Oral History Interview with
John W. Snyder
Served as Executive Vice President and Director, Defense Plant Corporation, 1940-43; Assistant to the Director of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation, 1940-44; Federal Loan Administrator, 1945; Director; Office of War Mobilization and Reconversion, 1945-46; and Secretary of the Treasury, 1946-53. Secretary Snyder was a close friend of Harry S. Truman beginning with their service in the U.S. Army Reserves after World War I.
March 18, 1976
by Jerald L. Hill and William D. Stilley
See also: John W. Snyder Oral History, by Jerry N. Hess of the Harry S. Truman Library.
[Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
This interview was conducted by William D. Stilley and Jerald L. Hill as part of a intern and independent study project at William Jewell College in March 1976, under the direction of the Political Science Department of William Jewell College. The reader should remember that this is essentially a transcript of the spoken, rather than the written word.
Numbers appearing in square brackets (ex. ) within the transcript indicate
the pagination in the original, hardcopy version of the oral history interview.
This transcript may be read, quoted from, cited, and reproduced for purposes of research. It may not be published in full except by permission of William D. Stilley and Jerald L. Hill.
Harry S. Truman Library
[Top of the Page | Notices and Restrictions | Interview Transcript | List of Subjects Discussed]
Oral History Interview with
John W. Snyder
March 18, 1976
by Jerald L. Hill and William D. Stilley
STILLEY: Mr. Snyder, where did you first meet President Truman?
SNYDER: Well, it was my great privilege to have met him back in the twenties. He and I had both been in World War I; we both had been captains. I was with the 32nd Red Arrow Division in Michigan and Wisconsin, and he was with the 35th Division of Missouri and Kansas, I believe it was. He was the commander of the famous Battery D--I am sure you have heard of it quite a number of times in the interviews--and I was the Brigade Operations Officer
for the 57th Field Artillery Brigade, and later went up into the Army of Occupation under General Irwin, and had a very interesting time for a very young man. I don't know how old you young men are, but I think I was about 22 or 21 when I got my commission. I was interested in seeing Europe for the first time, and in a war, too. But that is the background. We both had military connections.
After we got home we were invited to join the Officers Reserve Corps--Field Artillery Reserve Corps--which we did, and we met at one of the training camps, where the Reserve officers would assemble in the summertime for a two-week course. This was at Fort Riley, Kansas, where we met for the first time. Of course, we were considered veterans having served full-time in World War I, and, therefore, our greatest value was to talk with the young ROTC officers that were just coming out and getting commissioned, and give a touch of reality. And of course, we did instruction in artillery maneuvers.
It was there that I just immediately decided I liked him. I think at that time he was lieutenant colonel--they gave us a little higher commission--I was a major. But that was when our friendship started and it just continued and expanded through the years. We saw a great deal of each other, we always went there until up in 1938, I believe. He and I went two weeks to these camps in various parts of the various artillery installations, and met with the young officers.
We became, he and Harry Vaughan--you've heard of him, he was the President's Military Aide when he became President, and remained with him throughout his Presidency. Vaughan had been with him in France, and so he took a commission and was there with us; and in time, why, we became the three officers of an artillery brigade in the Reserve. It was a paper organization. I've forgotten what the numbers were right now, but we were the three regimental commanders of the group that would meet. We had, in our organization, assigned to it, various young officers from Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri,
We after years were very pleased after World War II, to check back on the young men that we had with us year after year and find what splendid records they made in the war, proving to us that the Reserve Officers Training had been well worthwhile and they had taken full advantage of it.
We went through those years in the Reserve, and Senator Truman--we of course cut out calling him Colonel Truman--well, of course, he was lieutenant colonel and then became colonel and I became colonel and Vaughan became colonel, and we were colonels when we were commanding the three regiments. But during that time Judge Truman was Presiding Judge in the Jackson County Court, which you found out while you were in Kansas City, had two courthouses, one in Kansas City and one in Independence. And going to and from--I lived over in Arkansas, and later St. Louis, and so I used to go by and we'd go on over to the camp, and then we'd stop off there on the way back. I used to visit him in his Court and see him presiding.
