tv Harry S. Trumans Little White House CSPAN August 27, 2015 6:02pm-6:21pm EDT
♪ welcome to key west, florida, the southernmost city in the continental united states. tourism is its major industry, 's mostwas once florida populated city. we will look at how the cuban migration shaped key west. >> key west was the island that was closest to them mainland of so there was more contact between key west and cuba than between key west and the rest of florida. in 1880, key west was the most
populated city in the state of florida. total population, around 20,000, and they were mostly cubans. announcer: later a close look at materials or from a wrecked spanish galleon off of key west. ofthere were over a thousand these loaded on board, each one averaging about 70, 75 pounds. a very heavy cargo stowed in the lowest part of the ship. assayer's'ks, dates, marks, and it is this tremendous history about the economics of the time. announcer: go inside president 's the white house. learn about the time he spent in key west. ♪
>> the little white house got its name partly through an accident, partly through just the fact that franklin roosevelt had had a little white house. in our particular case, president truman was at ever city in- everglades december of 1947, and the press corps started yelling at the president, are you going to return to florida, and he said, of course i am coming back. i have a little white house down in key west. and so the house at that time was painted gray.
the navy took this as an indication the president was returning, so they painted the building all white, so it is no longer navy grey. it is all white, the little white house. i would like to welcome you to the harry s truman little white house. officialrida's presidential museum and has been used by seven american presidents. it is camp david south. the little white house was built homee navy commander's back in 1890. it has served a number of various commanders over almost a 100-year span, but it was slightly interrupted by presidents taft and franklin roosevelt and harry truman and white eisenhower and jimmy carty and bill clinton, and department of state and the department of defense, so we seem to have a continuum through american history. largestlding was the
building on the naval base. this was 9000 square feet. and consequently, it was built originally as the paymaster and commander's home. by 1911, army commander realized since we are getting a little snug, emerged it into a single dwelling of almost 9000 square feet. and at that time, key west was the command headquarters were the seventh naval district, which covered everything from key west to charleston. admiral nimitz was here, inspecting the base, and he finds our base commander has moved to smaller quarters because he is a bachelor and does not want to bounce around in 9000 square feet by himself. so he has left this large home sitting vacant. nimitz is here, sees the large house sitting empty, is impressed with all the research being done by the u.s. navy in key west.
and so he gets home to washington to learn the president of the united states has a cough he cannot seem to shake, so he immediately speaks up and says, i have a perfect vacation venue, warm, secure, i am sure, mr. president, would love key west. and so that is why the president came. teen stripping for a week of r&r. he is relaxing with his friends. they really are resting and swimming and soaking up the sun. is writing toent his wife, saying what a fabulous place it has turned out to be. his cold has despair in just a time.s and as he leaves, he promised the city commissioners, ever i get tired, i will be back. 12 weeks later, he is back. each november and december and each february and march, the president would take up weeks,ce, a week, two
three weeks,, that a time, and the little white house becomes a functioning white house the united states. president truman, on his very first occasion in key west, is invited by the navy to go out on a captured german sub. so president truman and 16 of his closest staff go out on his captured german sub. captain of the sub is a missouri they felt every bit of confidence that he would look after them, and they submerge to 450 feet, and the sub springs a leak. in the official logs, which happened to be on our website, that they were not the least bit concerned because we have missouri captain, he knew they would look out for him, but in the next breath they submariners that the next or $.50 or dollar an hour that they aren't in pay, because in
august it was a very hazardous job. instruments, the reengage and they slowly go to e, and the president sees the st aff. president truman started coming here in 1946. the navy had not put money into fixing the place up. by 1949, the president had been here four times, and following the defeat of tom dewey, the navy realized the president would be coming back much more often. they hired the premier decorator of miami beach, and so the house but a remodel of 1949. designer made no
consultation with the president. he simply wanted to create a timeless venue, something that would be acceptable to the guests that would be coming to see the president, and he picked colors that were popular at the time, solid on green walls, red., grays, tomato had 20 years of admirals living in it until 1974, so many of the things that had been done for truman were discarded. was our task to restore the house as it was. and although we had the records of what was bought, they did not necessarily tell us who it was from. so we found this fabric that is shown in the drapes and on the couch. it turned out to be a waverley print. none of us knew that. we happen to find a scrap of fabric on ebay. we found 200 yards of fabric. we ended up needing 187 yards to
complete the task. the paintings on the wall i had been led to believe were stolen until one day we found a notation that they have been loaned by the naval academy. the naval academy had no idea what i was talking about, and so finally we found a list of collection numbers from the truman library. we approach the naval academy for the paintings. they informed they were worth 2 million dollars and we were definitely not depressed president, so we were not getting them. they shot high-resolution scans so all the paintings are exactly as they are in the photographs when president truman was here in the house. so the little white house is a very, very pure restoration to the time when president truman was using it as his little white house. at the moment, we are in president truman's living room. his library during the daytime was his office. every evening to begin a movie theater.
