1. Harry S. Truman
  2. Library Collections
  3. Harry S. Truman Papers

Harry S. Truman Papers

3809 linear feet

President Truman donated his papers to the United States government through a letter of gift dated February 12, 1957, and his will of January 14, 1959. The entire collection totals over 7 million pages. Truman's early life and career in Jackson County as farmer, entrepreneur, soldier, businessman, community leader, politician and local government official is not as well documented in his papers as is his later career. Most of Truman's senatorial papers from his first term, from January 1935 through January 1941, were presumably destroyed after being removed from Truman's office and sent into storage somewhere in the Senate Office Building. The papers from Truman's brief tenure as Vice President are filed with those from his second senatorial term.

An important feature of Truman's papers is a remarkable collection of correspondence with his wife, daughter and other relatives, and of autobiographical and diary-like writings. Truman was throughout his life a prolific letter writer, and his frequent absences from home and family gave him strong reason to write many letters. These are located in the Papers Pertaining to Family, Business and Personal Affairs. The autobiographical and diary-like manuscripts are for the most part in the President's Secretary's Files.



  • PRESIDENT'S SECRETARY'S FILES, 1945-53. 116 linear feet. President Truman instructed his personal secretary, Rose Conway, to keep several categories of documents, including the most sensitive ones that came to his desk, in a special file located near the Oval Office. The President's Secretary's Files include national security and intelligence information, the President's most sensitive correspondence, his speech file, and the miscellaneous notes and memorandums that constitute his diary.
  • WHITE HOUSE CENTRAL FILES, 1945-53. 2,797 linear feet. Includes the following series created by the White House Central Files unit, and contains documents sent to the unit by the President and the White House staff:
    • OFFICIAL FILE, 1945-53. 800 linear feet, 2 linear inches. Composed of about 3,500 numbered files pertaining to government departments and agencies, the operations of the Executive Office of the President, individual countries, broad subject areas, and organizations and individuals having business with the federal government. The documents in this file were interpreted by the staff of the White House Central Files as pertaining to the official business of the government of the United States.
    • PRESIDENT'S PERSONAL FILE, 1945-53. 316 linear feet, 4 linear inches. Composed primarily of files on individuals and organizations who were in correspondence with the White House on matters interpreted by the staff of the White House Central Files as being more political, social or ceremonial in character than those treated in the documents filed in the Official File. The President's Personal File also contains a small number of files on broad subject areas and on the President and his family. Two especially large files are PPF 9, Gifts to the President, and PPF 200 and 200a, which hold correspondence commending or criticizing the President on different issues. A detailed description and alphabetical index are available online.
    • GENERAL FILE, 1945-53. 1,391 linear feet. Composed of materials not considered by the White House Central Files unit to be important enough to be classified by subject or name and filed in the Official File or President's Personal File. The General File also contains cross-references by name and organization to correspondence filed in the Official File and President's Personal File and to correspondence that was referred to other agencies and departments for response. The General File serves as an index, primarily by name, to most of the materials received by the White House Central Files unit, and in particular to all the documents that were filed in the Official File and the President's Personal File. Arranged alphabetically by name and organization.
    • CONFIDENTIAL FILE, 1938 (1945)-1953. 28.7 linear feet. Security-classified documents and other documents that in the opinion of the White House Central Files staff required special protection were put in the Confidential File. About a third of the file is composed of material relating to the State Department, and most of the remainder is filed alphabetically under the names of other government agencies. A series of cross-reference sheets serves as an index to the entire file.
    • PERMANENT FILE, 1936-1955. 3 linear feet, 11 linear inches. Documents that in the judgment of the White House Central Files staff contained information that might constitute precedents for the operation of the White House Office were put in the Permanent File. The topics covered in this file range from the powers of the President to the White House garage. Arranged alphabetically by subject.
    • PUBLIC OPINION MAIL, 1945-53. 8 linear feet, 9 linear inches. The White House Central Files staff would sometimes remove public opinion mail from the Official File and President's Personal File and retire it to a segregated location. Most commonly, this material was voluminous and composed of very strong statements for or against certain policies or points of view. The staff of the White House Central Files disposed of most of this material, but they retained the sample that constitutes this series.
