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Guide to the Motion Picture Collection of the Harry S. Truman Library

Compiled by Pauline Testerman and Anita M. Smith and Raymond H. Geselbracht


The motion picture collection of the Harry S. Truman Library comprises almost 500 films (about 416,129 feet of film, running time about 208 hours) taken between 1934 and 1984. Almost all the Library's films are black and white, and over 90% are copyrighted.

The collection includes films of Truman giving speeches, participating in ceremonies, and traveling; newsreels depicting Truman and the events of his presidency; documentaries, including the 26 part series entitled "Decision: The Conflicts of Harry S. Truman;" and interviews and program appearances, including Truman's appearance on the Jack Benny Show in 1959 and his interviews with Margaret Truman in 1955, with Edward R. Murrow in 1958, and with David Susskind in 1960. In the production "Let's Take a Trip," Truman gives two children a tour of the newly completed Harry S. Truman Library. The collection also includes films of several television appearances by Margaret Truman on such programs as the Jimmy Durante Show, the James Melton Show, and "What's My Line." The earliest film in the collection depicting President Truman is a home movie shot in 1934; it shows a family dinner on December 19, 1934 in honor of Senator elect Truman. Only one other film shows Truman as U.S. Senator. Seven films show him as vice presidential candidate and Vice President; about 115 films show him as President; and about 215 films date from the years following his presidency. The last substantive film depicting Truman is of a presentation to him in 1966 of the first Medicare card by President Johnson. Very few films depict Mrs. Truman in a substantive way. The most important film showing her is a "Person to Person" program from 1955, in which Margaret Truman interviews her mother and father.

Films are listed in chronological order, with films whose year (but not month or day) of origin only are known being listed at the end of that year's listings, and with films whose date of origin is completely unknown being listed at the end of the collection. Each listing includes a title or other functional designation, an accession number, a date (precise or approximate), the film format and duration, indication of who produced the film and of its copyright status, and a brief description of the film's subject matter. The copyright information given in this guide is believed to be accurate; though in some instances sufficient information does not exist to allow a definite determination of a film's copyright status.

All of the films in the Truman Library's collection are available for viewing at the Library and for copying. The films are not loaned. Scene by scene descriptions are available for almost all the films listed in this guide; copies of these descriptions are available from the Library. The Library is creating online "shot lists" for each film. A shot list includes key words and time codes for each reel of film. Films for which online shot lists exist are indicated by a hyperlink (e.g., MP59-2) in the descriptions below. SD-quality copies of already digitized motion pictures are available for $20, and HD-quality copies of already digitized motion pictures are $50. Copies of motion pictures not already digitized will incur additional costs.

For information about the motion picture collection, please contact the audiovisual archivist by telephone at 816 268-8228, by e-mail at, by fax at 816 268-8295, or by writing to the Library at 500 West U.S. Highway 24, Independence, Missouri 64050.

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