Breadcrumb

Columbian School, Ott School & Independence H.S.

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In the fall of 1894 Truman began fourth grade at the newly built Columbian School (pictured left), 320 South River Boulevard.

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He transferred to Ott School (pictured right), on the southwest corner of Liberty Street and College Avenue, probably in the middle of fifth grade, when his family moved to Waldo Avenue.

He went back to Columbian School for at least part of seventh grade, and back to Ott School again for his first year of high school.

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His second year of high school was split between Columbian School and the new Independence High School (pictured left), on the northwest corner of Pleasant Street and Maple Avenue. His third and last year of high school was at Independence High School.

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He graduated in 1901. In his high school graduation photograph (right), Truman is in the back row, far right. Bess Wallace--to whom he had already lost his heart, without any reciprocal feeling from her--is sitting in the second row, far right.

Truman was a good student, a favorite of his teachers, and a book worm who loved history and music.

Independence Public Library

in Ott School from 1894 to 1898, in Independence High School from 1898 to 1908

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The Independence Public Library was located in the Ott School from its founding in 1894 to 1898, when it was moved to the new Independence High School. In 1894, when Truman was starting fourth grade, the library had about 500 books; by 1902, a year after Truman's graduation from high school, it had about 3,000. "...By the time I was thirteen or fourteen years old," Truman claimed late in life, "I had read all the books in the Independence Public Library...." (Memoirs, I, 116.) Amanda Ardelia Hardin, who taught Truman mathematics and Latin during his first two years in high school, remembered seeing him sitting in the library area. "I can remember when they moved the library to the new high school building [in 1898]...going through and many times I would see Harry in there reading." (Mrs. W.L.C. Palmer, nee Amanda Ardelia Hardin, oral history interview, Truman Library, 1962.)

Henry Chiles, one of Truman's classmates, also discovered that his friend was a reader. "I saw Harry go home [from school] many a time with two or three books on weekends, and I guess by Monday he had them all read.... He read more history then anybody.... The rest of us just read Jesse James...stories...in the barn loft." (Henry Chiles oral history interview, Truman Library, 1961-62.) Truman's cousin Mary Ethel Noland, also remembered how important reading was to him. "...I don't know anybody in the world that ever read as much or as constantly as [Harry] did. He was what you would really call a 'bookworm.'" (Mary Ethel Noland oral history interview, the Truman Library, 1965.) According to Truman's sister, Mary Jane Truman, Truman began his lifelong reading habit during his long convalescence from diptheria, which he contracted when he was nine years old. He was paralyzed for several months. "…That's when he started reading so much. He couldn't do anything else and he couldn't get up without help, and so he'd lie on the floor and put the books down on the floor in front of him and read the book that way. That was where he really started liking to read." (Mary Jane Truman oral history interview, Truman Library, 1976.)

Late in life, reflecting on his remarkable career, Truman concluded that "readers of good books, particularly books of biography and history, are preparing themselves for leadership. Not all readers become leaders. But all leaders must be readers." (Post Presidential Papers, Desk File.)