  • STAFF MEMBER AND OFFICE FILES, 391 linear feet. Composed of materials from components of the White House Office and, in one instance, the Executive Office of the President that for one reason or another were not integrated with the White House Central Files filing system. In the case of the office files of individual staff members, the materials were in some instances retired from individual offices to the White House Central Files unit and maintained together under the names of individual officials; in other instances the materials were removed from the offices when the Truman administration ended and shipped to Kansas City together with the rest of Truman's papers. These individual staff files are those materials that departing staff did not choose to take away with them. The files should be used in conjunction with the collections of personal papers of many of the same individuals that the library has in its holdings. These collections, called "papers" rather than "files," are listed under the heading "Personal Papers and Organizational Records." The files that carry the names of offices, such as Psychological Strategy Board Files or White House Social Office Files, are listed first and are followed by the files that are named for individual staff members. Two artificially created file groups, the Korean War File and the Press Release File, are listed together with the files named for offices.
    • KOREAN WAR FILE, 1947-52. 8 linear feet. Copies of State and Defense Department documents relating to the Korean war, made and sent to the White House at the request of President Truman.
    • MAP ROOM FILE, 1945. 1 linear foot. The Map Room was established during World War II on the ground floor of the White House. It was primarily a communications center. Security-classified military and diplomatic messages sent to the White House by the State, War and Navy Departments and by foreign governments were filed in the Map Room File. The Truman Library's Map Room File, which completes the much larger file group at the Franklin D. Roosevelt Library, covers the period from April 12, 1945, until the end of the war. The Map Room was closed as a White House Office in May 1946. Arranged chronologically.
    • NATIONAL SECURITY COUNCIL FILES, 1947-53. 5 linear feet, 8 linear inches. This file, which was found in the custody of the Central Intelligence Agency in about 1980, was transferred in 1981 to the Truman Library. It is thought to be the file of the small permanent National Security Council staff in Truman's White House Office. Many of the documents in this file are also in the National Security Council series of the President's Secretary's File.
    • NAVAL AIDE TO THE PRESIDENT FILES, 1945-53. 13 linear feet. After the Map Room was closed in 1946, the Naval Aide's office received the security classified and other sensitive diplomatic and military communications that had formerly been sent to the Map Room. The file includes some of President Truman's communications with foreign government leaders and American diplomats; communications between the White House and Truman's headquarters during the Potsdam Conference; State Department briefing papers for the President; messages concerning the Korean war received from the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the Commander in Chief of the Far East; and correspondence concerning the tenure of service of individual U.S. Navy servicemen. Most of the material in the file dates from 1945 to 1948.
    • PSYCHOLOGICAL STRATEGY BOARD FILES, 1951-53. 22 linear feet. The Psychological Strategy Board was composed of the Under Secretary of State, the Deputy Secretary of Defense, and the Director of Central Intelligence. It reported to the National Security Council. A Director headed a small permanent staff. The PSB planned psychological operations and coordinated their implementation by the concerned government agencies. The file contains subject, country and name series, all organized within a War Department decimal filing scheme.
    • WHITE HOUSE CHIEF USHER FILES, 1945-52. 1 linear feet, 4 linear inches. The Chief Usher acts as the “general manager” of the Executive Mansion and is responsible for directing the administrative, fiscal, and personnel functions involved in the management and operation of the Executive Mansion. The White House Chief Usher Files consist of bound diary books that track the movements of the President and First Lady, along with the arrivals and departures of guests.
    • WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF THE PRESIDENT'S CORRESPONDENCE SECRETARY FILES, 1945-53. 2 linear feet, 2 linear inches. This office drafted correspondence of a routine nature for the President's signature. The files contain copies of outgoing correspondence.
    • WHITE HOUSE OFFICE OF SOCIAL CORRESPONDENCE FILES, 1945-53. 95 linear feet, 7 linear inches. This office was responsible for replying to letters addressed to Bess and Margaret Truman. About two-thirds of the file is composed of incoming correspondence, the remainder being mostly copies of the replies, which were for the most part signed by Mrs. Truman's personal secretary or the White House Social Secretary. Major series in the file concern gifts received, invitations, organizations, Margaret Truman's performing career, and requests for autographs. An index to the file is available in the research room.
    • WHITE HOUSE OFFICIAL REPORTER FILES, 1945-1953. 7 linear feet. The Official Reporter had the responsibility of creating a record of what the President actually said in his speeches, public statements, and press conferences.
    • WHITE HOUSE PRESS RELEASE FILES, 1945-53. 4.2 linear feet. This set of White House press releases was compiled by George Elsey and Eben Ayers in preparation for the anticipated publication of Truman's public papers in a U.S. government series of books.
    • WHITE HOUSE RECORDS OFFICE FILES, 1945-1953. 49 linear feet. The White House records clerk had the responsibility of assuring that the President took action on pending legislation within prescribed time limitations. The files are composed primarily of memorandums from interested departments and agencies giving their opinions on proposed legislation and of memorandums from the Director of the Bureau of the Budget forwarding his recommendations on legislation to the President.
    • WHITE HOUSE SCRAPBOOKS, 1945-53. 32 linear feet, copied on 62 reels of microfilm. Composed primarily of a chronological series of scrapbooks containing clippings for the most part from New York, Washington, D.C., Chicago, St. Louis, and Kansas City newspapers.
    • WHITE HOUSE SOCIAL OFFICE FILES, 1945-53. 48 linear feet, 11 linear inches. This office planned all White House social functions. The files include an alphabetically arranged correspondence