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Sound Recordings Collection

Part 7: Recordings of Interviews for a Proposed History of the United States

After the publication of his Memoirs in the 1955 and 1956, and of Mr. Citizen, an account of his retirement years, in 1960, former President Harry S. Truman, as his next writing project, began work on a long-planned history of the United States intended primarily for the use of high school and junior college students. The Presidents plan was to review the history of the country through an examination of the careers of its first 32 Presidents and of the highlights of their administrations.

Assisting the President in this task were William Hillman and David M. Noyes. Hillman, a veteran writer and radio news correspondent, and the author of Mr. President, a semi-biographical account of President Truman's career, had assisted President Truman in the preparation of his Memoirs. Noyes, a retired advertising executive, had been an unofficial advisor to President Truman during his White House years and served occasionally in the same capacity after President Truman's departure from office.

In preparation for writing the proposed history, Hillman and Noyes conducted interviews with Truman on 27 days from June 29, 1960 to February 2, 1961, questioning the former President concerning various aspects of United States history and asking his views on each Presidential administration. These interviews were recorded on Dictaphone belts, 139 in all, and the recordings were subsequently transcribed by a member of the President's staff. Shortly after this, in May 1962, Hillman, who was Mr. Truman's principal assistant on the project, died and work on the book ceased.

After President Truman's death in 1972 both the Dictaphone recordings and the transcripts became the property of the Federal Government in accordance with the provisions of Truman's will. To facilitate the use of the interviews by scholars, the Dictaphone tapes with the exception of the recording of the June 29, 1960 interview which had been lost, were rerecorded on cassettes. Both the cassettes and the transcripts of the interviews are now available at the Library for the use of researchers. Contact the Library for more information. You can listen to the recordings online here. The clicking sound that can be heard on the recordings is the result of folds in the dictaphone belts.