The Jackson County Court was administrative and not judicial. The three members of that court
looked after the operation of the County, the various roads, the building of schools, the eleemosynary institutions, various administrative jobs rather than judicial. The President, as you know, did not go to college. Of course, back in those days you could became a lawyer by taking a correspondence course. That's been changed quite a bit during the year.
Now we have brought him up to being Judge. Now what's your next question?
HILL: Do you know why he decided to run for the County Judge post? What brought that about
SNYDER: He had a friend, Jim Pendergast, who was with him in the war, World War I, and he was looking for a connection and Jim suggested that he should run, get into politics, and run for an opening. I think his first race maybe he didn't win. The next time he did, and he was elected to the County Judge's position there, and of the three they chose him as the Presiding Judge.
HILL: I've read in places that he did not work real
closely with the Pendergast organization.
SNYDER: Well, he did not. See now the man who has the great reputation as the Pendergast boss, was Jim's uncle, and Jim was very, very active in the organization, but Mr. Truman--apparently Mr. Pendergast thought that it was nice to have somebody that he could point to with pride, so he didn't press Judge Truman for any particular favors, he just let him run a good job over there. And he did a magnificent, magnificent service as Judge. He was responsible for the building of the first good hard road system in Jackson County, the first paved good system over the state. He built the courthouse, and he built some of the eleemosynary institutions, and in all of those President Truman early developed a system of finding out about what he was going to try to do. When he built the courthouse he traveled all over the country looking at courthouses, how they were built, what their accommodations were, what the
capacities, what they need have for efficient services; and he talked with the various contractors
and various architects and so forth. When he got in the road system, he traveled around to see what other states had done with their road systems and what surface they put on them, and how deep a bed, and the foundation, and the necessity of analyzing the soil through which you went in order to get a firm foundation for the highways. And in everything that he undertook he went to the root of it first before he ventured out on it, and as a result, he built quite a reputation, as you young men learned over there, for efficient operation of the county.
HILL: Did Judge Truman enjoy his years on the court?
SNYDER: Oh, thoroughly, yes. 0f course, at camp, too, it became evident that Mr. Truman liked people. Mr. Truman in his court work began to show great depth of human appreciation of humanity, of wanting to know what's best for the people, not fox him, and not for the county, but what's best for the people; and he was that way, of course, in the military there. He was always looking out for how
to help the young soldiers and the young officer; pick his weak spots out and try to fortify those. Then in his county jurisdiction there as presiding Judge, I began to observe how tremendously and penetratingly interested he was in people. I won't repeat the stories you've heard over in Kansas City that he would sit in his court room, and if anyone came in the door, if it was a Battery D man, he pretty near got what he came to ask for. I don't know whether you've heard that one, but that was quite a story around; whether it was true or not, we won't go into the depth of that. But it was showing that he carried through his great attachment and his feeling towards the enlisted men, even after the war.
HILL: If we can back up for just a minute. The business venture that he had in his store, did that upset him when that was lost?
SNYDER: Yes, naturally it did at first, because he was puzzled about his judgment about going into something that he knew nothing about. His friend
who took him in as a partner, was a very fine person and was a--this was before my acquaintance with him. He had already had that shortly after he got out of the service and was over that by the time I met him. But he was determined though, after it was closed, and as you've learned, during his lifetime he paid back all the settlement that they made for less than dollar for dollar; he later paid them all back. Made quite an impression on him then, too, the importance of knowing what you were doing, and that helped him penetrate deeper into the job that he was going to undertake in later years, and followed him all the way through. And I'll tell you, he was great.
HILL: Now back. What thing contributed to his decision to run for the Senate in the first place?
SNYDER: A very, very deep one. He was offered the spot on the Democratic ticket and the backing of the Kansas City organization, and he just decided he'd try. Of course, the first election was a very simple one. The Democrats were in
the great majority in Missouri and he got the nomination in the primary very easily and went on to be Senator. The first race for Senator was the easiest race he ever had in his life.