of 59.a staff seven are playing poker, so what do you do with the rest of them? they ran first-run films in the living room. there are many neat things about the little white house, and the living room is somewhat iconic in the number of pieces that are actually connected with president truman. [piano plays] his piano is in the corner. -- did thethe piano present have the piano here in key west. he instead, that piano came on board the presidential yacht, so on occasion it could be brought into the house. that was the way it was when the president was here as president. president truman was an extremely talented edition. they found he6, had an incredible musical
talent, and he and rolled in music lessons for the next 10 years. become acted him to concert pianist, and around 15 or 16, he dropped out and said he was not quite good enough. the truth of the matter is we believe he dropped out of lessons to save the family the cost of the expense. but he regularly played the piano, and he loved to play mozart and chopin and memory. he was an extremely fine pianist. in 1953, the uss williamsburg was decommissioned. president eisenhower felt it was a luxury he did not need. eating a navy vessel, all the artifacts from that ship were scattered. in 1964, about 10 years later, our base commander put out by directive -- i want the piano. can ofund that in storage in washington.
the president was surprised to find his old piano back in the little white house. this is where the president came to relax. now, the president told everyone he was on vacation, working vacations, but on vacation in key west. it turns out it was all a lie. both the president and his staff were lying to each other. harry would get up on vacation at 7:00 in the morning, read a downstairs, have a glass of orange juice with a shot of bourbon, and he would then go out walking 10 blocks and a piece of 120 paces a minute. heards cardio, if i ever of it, and then he would take up his position at this desk. every day or every other day, large mailbags would arrive, and they would contain correspondence, legislation, and he wouldks,
literally run the country from this desk. after several hours, the president would insist that they would all go swimming, because it was important that his staff rests. hisstaff was working behind back thinking the president at least is relaxing. and the president was doing exactly the same thing because every night he would take a stack of work up to his bedroom and work into the wee hours thinking at least he would find his staff resting. it came to a head when he wrote a letter to his cousin and he confesses, vacation is a farce. i am signing my name 200 to 600 times a day on vacation. a president never ends. which brings back this iconic symbol, "the buck stops here." truman made it quite famous because he believes all responsibility ends the
at thent -- ends president's desk. it comes from the wild west. bone-hwild west, a and buckl knife was placede in front ofd the dealer. when you did not want the responsibility, you passed the buck, and that is who indicated the dealer. harry truman, being a poker player, would not know that. and so the buck stops here is the signed ended up on his desk. this is one of multiple copies the president received. the original is at his library in independence, missouri. the one thing that people rarely get to see is the back of the sign. the back of the sign says, " i am from missouri." why is that important? it reminded harry truman that he
was not at her than any of the people who elected you, because one day he will go back on, and truman never lost that concept, ever forgot who he was, nor where he was going, she was always one of us. at the moment, we are in the harry s truman little white room, the rec wraparound porch, or a florida room. this is where the president afterd with his death hours. probably one of the most iconic things in the house is this poker table. it was made for the president in our cabinet shop as a gift from the navy back in 1949. the president had already been here for four vacations prior to that, so the president relaxed by plank over. this was at truman, team-building exercise. this is all about camaraderie had nothing to do about winning
or losing money. we are fortunate that two of his staff are still living. one made eight of the 11 trips with the president to key west, and he says when they boarded the plane in washington, they threw $50 into the pot. the bankermonth, would save part of the winnings, so if they ran out of money, the banker advanced you more money. it was about teambuilding and, camaraderie. president truman regarded the big white house as the great white jail. he felt he was constantly under everyone's eye. i coming to key west -- by coming to key west he would let down his hair. sometimes the staff would let their beards go for a couple days. off-colormes used stories, and they could have a glass of bourbon and visit back
and forth without any scrutiny from the press. we know for a fact that president truman shared his decision not to run for reelection with his closest that sitting at the table. notfor the next six months, one person leaked the story. truman had shared that information with them so they would have the opportunity to leave government service and get a job for everyone else left government service. he was looking out for his closest staff. he had great fun with his staff. he personally did not like fishing, he would go out fishing with his staff in order to bet on the biggest catch, the longest fish, things like that. sent a case company of hawaiian shirts to the president with the thought that if the president is wearing our short, we will sell a lot of shirts. woreesident truman
those shirts and then recognized -- organized a loud shirt context. tropical shirt you could find, so the president was often seen wearing these wild, loud shirts. the press corps followed suit. shirts, too, and they've formed a little group of which president truman referred to them as the one more club, because they were always yelling, just one more, mr. president, one more. the house is very simple. palaces, if you go when we were allowed to go to the big white house, the white house is very formal and very presidential. remindsle white house many of our visitors of their