A tour of western Missouri offers a glimpse at Harry
Truman's life and the rural background that shaped one of the 20th
century's most important leaders
children visiting the Truman Presidential Library and Museum in Independence
listen to a guide describe the 1948 presidential race and Trumans
Whistle Stop campaign tour of the country by train. Behind are large
photographs of Truman, daugher Maragaret and wife, Bess, waving from
the back of a train.
The voice of Harry
S Truman welcomes a group of children as they step into the Oval Office.
Of course the office is a reproduction and Trumans voice recorded
but the kids, on a tour of the Truman Presidential Museum and Library
in Independence, instantly recognize the most famous office in the world.
Trumans Oval Office, decorated as it was when he occupied it from
1945 until 1953, contains one artifact the kids find most interesting,
a television with a tiny screen set in a large wooden cabinet. A
tour guide tells the group Truman was the first president to have a TV
in the Oval Office.
A visit to the Truman
Library in Independence is a reminder of some of the most volatile history
of the 20th century. As president, Truman witnessed the end of World War
II and the beginning of the rebuilding of Europe and Japan. But he also
faced the expansion of communism, which led to confrontation in Berlin
and the bloody Korean War, and devised a policy to contain communism known
as the Truman Doctrine. Often loudly criticized for unpopular decisions,
like firing Gen. Douglas MacArthur, Truman dealt with his heavy responsibilities
straight on, without flinching or laying blame.
portrait of Harry Truman hangs at the Truman Library in Independence.
Many historians credit
Trumans plainspoken manner and upfront The Buck Stops Here
frankness to his rural upbringing. Born in Lamar and raised on the family
farm near Grandview, Truman came from humble beginnings. And once his
presidency was finished, he and wife, Bess, returned to their home at
219 North Delaware in Independence where they lived only a few blocks
from where Trumans political career began in the Jackson County
Courthouse 30 years earlier.
A real understanding
of Truman and how he faced the problems of post-World War II America cant
be appreciated without looking at where the man came from. Fortunately
for travelers Trumans home state offers many places to see and touch
the history that shaped the president.
birthplace in Lamar
Truman was born May
8, 1884 in a small, white frame house in Lamar where he and his parents
lived for 11 months before moving to Harrisonville and later Grandview
to the north. On the day his first child was born, John Truman planted
an Austrian pine tree and today, 119 years later, that tree still lives
in the front yard of the house, which has been the Harry S Truman Birthplace
State Historic Site since 1959. The house, managed by the Missouri Department
of Natural Resources, recreates a typical midwestern American home at
the dawn of the 20th century.
arrives in Lamar at the Truman Birthplace State Historic Site.
Truman was the first
person to sign the guest book on the day the historic site was dedicated
and typical of his down-to-earth style, he wrote, Harry Truman,
Indepen-dence, Mo., retired farmer.
A life begun on a farm
The Truman family
eventually moved to a 600-acre farm near Grandview in 1887 where they
lived for three years before moving to Independence. Harry Truman often
worked on the farm as a youngster and was responsible for the operation
after his fathers death in 1914 until he joined the military three
years later. An Army captain, Truman led an artillery battery during World
What today is called
the Truman Farm Home is part of the Harry S Truman National Historic Site
administered by the National Park Service, which includes the Truman Home
30 miles away in Independence. A shopping complex called Truman Corners
now surrounds whats left of the family farm, which includes 5 acres
of land and the farmhouse, which is not open to the public. The farm is
located near the intersection of Highway 71 and Blue Ridge Boulevard.
Summer White House in Independence
The centerpiece of
the Truman National Historic Site is the home that Harry and Bess occupied
as a young married couple in 1919. Though he lived for many years in Washington,
D.C., first as a United States senator, vice president and then 33rd president
of the United States, Truman always considered the house in Independence
home. Even during his presidency it was known as the Summer White House.
Jackson County Courthouse office featured family photos and a picture
of President Roosevelt.
Following the inauguration
of Dwight Eisenhower as president in 1954, Harry and Bess returned to
Independence where he was occupied with the planning and construction
of his presidential library.
Until late in life, Truman was known for taking long walks around Independence,
a fact commemorated by the city on its street signs in the Truman Historic
District which feature a silhouette of the former president, cane in hand,
Truman lived in the
house on Delaware until just before his death on Dec. 26, 1972 at the
age of 88. Bess continued to live in their home for another decade and
died there. In her will she left the home to the United States and it
was dedicated as a national historic site in 1983.
The Truman Home, located
on the corner of Truman Road and Delaware Street, is open for tours by
National Park Service rangers. Tickets can be purchased at the site visitors
center on Main Street in downtown Independence.
library worthy of a president
The crown jewel of
Trumans Missouri is the presidential library which documents in
letters and historic papers his legacy as the first president to step
into the dark waters of the Cold War, a period that continued until the
collapse of the communist government of the United States chief
adversary, the Soviet Union, in 1991.
The library details
in a series of exhibits Trumans political rise and his presidency
including his whistle stop train campaign and upset re-election in 1948.
It also documents the dark, early history of the Cold War. A painful reminder
of that era is the Purple Heart medal and angry letter sent to Truman
by the father of a U.S. soldier killed in Korea. The medal and letter
were found in Trumans desk in his office after his death.
visiter to the Truman presidential library tries to adjust the presidents
Other Truman historic
spots include the Jackson County Courthouse in Independence which maintains
the office and courtroom of Presiding County Court Judge Truman and the
Elms Hotel in nearby Excelsor Springs where the president holed up during
election night in November 1948 when he, and most of the nations
press, expected Thomas Dewey to defeat him.
visiting any number of spots in Missouri frequented by the Man from
Independence, people can appreciate how a simple, rural beginning
shaped world history.
The city of
Independence is planning a number of events in May to commemorate Trumans
birthday and the 50th anniversary of his return to Independence. Events
include the dedication May 3 of the 5-mile Truman Walking Trail. Details
about the trail, its dedication and other Truman events are available
by contacting Independence Tourism at (816) 325-7111, or online at www.visitindependence.com.
about the Truman Presidential Museum and Library is available by calling
1-800-833-1225, or online at www.trumanlibrary.org.
For hours and
details, including entrance fees, for the Harry S Truman National Historic
Site, including the Truman Home in Independence and the Truman Farm Home
in Grandview, call (816) 254-9929.
about visiting the Harry S Truman Birthplace State Historic Site in Lamar
is available by calling (417) 682-2279, or online at www.mostateparks.com.