HILL: How was his first term in the Senate? Did he fit in right off, or did it take him awhile?
SNYDER: No. Now, it's a custom of mine, with Colonel Truman, Judge Truman, Senator Truman and--I don't know whether--did you talk with Mrs. Truman?
HILL: No, we didn't.
SNYDER: I don't know who you talked with then that knew the two of us very well, but I never called him anything but by his current title, for some reason. My uncle, who started me in the banking business, Judge Rolf down in Forest City, Arkansas told me one day, he said, "Never be concerned about hurting the feelings of a man by calling him by his title. He likes it, or he wouldn't have gotten it and kept it that way, and particularly if he's out of office; whatever he is, call him by his last title.
It's good business for the bank, and it's good for you, and it's good for public relations." So I started that and Mr. Truman happened to be one that I used it on the longest, because whenever I am talking about him as we go along, I'll be calling him by the title in which he was serving at the time.
Senator Truman, then did another thorough research. He kept quiet for a good period of time, learning what it was all about. How did those other people get there? What were their strong points? What made the people at home select them? Could he detect by their actions, by their words, by the things that they backed in the Congress? He studied his fellow compatriots there and tried to ascertain what was the ground rules of being in the Senate. And he gradually became acquainted with a great number, as a matter of fact, because of his friendliness, and his open mindedness and his administrative good judgment. Frequently he became sort of an arbitrator, two of them get into a battle and everything, he'd get them off in the
halls or go down to his office and the first thing you'd know they'd smooth it over. That continued the whole time that he was in the Senate. He left the Senate one of the most popular members of the Senate that they had through the years.
But in his work, you asked did he enjoy. Yes, because he liked these contacts with the Nation. Here he knew two men from every state in the Union, and so he got to learning about what California was, what the State of Washington was, what Florida, Texas. He began to, for the first time, although he had had several opportunities meeting national groups in the American Legion and in the Reserve Officers activities; but there he was talking with the people with some official status from these various states and he showed them eagerness and a penetration that Senator [Burton K.] Wheeler--Burt Wheeler was given the job of studying railroad problems. At that time the railroad situation had become very bad in that the railroads were all insolvent and they had spent more money than they had earned. So Congress undertook to make
a study of the railroads to see what could be done if they decided to help rehabilitate them. Burt Wheeler was given the chairmanship of that committee. But being sort of a lazy fellow, easygoing, why, he chose a young Senator--by young, young in the Senate--Mr. Truman of course, as you know, was not a particularly young man when he went to the Senate. In the terms of the Senate he was young. He was the junior Senator from Missouri. So he took him on his committee and turned the work over to him.
Mr. Truman proceeded then to elaborate on his plan. He went out on the railroad and talked to the engineers, to the firemen, to the brakemen, to the operator, whoever the president or whatever his title was, that was running the railroad. The railroads had the operating side and they had the financial side. The financial. side was the banking group in New York and in Boston and places, and then the operating side, the people who actually ran the railroad. So he would go to the ticket offices and talk about how things were going, and he'd go out in the yards, he'd go to the roundhouses;
then he started going to see the bankers, to the heads that sold the bonds and the stocks and everything of the organizations. He began to learn what these causes were. And they had oversold watered stock--I don't know whether that's a new term for young people, but that's just selling more stock than was needed and, then, they were padding the stock. They were selling stock and then using the money for other things than for what was needed on the railroads. And then he went to talk with the lawyers of the railroad and found out what the legal problems were. As a result the Wheeler-Truman report was of such a high order and it was practically the basis of the later railroad legislation that came out which offered assistance to railroads through RFC loans and things of that character.
