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Papers of Harry S. Truman Pertaining to Family, Business, and Personal Affairs

Date Span: 1280-1971

The Papers of Harry S. Truman Pertaining to Family, Business and Personal Affairs include correspondence, handwritten notes, legal documents, financial records, newspaper clippings, other printed material, and memorabilia. More than half of the collection is comprised of letters from Truman to his wife Bess and his daughter Margaret, written over a span of nearly half a century. The collection also contains other records documenting Truman’s education at Independence High School and at the Kansas City School of Law; his activities as a farmer and businessman; his military service during World War I and as a reserve officer; his membership in various organizations; and his career in politics and government.

[Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description | Series and Subseries Descriptions | Folder Title List]

ADMINISTRATIVE INFORMATION

Size: 16 linear feet, 2 linear inches (about 29,600 pages).
Access: Open, with the exception of a few documents that are closed in accordance with the legal instructions of the donors.
Copyright: Margaret Truman Daniel donated her copyright interest in writings in the Family Correspondence File to the United States government. Documents created by U. S. Government officials in the course of their official duties are likewise in the public domain. Copyright interest in any other writings in these files is assumed to remain with the creators of the documents, or their heirs.
Processed by: Randy Sowell, Tammy Williams, David Clark, Jan Davis, and others (1982-1983, 2004, 2011, 2013, 2014, 2017).

The creation of this online resource was made possible in part by funding from the William T. Kemper Foundation - Commerce Bank, Trustee.

[ Top of the page | Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description |
| Series and Subseries Descriptions | Folder Title List ]

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH

1884 (May 8)

 

Born, Lamar, Missouri

1887

 

Moved with family to farm near Grandview, Missouri

1890

 

Moved with family to Independence, Missouri

1901

 

Graduated form Independence High School

1901-1906

 

Lived in Independence and Kansas City, Missouri; held various jobs, including clerk at two Kansas City banks

1905-1911

 

Served in Missouri National Guard

1906-1917

 

Worked on family farm near Grandview, Missouri

1917-1919

 

Served in 129th Field Artillery; commanded Battery D during World War I; promoted to rank of Captain

1919 (June 28)

 

Married Bess Wallace at Trinity Episcopal Church, Independence, Missouri

1919-1922

 

Partner with Eddie Jacobson in Kansas City haberdashery

1923-1925

 

Eastern District Judge, Jackson County (Missouri) Court

1924 (February 17)

 

Daughter Mary Margaret born

1927-1935

 

Presiding Judge of the Jackson County (Missouri) Court

1935-1945

 

United States Senator from Missouri

1945 (January 20-April 12)

 

Vice President of the United States

1945 (April 12)-1953 (January 20)

 

President of the United States

1953 (January)

 

Left Presidency and retired to Independence, Missouri

1957 (July 6)

 

Helped dedicate the Harry S. Truman Library, Independence, Missouri

1972 (December 26)

 

Died, Research Hospital, Kansas City, Missouri

     

[ Top of the page | Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description |
| Series and Subseries Descriptions | Folder Title List ]


COLLECTION DESCRIPTION

The Harry S. Truman Papers Pertaining to Family, Business and Personal Affairs mostly consist of documents that were found in the Truman home in Independence around the time of Mrs. Truman’s death in 1982. These documents came into the legal possession of the Truman Library under the terms of Mrs. Truman’s will or through the donation of her daughter, Margaret Truman Daniel. Additional documents were added to the collection in subsequent years.

More than half of the collection is comprised of letters from Truman to his wife Bess and his daughter Margaret, written over a span of nearly half a century. The papers also include handwritten notes, financial records, legal documents, newspaper clippings, other printed material, speeches, reports, and memorabilia. The collection documents Truman’s education at Independence High School and at the Kansas City School of Law; his activities as a farmer and businessman; his military service in World War I and as a reserve officer after the war; his membership in various organizations; and his career in politics and government.

The Family, Business and Personal Affairs Papers are arranged in four series. The first series, the Family Correspondence File, contains more than 1400 handwritten letters from Truman to Bess and Margaret, dating from 1910 to 1959. The Family Correspondence File is further divided into four subseries. The first, Correspondence from Harry S. Truman to Bess Wallace, contains the letters that Truman wrote to Bess prior to their marriage in 1919. These letters document their lengthy courtship, which began in earnest in 1910, when Truman was living on the family farm near Grandview, Missouri, and Bess was living with her mother in neighboring Independence. During Truman’s military service in World War I, he wrote to her frequently from his training camp in Oklahoma, and later sent her many letters from overseas while he was stationed in France.

The second subseries, Correspondence from Harry S. Truman to Bess Wallace Truman, contains the letters that Truman wrote to Bess during the course of their marriage. He wrote to her constantly (sometimes more than once a day) whenever they were apart for any length of time. Usually, this was when Truman was traveling, on reserve duty with the Army, or tending to official business in Washington while Bess was back home in Independence. Only a few letters in the subseries were written after the Trumans left the White House in 1953.

The third subseries, Correspondence from Harry S. Truman to Margaret Truman, contains letters dating from 1925 to 1964. Truman began writing letters to Margaret even before she was old enough to read. There are more than one hundred letters to his daughter in the collection, and more than 1300 to his wife. This correspondence reveals many aspects of Truman’s personality: his devotion to his family, his sense of humor, his sensitivity to criticism, and his determination to succeed.

