repealed in 1933 with the 21st Amendment.)

Learn supported the complete prohibition of liquor traffic in Pennsylvania, the prevention of all forms of liquor advertising in Pennsylvania newspapers, magazines, periodicals and on billboards, and the teaching of the “evil effects” of alcohol in public school. Learn also pushed for the passage of U.S. Senate Bill No. 860 which sought to remove alcohol from Army and Navy bases.

In the 1942 election for governor, Learn received 17,385 votes and came in third behind Republican Edward Martin, who won the election, and Democrat F. Clair Ross.

Remaining loyal to his ideas and to his political party, five years later Learn received the official nomination as the vice presidential candidate of the Prohibition Party in the 1948 national election.

The National Convention of the Prohibition Party assembled in June 1947 at Winona Lake, Indiana, to choose the party standard bearers for the campaign. The party unanimously nominated Dr. Claude A. Watson of Los Angeles for president and Mr. Dale H. Learn of East Stroudsburg for vice president.

Learn gave his acceptance speech to 175 people at The Inn at Buck Hill Falls on November 20, 1947. The evening’s program began with an invocation offered by Rev. Harold C. Eaton, pastor of the East Stroudsburg Methodist Church, and musical selections by the Pen Argyl Male Chorus. In his opening remarks, Learn told attendees that evil is common in society and that “alcohol is the primary evil overcoming America today.”

He continued with:

If we were to ask the people of this audience here tonight the number of saloons in this Township of Twenty Five Hundred people, some would say five, some may say six or seven. And yet there are actually fourteen places selling intoxicating liquors in Barrett Township. You see, the saloons are so common that you no longer see then.

Learn said additional proof that alcohol was evil could be found in the fact that “the percentage of women arrested for drunken driving has increased more than 200 per cent since 1932.”

In keeping with the other goals of the Prohibition ticket, Learn also pushed for stronger marriage and divorce laws in all states, fully supported the Army and Navy, and wanted to curtail the government payroll.

The Honorable Fred W. Davis remarked that Learn was a local candidate who “by living example and fine principles had attracted nationwide attention.” The program ended with the singing of the Star Spangled Banner and a benediction by the Rev. C.E. Wunderly, pastor of the Pen Argyl Methodist Church.

In next November’s election, the Prohibition Party ticket of Watson/Learn ran against the Republican candidates Dewey/Warren and the Democratic candidates Truman/Barkley.

After the votes were counted, Democrat Harry S.Truman won the 1948 election, with Republican Thomas Dewey in second place. The Prohibition Party ticket of Claude A. Watson and Dale H. Learn came in 6th place behind the States’ Rights Party, the Progressive Party, and the Socialist Party. The Prohibition Party garnered 103,900 popular votes, and no electoral votes.

Learn served as a member of the board of directors of The Security Bank and Trust Company and as executive director of the Pocono Mountains Chamber of Commerce. He was a trustee of East Stroudsburg State College, president of the school’s alumni association, and treasurer of the Monroe County Sunday School Association.

Learn was a member of the Kiwanis Club of Stroudsburg, former secretary of the Borough of East Stroudsburg, and a school director for Stroud Township.

A veteran of the Army, Learn served in both World War I and World War II and belonged to both the Pocono Barracks, No. 2230 and the George N. Kemp Post 346 American Legion in East Stroudsburg.

Dale H. Learn died March 16, 1976 and is buried in Laurelwood Cemetery in Stroudsburg. While he was never successful in obtaining an office at the national level, he was a well-respected and popular local man whose commitment to his community is to be applauded.