Return to Independence

Like his heroes George Washington and Cincinnatus, Truman laid down his power and returned home. Ten thousand neighbors welcomed the Trumans when their train arrived in Independence in late January 1953. When asked what he planned to do first, Truman replied, “Carry the grips [luggage] up to the attic.” As a citizen, Mr. Truman busied himself with what mattered most to him – family, politics, and education. He wrote his memoirs and worked to build his presidential library. Mrs. Truman enjoyed her bridge club and her church, and she volunteered for service organizations.

Thomas Hart Benton’s colorful mural depicts the role Independence had as a conduit for settling the American West. Benton, a famous American Regionalist painter from Kansas City, completed the work in 1961. The mural depicts the interactions of people and their interests along the Santa Fe, California, and Oregon Trails in the mid-19th Century. The figures depicted include settlers, blacksmiths, fur trappers, Cheyenne and Pawnee Indians, French “voyageurs,” and livestock traders. The work provokes questions about power and explores the narrative around the expansion of white settlers into the American West.

Key artifact
Thomas Hart Benton mural, "Independence and the Opening of the West"