The fourth subseries, Correspondence from Harry S. Truman to Mary Jane Truman, contains photocopies of letters dating from 1945-1948. Most of the letters are addressed to "Mamma (Martha Truman) and Mary". These letters primarily describe Truman’s activities while Vice President and President.

The Family Correspondence File includes some telegrams and postcards, as well as a number of letters that are misdated, dated only by a postmark, or undated. The series also contains copies or transcripts of letters from Truman to his wife that are filed elsewhere in Truman’s papers. In some cases, only a typed transcript of the letter has survived. These characteristics are noted in the list of folder titles at the conclusion of this finding aid.

The next series, the General File, includes appointment books, correspondence, handwritten notes, legal documents, financial records, newspaper clippings, other printed material, speeches, reports, maps, and memorabilia. Among the notable documents in this series are Truman’s English and history notebooks, containing essays that he wrote as a student at Independence High School in 1899-1901. Also of interest is material pertaining to Truman’s attendance as a night-school student at the Kansas City School of Law from 1923 to 1925; this material includes his class notes and examinations as well as a school yearbook.

The General File also contains financial records and legal documents relating to Truman’s activities as a farmer and businessman, including his involvement in mining and oil exploration ventures in partnership with Jerry Culbertson and David H. Morgan during the 1910s, and his partnership with Eddie Jacobson in running a haberdashery in Kansas City from 1919 to 1922. Truman’s bank account books from 1906 to 1916, received from his nephew J. C. Truman in 1983, are also in the series. Also included are Truman’s cancelled checks and bank statements from 1916 to 1924, and records concerning land owned by the Truman family. Other material in the General File relates to Truman’s membership in the American Legion and his continuing association with veterans of his artillery unit, Battery D, after World War I. The series also features information concerning Truman’s years as a county administrator and United States Senator: reports on Jackson County finances, maps of the county road system, and speeches delivered by Truman during his career in government. With the exception of newspaper clippings from scrapbooks covering the period from 1945 to 1951, there are relatively few documents in the series dating from Truman’s Presidential years.

The third series, the Military File, includes correspondence, training manuals, field orders and reports, handwritten notes, and maps relating to Truman’s service as a field artillery officer during and after World War I. The Military File is divided into two subseries, the United States Army Reserves File and the World War I File. Notable documents in this series include notebooks in which Truman recorded his evaluations of the men he commanded in Battery D and their activities during the war; daily marching orders and other documents concerning the battery’s performance; personnel records relating to Truman’s military service; and his handwritten notes and answers for various training exercises.

The last series, the Publications File, contains printed material pertaining to Truman’s military service, his accomplishments as Jackson County Presiding Judge, and his association with the American Legion, the Masons, and the National Old Trails Road Association. The series contains books signed by Harry S. Truman and other well-known people including Adolph Hitler, Winston Churchill, Mark Twain, Jack Dempsey, Alexander Hamilton, Bob Hope, Pat Boone, Martin Luther King, Jr., Groucho Marx, Harpo Marx, Carl Sandburg, Susan B. Anthony, Franklin Pierce, Grover Cleveland, Herbert Hoover, Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Lyndon B. Johnson.  Among the interesting items in this series is a copy of Results of County Planning, a volume illustrating the improvements in Jackson County’s road system during Judge Truman’s term of office. The Sluzabnik, dated 1519, is also located in the series. 

Other materials at the Truman Library relating to the personal life, military service, and business activities of Harry S. Truman include: the President's Secretary's Files (Diaries File, Personal File, Family Correspondence File, and Longhand Notes File); the Post-Presidential Papers (Family Correspondence File); the papers of Edward Jacobson, Roy T. Romine, and Mary Jane Truman; Record Group 391 (Battery D Records) and Record Group 407 (Truman's military personnel file); and oral history interviews with Henry P. Chiles, Mary Paxton Keeley, Mary Ethel Noland, and Mize Peters.

[ Top of the page | Administrative Information | Biographical Sketch | Collection Description |
| Series and Subseries Descriptions | Folder Title List ]

Series Descriptions

Container Nos. Series Description
1-20 FAMILY CORRESPONDENCE FILE, 1910-1964

Four subseries:

         1-6 Correspondence From Harry S. Truman to Bess Wallace, 1910-1919

consisting of letters, telegrams, and postcards. Arranged chronologically.

         6-16 Correspondence From Harry S. Truman to Bess Wallace Truman, 1921-1959

consisting of letters, telegrams, and postcards. Arranged chronologically.

         17-19 Correspondence From Harry S. Truman to Margaret Truman, 1927-1964

consisting of letters, telegrams, and postcards. Arranged chronologcially.

         19-20 Correspondence from Harry S. Truman to Mary Jane Truman, 1945- 1948

consisting of photocopies of letters. Arranged chronologically.

21-29 GENERAL FILE, 1789-1951

Correspondence, handwritten notes, financial records, legal documents, appointment books, newspaper clippings, other printed material, speeches, reports, maps, and memorabilia relating to Harry S. Truman’s education, career in farming and business, political activities, government service, and membership in various organizations. Arranged alphabetically by subject.

30-34 MILITARY FILE, 1914-1936

Two subseries:

         30-31 United States Army Reserves, 1914-1936

consisting of correspondence, training manuals, maps, and handwritten notes. Arranged alphabetically by subject.

         31-34 World War I, 1918-1919

consisting of field orders and reports, handwritten notes, maps, and other items. Arranged alphabetically by subject.

35-37 PUBLICATIONS FILE, 1280-1971

Printed material relating to Harry S. Truman’s military service, career in government, and association with various organizations. Arranged alphabetically by subject.