Any number of things came up that way, and he pitched right in. His object was to get the job done; to do a good job whatever came up and not necessarily be blowing his horn around as some of our good people do as you read in the
papers occasionally. He went in 1934, then in 1939 I went to the West Coast as a division commander of the 132nd Division to a paper defense of the West Coast against the yellow peril. That was a fictitious affair, but they had all the Fifth Army, paper Army, out there in San Francisco at the Presidio to study the threat that we had from, actually, Japan, but we called it the yellow invasion. Well, I was just utterly amazed at what I learned, the preparation that the Japanese had done and the strength--you see the war was on then in Europe--the European war was on. I came home thoroughly convinced that we were in for it, although it had been very hush-hush. And I talked with Senator Truman, and I talked with Jesse Jones, quite a number of my sentiments, and told him in my believe we were headed--this was in July of 1939. The next year Mr. Jones, who was head of the RFC, Reconstruction Finance Corporation, asked me to come to Washington here because of my acquaintance with the Army and the Navy. You see, at that time we just had the Army and the Navy, we didn't
have an Air Force. The Air Force was the Signal Corps in the Army and stayed all through World War II in that designation. It was only after that that Truman created the melding of the services into the Defense Department and set up the Air Force. So at the time that we are now talking about it was the Air Corps.
I came down here, because the RFC was being called on to loan money to companies to build plants, to build them for the Allies. Because the stockholders didn't know if the war was over, what building plants would cost, and get them in trouble with overinvestment in facilities, capital investment. I had been in the banking business ever since World War I and I had known what disaster came to many firms after the war, who if they had collected the balances that were due them on contracts, or if they had had their claims settled, might have stayed in business, that actually did go bankrupt. So we were all talking a great deal about that. Now this was in July of 1940, when Mr. Jones asked me down here. Senator Truman
and I spent a great deal of time together talking over these things and I, later, visited down here to help, ended my temporary work in St. Louis, because I became head of the Defense Plant Corporation, which was to finance these huge plants. To finance them to build the things that the war needed, don't you see. I set up an organization that was new, there were no guideposts. It was just a brand new situation, in which the Government would finance the building of the plant, keep title to it, but lease it to the manufacturer who had been selected by one of the defense agencies to do this job. For instance, an airplane company was going to build a lot of trainer planes. They needed three big plants right off the bat; a propeller plant, an engine plant, and an airplane plant, and those would run maybe two, three, five million dollars a piece, don't you see. So that was the job that I was undertaking.
So I was talking with Mr. Truman and took two of my attorneys, Mr. Dir, Dirk Dir, and Mr. Hans Klansburg, over one night to the Army and Navy
Club for dinner. And Harry Vaughan was along with us and we talked about how fine it would be if we could start some investigative unit that would look into these things when they first surfaced. If they were building cantonments, for instance, and word got out that there was a rakeoff, that there was any kind of corruption in it, get in there and find out. Find out if labor was performing all right. If there was any rumors around that something wasn't going well with this construction job, go in and look at it. Then when we began to build these plants it was a place to go and catch it early if there was a problem with the manufacturer chiseling on the contract or something of that character. Then when they got the soldiers in, the treatment of then; if the town was coming through with its obligations, supplying the facilities that were needed, all the way across the board. So we were talking here and it was sitting at that meeting the idea for the Truman Committee was born. Then we went back up and talked to Jimmy Byrnes and two or three and came up with a bill to create
an investigative committee for defense purposes.
Well, President Roosevelt was a tremendous fellow but he didn't want anybody dabbling with what he was doing and he was playing this defense program like he was orchestrating it. He was kind of routing it, and if he wanted a base, he'd punch the base key, you know, and he wanted all that. So, he wasn't too keen about it. He kind of frowned on it, but we planted seed around and he finally said, "Oh, let him have it, and we'll see what comes out of it."
Well, they gave him $40,000. Now picture, you've already been in the scene long enough to know that a committee only being given $40,000 to start, to build--the Senator was a little annoyed at that. But we all got together and decided, "Take it, take it, you can show them what can be done with it." That was the birth of the Truman Committee.
Let me just skip over something, because I can tell you two stories in one here. Years later, in 1945, I was down in Mexico City. I was then about to become President of the First National Bank in St. Louis, and I was down in
Mexico and working on trying to get a unification of exchange rates that the Mexicans were charging our buyers who'd go down there and buy raw materials or silver, or cotton, or anything. If you were from San Francisco you might go down there and you'd get so many pesos for a dollar. If you were in Chicago maybe you'd get a different number; and if you were in Boston you'd get another, and so, manufacturing the same thing. They were at a disadvantage because of the base cost to them, you see, for the raw material. So a group of us bankers were down there, trying to work this thing out, which we did amicably, but I won't get into that. But that was over, and in a kind of celebration, a friend of mine gave a luncheon for a number of the Mexican and American bankers, and sitting next to me was A.P. Gianinni. A.P. Gianinni is the man who created the Bank of America; started it off back in the turn of the century as the Bank of Italy. But then after
World War I, or about the time of World War I, because of the animosities that grew up between U.S. and the foreign countries and everything, they changed it to the Bank of America. Today it's the largest bank in the world as you know. Mr. Gianinni said, "'John, tell me, you've got a friend who is Vice President right now and we're hearing bad things about the health of President Roosevelt. If something should happen to him, what kind of a guy is this Truman?"
"Well,'' I said, "A.P., Truman is the kind of man who will try to think through the job he is going to do. He has always." And I went back and told him about his being Judge and about his starting off there, and then I got off into his running the defense planning. I said, "In those days the reason he made such a tremendous reputation in that job was that if it was a matter of a construction job, that they were overcharging for building a cantonment, or a factory or something, he went out and studied what the current costs were. He got hold of an engineer, got hold of a
contractor, he got hold of an architect, and saw what was proper and what was not proper, and got guidelines. If he got into a question that had a legal base, he'd go to lawyers and find out the corporate law, the criminal law, or whatever the question was. If it was a matter of constructing some of these specialized plants, he'd go to an engineer and get him to dig into it and tell him where to look for the weak spots and where to look for the good spots."
Whatever he got into, he tried to prepare himself to know what he was doing when he'd go on the job, and then to get the job corrected and going on without a lot of publicity. He wasn't trying to build up a great fanfare of newspaper notoriety. He was trying to get the defense organization built up so it would be effective when the war came, and he continued on that throughout the war. He always seemed to be able to get good men to help him in his specific job. He said, "Well, you make me feel better." Within 30 minutes the butler came and announced that the
radio just said that Roosevelt was dead. But I can tell you an appraisal of what he did there in the defense committee as a Senator, don't you see. He did a good job. In everything that he did, it looked like he had the capacity and the training which he himself had trained in, to get the right people to help him, and to base his opinions on the proper background.
Now, we've got him up in the Senate. Any questions back in the Senate?
HILL: When a bill was before the Senate, what procedure did Senator Truman go through in trying to decide how to vote on this bill?
SNYDER: Have you checked to see how many hundreds of bills flow through Congress? You can't be an expert in all of them, you've got to work yourself around and get on certain committees. He was on the Appropriations Committee and on the Armed Services--I don't know what they called it back in those days, but today Armed Services--and the Interstate Commerce, I believe; but he concentrated
on: knowing what was flowing through those committees, don't you see. The Congress, until you get accustomed to it is the most awkward, unbelievable, ineffective organization you ever saw. Just go up and sit there in the balcony one morning, and you'd say, "How do they ever get this country..." There would be three or four sitting around reading a newspaper, or two or three standing over in a corner talking; and here they were going along, bills were being read, and the chairman is operating and calling this, and then something comes up and he rings a button for a roll call, and they all come pouring in there and they take a vote on it. You'd say, "That's about the most harum-scarum operation I ever saw." What actually happens, when a bill comes in it is assigned to a certain committee, of which there are quite a number. You've got a directory, haven't you, to see the tremendous number of committees that they have? Well, it's assigned to a committee, for study and for presentation and recommendation.
When that happened, Mr. Truman would start
immediately to breaking down the bill into its various component parts and picking out the things that he himself would like to dig into, don't you see; and he would start studying it. If there was an appropriation bill he would start to try to find out what they are doing with the money. Had they spent it well? Did they overestimate their expenses--last year's budget--or did they waste money, or so and so, and go at it in that fashion, don't you see. If it was an Interstate Commerce bill, he'd go back and see about the trade between the states and what the laws were and things of that character; whatever was germane to the subject matter of the bill that was up. He would consult with other experts in that area. He'd discuss with friends from the outside what they thought of this bill. He'd write to people that were going to be affected by it and get their notion about what it was. That was the way he went about deciding what position to take on a bill.
STILLEY: Did he ask you for advice in certain areas?
SNYDER: He and I talked about things. We were very close. We were together three or four times a week in the evenings and I would drop up. Remember, during that period I was down here running the Defense Plant Corporation, so we were very close together. Weekends we'd go off to Gettysburg, or down to some other place, and refight the battles together and things of that sort. All that time we were talking about this and that, whether you were advising or not; we never called it that, we were just consulting about various things. I was constantly talking with him about the Defense Plant Corporation. Whenever I was having trouble, the first thing, I'd get him to send somebody out and take a look at it. Things of that character. When he was doing something, he would say, "I wish you'd"--banking for instance, he'd say, "I wish you'd get around that bunch of highbinders of yours and find out what this is all about. What are they up to? What do they want?" So that kind of relationship, very sympatico. No one could say that he was
advising the other, or seeking advice. We were just discussing it, and. trying to be helpful one to the other when the time came, and it was reciprocal; he was extremely helpful to me many times. He was kind enough through his life to have said I was helpful to him.
HILL: Did President Truman follow the Democratic leadership in the Senate?
SNYDER: Oh yes, yes, yes. He was a very loyal Democrat. Of course, he went off on his own occasionally, but he followed the leadership pretty well. He was a loyal Democrat.
HILL: There are basically, two types, or philosophies of legislature. One would think that the legislator should vote exactly as the majority of his constituents think, and another type that thinks that he should do what he thinks is best.
SNYDER: Well, I think the latter was what he actually followed. If there was something else he voted against, but on the principal policy-forming
things, I think he helped work to get that policy molded in the right shape and then he was for it, don't you see?
I think you can go and look at his record. He wasn't just a rubber stamp by any means. He had his things he was particularly for. He was never ostentatious about it, he never got pinned a liberal or this or that. He just didn't accumulate those kind of designations, but he always went to the side that was going to affect the people. I remember time and again when a bill would come up he'd say, "Now, let's sit down here and see how this is going to affect the people," not me as: Senator, not the Democratic party as a party, or not Missouri as my state. How is it going to affect the people? Let's look at that first, don't you see, and then we got around to other things.
Now, we're in the Senate still.
HILL: Yes. He had a particularly rough go at it in his second election to the Senate?
SNYDER: He had a rather bad trip. I don't want to repeat a lot of things that you already know about, but Mr. [Lloyd C.] Stark, who was the apple grower up there in Missouri, a very wealthy man, decided he wanted to run for the Senate. He first was going to run for Governor, so he came to Senator Truman and said, "I wish you would introduce me to Tom Pendergast, I want him to back me for Governor." You've heard all this haven't you?
HILT: Go ahead.
SNYDER: He said, "Well, I'll introduce him to you. I'm not going to tell you that.he'11 back you, because I don't have any influence with him at all; but I do know him and I'll introduce you."
Well, he said, "I'd sure appreciate it."
It turned out Mr. Pendergast was out in Denver, on a kind of vacation, but he called him up and he said, "I don't think much of him but I'11 talk with him."
So Truman tells Stark. Stark calls him. He got on the train and went to Denver to see him, and persuaded him to then announce that he was backing him for Governor, which he did and Stark was elected. No sooner did Stark get into office than he started to digging into some of the seamy sides of the Pendergast business. At that time it happened to be one of the Pendergast men was the superintendent of insurance in Missouri, and at that time there was an argument about rates that were being charged. They got passed a bill in Missouri on that that so much of each policy, the premium, was to be held back in a reserve. A reserve was set up for that until the litigation could get over as to whether the insurance companies were entitled to that premium or whether they would give it back to the policyholder.
Mr. Pendergast loved the race horses, and he loved a lot of comfortable living. He got to spending more money than he really could afford, and the first thing you know, why, this superintendent of insurance came to him and said, "I've
got an idea to take care of all your problems, monetary problems." He said, "We'll just make a deal, and we'll pay off these insurance companies, and well just charge them so much for it. " So you can imagine what clear thinking that was. Well, they did it, and cleaned up his debts; but it leaked out, got all over everything. So, Stark who had gone out and got Mr. Pendergast's assistance to make him Governor, started in an investigation and sent Pendergast and, oh, I don't know the fellow very well, the superintendent, to jail--prison. Then comes Mr. Truman's time to run for Senate you see, the second time, 1940. Lo and behold, Mr. Stark decides he'd made such a to-do, the St. Louis papers, the Kansas City papers, had just rolled him into the Archangel, waving his wings and bringing peace, happiness and trustworthiness to the state. So they both tied up behind him. The St. Louis machine got behind Stark. The political machine under [Bernard F.] Dickmann at that time. Well, it was ugly. Oh, they drug this smear. Then by that time a man by the name of [Maurice] Milligan who had
been Attorney General, who had helped in all of this business of investigation and so forth, he decided that it was just too good, he got in too, in the primary.
Well, it went bad. Oh, they were smearing. They were trying to drag Truman into anything that had happened in the Pendergast record there. He had been boss over there for quite a number of years, and did a lot of interesting things, and they drug those all out you know and plastered them up on the wall.
We sent out Mr. Truman--we didn't have any money, so we had to develop a system of getting him before the public. So we sat down and wrote five speeches on things that Mr. Truman had done well as Judge and as Senator. His relations with labor, agriculture--five subjects. We got his own car and we got a public speaking thing up on top of it, loudspeaker was all it was. It wasn't anything elaborate at all. And he started out and he went to every county in the state. He was Baptist, not Episcopalian, but I used to tease him, I'd
say, "You're just like us Episcopalians, let's two or three of us get together and we'll start a speech." That's an old thing about Episcopalians.
Well, but that's what he'd do. We would stop in the square and held get on there and say, "Ladies and Gentlemen, Senator Harry S. Truman coming to visit you." The first thing you'd know, he'd have a little crowd around him, and he'd get off on one of those, according to the neighborhood that he was in. If it was agricultural he would talk about agriculture; industrial, he'd talk about labor, this, that and the other, never one time mentioning Stark's name. He was all telling about Truman, what his interest was, what he believed, what his feelings about the state, what the State of Missouri was entitled to in its representation in Washington. This was about the time they were going to start the Defense Plant Corporation, too, don't you see. So, I was most of the time in Washington. Did you all hear of the Skouras brothers, the great motion picture people?
HILL & STILLEY: No.
SNYDER: Well, there were three--let's see. I've got to keep coming back or I'11 talk to you forever--but they were three Greeks who came over to St. Louis as bus boys in a hotel. By gosh, by pooling their earnings and everything, they finally wound up with something for expansion, and they bought one of these little nickelodeons, a store building with chairs in it. You all probably never heard of them, but that's what we started with the motion picture. They built that into twenty-two theaters there in St. Louis. Well, anyway, they own the Ambassador Building which had the Ambassador Theater in the bottom and then an office building above. I borrowed half a floor--borrowed from them. We borrowed desks, we borrowed stenographers, and the headquarters for Mr. Truman's campaign was in St. Louis, not Kansas City, see. Then later he set up one in Sedalia, Missouri, but our main operation was handled in St. Louis and Sedalia and not in Kansas City. We just got away from the paper and the Pendergast organization
that had ranted on Truman, don't you see.
Mr. Truman, I'll say now, because I'm covering all the territory, he and I loved cartoons and particularly political cartoons. There's one over there that he simply loved. Here were two of these big giant moving trucks--didn't you see it--and here running around under the bottom was a little bitty one, you know, running around under these big trucks. Well, these two big ones, one was named Milligan Company, the other one was named Stark Company, and the little one down here was called Truman, and the title was "This is No Time for a Kiddy Car."
Well, truth, justice prevailed and the first thing you know people began to get the feel of the man. St. Louis suddenly realized they were backing the wrong man, and that's when this man [Robert D.] Hannegan--he had been the foot boy for Mayor Dickmann's organization, and he was all out for Stark, this, that and the other-but then finally Dickmann said, "Here we're in the wrong alley," and they switched to Truman. That was the thing that switched it and he won
the primary, and then the general election was no problem at all. But that's where he really had the rough tine of it; and we lived hand to mouth, I'll tell you. We never knew exactly where we were going. We were so discouraged. I went up to see Senator Truman and to talk about plans, and he said, "Well, John, I'll tell you this. We just as well make up our mind one thing, I am not going to run out. This man has attacked me and all this sort of thing, but I'll not run." Stark had started before Truman had ever announced that he was going to run again. He said, "I've got to, my honor calls on it." He said, "I'm going to do it."
And I said, "Well, how are we going to raise the money?"
He said, "Don't bother about that. We've got to win." He said, "I'm going to run if only Bess, you, and I vote for me,"
"Well," I said, "a11 right."
We were downstairs and were walking out of the Senate office building and I ran into a man from St. Louis, who was a contractor out there.
He said, "What in the world is wrong with you? You look like a steamroller just ran right over you."
I said, "It has. Do you know we haven't even got enough money to buy postage stamps to write people to help us?"
''Oh," he said, "well, you are bad." He said, ".lust a minute," and reached into his pocket and walked over to a car and on the fender of the car he wrote out a check and handed it to me: $1,000.
I said, "Sir, thank you very much." And I went upstairs, and I said, "We're saved" He looked at that. It looked like a million dollars to us, because then that really got us started where we could write to our various folks and tell them that we are going to get into business, we are going to run. Then we set up headquarters operating down in St. Louis.
Now, any questions?
HILL: Was President Truman confident throughout that primary campaign?
SNYDER: Never showed the least signs of lack of confidence that he was going to win, never. There was quite a number that didn't think he'd win, as was later in another race, when he ran in '48. But there were a lot of them didn't think he was going to win, until all of a sudden he began to leak through that he was making an impression.
HILL: What legislative things that he had a part of in the Senate was he most proud of?
SNYDER: Oh, I would say appropriations probably. He was tremendously interested in appropriations and the budgeting, and that proved to be of exceptional value to him when he later became President. He was the only President that I know of to date that could go into a press conference when the budget was announced, and with 75 to 150 press men who had had copies of the new budget and a day or two to go through it, were firing questions at him about the various facets, "Is this justified?" "Why are you doing this?" "Who got to you on this?" See? The budget man and I sat with him.
It was rare that he had to call one of us in, maybe on a technical matter of distribution or something of that sort. He'd say, "Well, how is that handled, John?" or "How is that handled, Tim, George, Pete?" We had about four budget directors while we were there. You see, I was Secretary of the Treasury for nearly seven years with him. So, I would say appropriations, because it was trying to keep the Government operating within its means. That was a vitally important thing. He stayed that way all through the Presidency. He and I had an understanding we were going to try to pay for all the good things we were going to do for the people, and for defense, and all those things, out of our earnings and not going into the tremendous deficit. And we never did. I'm getting a way ahead of myself. We better stick where we are; we're in the Senate still.
Now, any questions?
HILT: His decision to run for Vice President, did he ever have any plans to try to become Vice President?
SNYDER: No, never, it was just the opposite. One day Hannegan called me. FDR had made him the Chairman of the Democratic Party. Robert Hannegan--he was from St. Louis. FDR brought him down here, first as head of the Internal Revenue, and then took him as Chairman of the Democratic Party and he was that at the time of the '44 campaign. He called me one day--along about May, I guess, or June--the latter part of May or the first of June. He said, "The Boss wants to know,"--he had started to calling Senator Truman the "Boss" then. He